The Greeks used four verbs to express love. The neo-testamentary vocabulary is foreign to Eran verb meaning ardent love, passionate, sensitive and mostly sensual.
It is even stranger stèrghein verb, which also indicates the sensitive, natural love, strong, like the one between spouses, between parents and their children.
Theological virtue and Charity
It is used instead filein verb, which means love in general and whose opposite is the generic hate. But the New Testament gives an indisputable preference to agapòn verb, indicating a preferential love, choice, which proceeds that is, more than instinct and natural inclination, from an attitude of reasonableness and freedom. The Vulgate translates, usually, and appropriately, with diligere (love tenderly). The sacred writers have coined the noun "agape" which, in this sense, is exclusive of the Bible.
Especially familiar to the vocabulary of John and Pauline, the two terms mean first of all the love of God towards men, but also with the love of men for God and that of men among themselves, but always in reference to the love first and fundamental, source of the whole current of love, which is the love of God toward men. So this is an interior attitude antithetical to selfishness. It is an opening, a move towards, a willingness, certainly not passive but dynamic, whose purpose, reason, term, the good: the good which is God, which is in other men, and that is in all.
The problem that anguished the first Christian generations from the Jewish world was to give this new divine precept of charity, taught by Jesus Christ, with the old divine precept of the law, taught by Moses. What is the relationship between the charity and the law? Moses taught that salvation was to be linked to the law, Jesus, however, taught to be linked to the charity. The history of the Jewish people confirms the precept mosaic, showing that luck and misfortune with the observance of the precepts. Since the Mosaic Law many precepts are the same precepts of the natural law - as, for example. The Decalogue, at least in substance - the problem of the relationship between the charity and the Mosaic Law ends up also extend to the relationship between the charity and the law, every law or rule or regulation, whether divine or natural.
Formalism condemned by Jesus is not the scrupulous observance of the law, which goes by the zeal and love for the law; but proceeding from calculation by aridity, from hypocrisy. We observe the law scrupulously outside, but inside we do not love the law, do not use humbly, rather we need the law for our own purposes: ambition, honors, injustice and wickedness. Therefore outside the law is perfect, not in the opposite of the law, namely wickedness and evil. The law then it can become instead a source of life, a source of death, occasion of sin, means to lose one's soul: "Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, who transgressed the commandment of God for their tradition".
(Mt. 15, 3).
St. Paul, in opposition to the Judaizes to the Mosaic Law, points out with great energy in what consists the newness of the Gospel. The Gospel, that is, the good news is this: that we are saved by Jesus Christ; only Jesus Christ frees us from sin, redeems us from death, and makes us capable of good. It is not the law that saves us; we are not saved because we obey the law. Which saves us is the Grace; we are saved because we live in charity.
If in the Old Testament that salvation was tied to the law and its observance, it was only because the law was geared to the coming Messiah, and observance of the law expressed an obscure faith, hope and charity to the Messiah. But now that the Messiah has come, now that we have been fully revealed the mystery of faith, hope and charity, observance of the law and the law itself have become useless and, in fact, a hindrance and damage. Under the law the man was a slave, under the charity is master: "Jewish Jerusalem is in bondage .., the heavenly Jerusalem is much free" (Gal. 4, 25); under the law is as if it was in prison, under the charity it is free: "before faith came, we were imprisoned and kept in prison: of the law" (Gal. 3, 23); the law was like the pedagogue who has temporary function and should retire when he turned his office: "the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ" (Gal. 3, 24); the law was like "the letter that kills", the charity is "the spirit that gives life".
(11 Cor. 3, 6).
Already writing to the Romans had set itself the question: "So we destroy the law through faith?". And he replied: "not at all in fact, have we upheld the law." And a little later: "then will sin, because we are not subject to the law but in the grace? May it never be?" So St. Paul denounced the error of those who thought that the abolition of the Mosaic Law and its overcoming in Christian liberty were, together, abolition of all law and every ethical norm, so were therefore allowed each agency and each licentiousness.
