Four loves

Daily Reading for November 17 • Hugh, 1200, and Robert Grosseteste, 1253, Bishops of Lincoln

“They that are Christ’s” begin by preparing a cross for themselves in their mind. For from the center of the mind, which is love or the will, they aim their love upward to God, to love Him above all things. From that very same center they aim love at their friends, to love them in God “as themselves.” Furthermore, they aim love at their enemies, to love them “as themselves,” for God’s sake. Now these two extensions of conscious love, that is, to friends and enemies, are like the two arms of a cross extended to the right and to the left. In the fourth place they aim their love at their flesh, since [it is written that] “no man ever hated his own flesh” [Eph. 5:29]; and they aim it also at other bodily creatures, in order to love them to the extent that they are matter for the knowledge, love, and praise of God. Since these creatures are of lower dignity than man, the love that is extended to them is like that cross-line that is directed from the center downward.

And so, just as in the physical cross the four lines forming the cross are drawn from a unique central point (one reaching upward, two going out to the right and left, and the fourth extending downward), in the same way it comes about spiritually in the cross of love, that the love of God is a line working its way upward; the love of friends a line stretching out to the right; the love of enemies a line going left; and the love of one’s own flesh and of other corporeal creatures a line reaching downward. Thus in this cross the flesh is crucified, since all the works that are done through the members of the body are directed in accordance with one of these four loves.

From a sermon of Robert Grosseteste on Galatians 5:24, quoted in Robert Grosseteste by James McEvoy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

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