Little Văn on Friendship in Jesus

We are to love our neighbours. We are to love them abundantly. As Saint Teresa points out, “With contemplatives there is always much love, or they wouldn’t be contemplatives.”

But how or in what way are we to love in our friendships? This is a question worth asking, because we have, on the one hand, the assurance that there must be much love and, on the other hand, the clear, underlying idea that contemplation, passing through its dark nights, rids us of particular attachments (insofar as they are not rooted in the love of Jesus and our God-Trinity). Are we to not be careful in considering the type of love we have? No. We are, says Marcel Văn, be ruthless in analysing the sources of love in ourselves.

In a letter to a fellow Redemptorist brother (22 March 1950), Marcel writes, in response to questions coming from this brother himself,

VanThus, by brother, until now, what kind of love have you been loving me with? Is it a friendship based on the love of Jesus or on nothing but a spontaneous movement of your heart?

Really, Brother Andrew, my dear brother, if we love one another, we do it unique in the love of Jesus. And to arrive at this love of Jesus, we must becomes nothing else than one with Jesus. That’s why, when we love, we love uniquely from Jesus, in Jesus, and for Jesus. And because of this, the more we love, the more love fills our hearts, the more we are united to Jesus. This is self-explanatory, and it’s the same for the flame: the more it communicates itself to other things that it is consuming, the more it takes on size and strength.

All love that begins with, comes from, and is united to Jesus is love. All other love contains tinges of hatred, for it begins in self-love. It is a simple rule. But it is a true rule also. So love more, like the spreading and consuming flame, says Little Văn. Don’t settle for less. If we don’t accept this settling for less, if we will to conform ourselves to God’s will and become nothing in ourselves so as to become and acquire everything in Jesus, who lived as a little boy and who died on the Cross and who is welcomed into the bosom of his Father: if we don’t settle for less, our love is, at least gradually, purified.

Since the love of God and our love have become one love, when I say, “My brother, I love you,” it’s just as if God said it with his love. When we act by the love of God, exterior things, far from diminishing our love, only make it grow more.

Marcel concludes at length by saying particularities that exclude others or, in community, seek deliberately to make one’s friendship special contain a kind of hatred: the focus is on the other, not on Jesus in, behind, and through the other. Real love and real friendship are turned, not only outwards – which would be a considerable contrast to particularity and exclusively self-affirming friendships in themselves – but outwards from within Jesus’ heart.

In other words, if our love lets us see Jesus in, through, within, and behind our neighbours, then it is love. In whatever measure we are not – consciously or unconsciously, for our heads are heavy and not always conscious! – seeing Jesus in our neighbour and acting accordingly, in that measure we are, for all meaningful purposes, not loving at all. Even friendship, in the last analysis, demands, “Lose it all. Find it all. Lose yourself. Find Jesus. Cling to nothing. Be given it all in full.”

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