Thank you for looking at my question. Would someone please explain to me what the Churches definition is of ‘love’. I have always looked upon love as sacrifice, mercy and joy all rolled into one.I know God is love too! But I was wondering how the Church defines love. Thank you and God Bless you .
The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s glossary entry for love says, “See Charity”. Charity is defined as, “The theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God”.
Paul tells us that love is the greatest of the theological virtues: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).
The Catholic Encyclopedia article Love (Theological Virtue) expands on this:
(1) Its origin, by Divine infusion. “The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost” (Rom., v, 5). It is, therefore, distinct from, and superior to, the inborn inclination or the acquired habit of loving God in the natural order. Theologians agree in saying that it is infused together with sanctifying grace, to which it is closely related either by way of real identity, as some few hold, or, according to the more common view, by way of connatural emanation.
(2) Its seat, in the human will. Although charity is at times intensely emotional, and frequently reacts on our sensory faculties, still it properly resides in the rational will a fact not to be forgotten by those who would make it an impossible virtue.
(3) Its specific act, i.e. the love of benevolence and friendship. To love God is to wish Him all honor and glory and every good, and to endeavor, as far as we can, to obtain it-for Him. St. John (xiv, 23; xv, 14) emphasizes the feature of reciprocity which makes charity a veritable friendship of man with God.
(4) Its motive, i.e., the Divine goodness or amiability taken absolutely and as made known to us by faith. It matters not whether that goodness be viewed in one, or several, or all of the Divine attributes, but, in all cases, it must be adhered to, not as a source of help, or reward, or happiness for ourselves, but as a good in itself infinitely worthy of our love, in this sense alone is God loved for His own sake. However, the distinction of the two loves: concupiscence, which prompts hope; and benevolence, which animates charity, should not be forced into a sort of mutual exclusion, as the Church has repeatedly condemned any attempts at discrediting the workings of Christian hope.
(5) Its range, i.e., both God and man. While God alone is all lovable, yet, inasmuch as all men, by grace and glory, either actually share or at least are capable of sharing in the Divine goodness, it follows that supernatural love rather includes than excludes them, according to Matt., xxii, 39, and Luke, x, 27. Hence one and the same virtue of charity terminates in both God and man, God primarily and man secondarily.