Such errors snaked between Corinthians, to which the Apostle must be recalled, clearly and with authority, that the very charity is expressed in certain forms and demands observance of certain rules and behaviors. And it does so especially in chapters five and six of the first letter. Errors similar snaked among the Galatians, which the Apostle more strictly warns: "do not want to invoke freedom (Christian) as a pretext for carnal conduct." Even St. John, that no less than Paul had insisted on the freedom of the children of God, no longer subject to the law but alive in the predilection of the Father, even St. John in his first letter of protest: "Who says knows (God) but do not keep his commandments is a liar ... those who obey his word, in him truly is the love of God".
False, then, is the contrast between a morality of charity and a moral law. The Apostle John says that "love is to walk according to his commandments" (II Jn. 1, 6). So we understand how Jesus Christ, for one thing emphasized the relativity and transience of the law, for another appearance or affirm the permanence and stability, "do not think that I have come to abolish the law ... In truth I tell you that until heaven and earth pass, will not disappear from the law not one jot or one tittle ... "(Mt. 5, 18); and St. Paul, who so warmly and insistently has marked the precariousness and weakness and uselessness of the law, with equal warmth professes that "the law is holy, and holy, just and good is the precept" (Rom. 7, 12). If the law is sometimes deadly, it is only because we misuse it, "we know that the law is good, provided that it is making a legitimate" (I Tim. 1.8) and, more precisely, explains that the precepts of law shall not be abolished, but remain in the new health economy: "do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not covet, and all other are summed up in this sentence: you shall love your neighbor as yourself". (Rm. 13, 9).
These words, like those of the letter to the Galatians "the whole law is summed up in this one commandment: love your neighbor as yourself", they already geared to understand in what way we can say that grace and charity do not eliminate the law but they confirm it. They confirm it as the authenticating deepen in the grounds and in the spirit; the preserved because the beyond perfecting it: "Do not think - Jesus says to his disciples - that I am come to destroy the law ... have not come to destroy, but to perfect" (Mt 5, 17). Here it is not a static conservatism, it is not a punctilious legalism, which considers all precepts, and maximum and minimum, on the same plane, on the pretext that all are equally law; but of an attitude which, penetrating up to the right of the various precepts, it sizes the importance and value; up to be compromised and even drop those whose purely provisional and preparatory meaning of the coming of the Messiah is, with this coming, now evacuated.
Jesus, so, drops, eg., The Sabbath commandment, as long as the Lord is honored, no matter whether it is Saturday or another day (cfr. Mk. 2, 27). It follows that the Christian will have to observe a higher law and more perfect than that observed by the Jews, and especially the one observed by the Pharisees. Jesus can therefore urge his listeners with this warning: "If your righteousness is not greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven".
(Mt. 5, 20).
Compliance must be above all internal. This means loving the law. To love the precepts do not weigh more or if they weigh, are, as Jesus assures his faithful, "a lightweight, a sweet yoke" (Mt. 11, 30). It's the same charity that operates this weight and this sweetness, since it comes from the Holy Spirit (cfr. Rom. 5: 5) which infuses intellect enlightens and strengthens the will. And so the old law put the precept and the precept was good (Rom. 7, 12), but not giving with the ability to observe, easily became an occasion of sin. What lamented "St. Paul: It is a sin the law? Of course not. But I do not know sin except through the law" (Rom. 7: 7). In fact, not giving me with the help and leaving me a pray to my desires, it happened that "the commandment, given to me because they guide me to life, led me instead to death" (Rom. 7, 10). The law was therefore powerless to make the faithful man observing it. Now, however, "it was what the law could not ... God has accomplished by sending his own Son ... that he might be given the ability to fulfill the law in us, who walk .., according to the Spirit." (Rm. 8, 3-4).
The law is understood by Christians as a wise divine law, it is given as the divine will index, is finally beloved as an expression of divine goodness. So much for the natural law and much more for the divine positive law, of which the author is the God-Man, Jesus Christ. The law thus is loved, because it is loved Jesus Christ; and obedience to the law becomes the act more normal Christian life love, which looks like this, through the execution of the commandments, as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, "He who has my commandments, Jesus says in the speech of 'last supper, those really loves me "(pl. 14, 21). Love the law of the Lord here is the root of compliance: love is the new spirit of the new law: it is the spirit of the New Testament. Not so new, however, that there will be a premonition, and more than a hunch, already in the Old Testament.
