(Touchstone) Anthony Esolen–Surprised by Delight: Divine Love & the Love of Man & Woman Surpass Mere Consent

I don’t mean pleasure. A whore and her patron may enjoy plenty of that. I mean delight, being caught by the laces, tangled in the snares: love comes with the laqueum or net, to trip you up and take you prisoner by your own senses and desires. The man in love is so tangled in his fascination with the beautiful woman that he hardly knows what to do. Think of lovelorn Orlando, pinning awkward but sincere sonnets on the trees of the Forest of Arden; and think of Rosalind, fainting away when she sees a handkerchief soaked in Orlando’s blood. Spenser imagines the lovers in the Temple of Venus so taken up by innocent delight that it appears to them to be all the world:

And therein thousand Pairs of Lovers walked,
Praising their God, and yielding him great Thanks,
Ne ever aught but of their true Loves talked,
Ne ever for Rebuke or Blame of any balked.

Their keynote is not a sense of accomplishment or security, but praise: for the beauty that comes uncalled-for and unmerited warrants the free response of praise and gratitude. We delight in that praise, and we must always remain incomplete and unquiet without it. Why should man praise God, who needs no praise from us? It is our heartiest share in the divine life, this delight in praise, for God has made us to praise, and our hearts are restless, says Augustine, until they rest in him. Says Sidney, in words that might apply to a beloved either human or divine:

Not thou by praise, but praise in thee is raised:
It is a praise to praise, when thou art praised.

A Strange Question

Now, if it is not good for the man to be alone, or the woman either, despite the bitter delusions of feminists, how do we raise children who will be delighted by the other sex? How do we express our own delight? How do we make ourselves vulnerable to those foreign entanglements? How do we prepare our hearts for the grace of ravishment?

The question would have struck our grandparents with incomprehension. Why should it need to be asked?

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

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