We should not go find it inferior in Judaism, Judaism of the Scribes and Pharisees, but of authentic Judaism's chosen people, the faithful and pious Israelite, who puts the law of the Lord in the forefront of his thoughts. From his lips come the warm expressions of Psalm 118: "With all my heart I seek you ... in my heart I keep your precepts in your decrees I find my happiness I study your law and observe it with my whole heart. .. Better it is for me the law of your mouth that piles of gold and silver Oh! How much I loved your law, Oh Lord! I do all day object of my reflection ... your commandments are sweeter to my palate than honey to my mouth; they are the joy of my heart. “Thus Psalm 118, which is all a meditation on the law and the joy of watching it.
Compliance with the law is a source of joy. And the more it is for the Christian, which is fully revealed in Jesus Christ, what the Jewish people was hidden in the veil of its own history and its hope: to obey the law is to love God, and what greater joy than the joy of loving? And what most intoxicating love that God's love? Christian morality is therefore a moral of joy because it is a morality of love.
He caught well the essence of Christian morality S. Agostino in that judgment "love and do what you want" If you really love, you can do what your will is, for then your will not desire nothing but pleasure to ' He loved, to do all that and only that which pleases the beloved. The formula is perfect, but it is the exceptional Christianity formula, the formula of the eschatological Christianity, the Christianity that is lived in the term state. The Earth's Christianity, man in the state test, the man who always feels the dualism of flesh and spirit, or, as St. Paul says, the man who feels in his members a law to combat law of the mind (cfr. Rom. 7, 23), is always in need of authoritative presentation of the law.
Do not get to create it, according to the Augustinian formula, but comes to take it and make it their own joy, according to the Gospel formula will be a sweet yoke, it will be a lightweight. As the order of nature to the mother's love makes light and gentle yoke and the burden of care and cares for her son who also make up his duty as a Christian to love it light and gentle yoke and the burden of Gospel law.
Only for exceptional gift and privileged moments, the mystic, the saint, God grants this thrill of love, that the yoke and the weight disappear melting in joy, pure joy of love. But this is not the place down here were given by the Lord: it is the perfection of love, and the perfection here on earth is not the perfection of joy, love can be so perfect in suffering as in joy. For us men; indeed, it is easier to be perfect in suffering, which in joy.
What true love is, as taught by St. Paul to the Corinthians, that it, what spirit of the Gospel law, sums up the whole. Not only can it say that charity is the "queen of all virtues the Christian moral system," but even that who has charity has everything: kindness, forbearance, humility, dedication, disinterest, patience, etc.. (Cf. I Cor. 13: 4-7). Who has charity, has not, however, nothing, "even though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but if I had this science to know all mysteries, and that faith can move mountains if I have not charity, I am nothing".
(I Cor. 13, 1-2).
And even if I observe the evangelical precepts to whom Jesus has enabled the reward, and if I make those who say they are the works of charity, but I do not have love in the soul, I do not have the spirit of charity, Christians are not very different from those Pharisees that this compliance with the law profited nothing, "even though I bestow all my goods to the poor, even though I give my body to be burned - Saint Paul writes - if I have not charity, all this does not help me to anything".
(I Cor. 13, 3).
The novelty of the Gospel, the Good News, the order of the moral life, then, is the charity. So you understand how St. Paul could say, somewhat enigmatically, that "charity is the bond of perfection" (Col. 3, 14), or even, that "the fulfillment of the law is love" (Rom. 13 , 10). To Timothy, then, writes that "the end of the commandment is charity" (I Tim. 1: 5): where if you want to understand the precept in the generic sense of the divine law, it seems that the Apostle wants to insinuate that the observance of law has the aim, even before its work is completed, the end of charity, the increase of charity, an increase of grace.