God and the Crisis of Meaning

Memory Eternal: Fruitful Death as the Form of Personal Mediation (Part II)

Erik van Versendaal

It is proper to one’s inmost desire for perfection in the bonum to be made happy, and so to receive oneself most richly, by adhering first to God’s own happiness. “To love is to take delight in another’s happiness.”1 Mediation to oneself thus belongs to the form of personal union with the divine beloved. The first part of this essay considered Diotima’s view, presented in Plato’s Symposium, that one’s own fulfillment can only be sought in seeking God’s beauty for itself. Immortality, the longing for which is inflected in time in the act of “willing tomorrow,” is a matter of being given wholly to oneself by the God one loves for his own sake, hence in being “born from above.”

“Joy,” Josef Pieper remarks, “is the response of a lover receiving what he loves.”2 In keeping with this principle, personal “intermediation” (William Desmond’s term) proves to be an expression of reciprocal generosity, an open order where two are bound together by rejoicing in one another’s being good. The paradisal peace in God for which we are made is already mediated to us through our action in this world and through our fellowship with other persons. Each is given to himself for the sake of being present to others, and in giving himself to others he is most fully present to himself. Indeed, it is only in enjoying another’s fulfillment that the self sufficiently enjoys his own. The first part of this essay took familial love, and above all nuptial fruition, as the natural, embodied locus of this interplay between finite persons that lies at the heart of creation. If we are made to answer God’s desire that we should be, we naturally yearn to have our own desire answered (equally but differently) from within the world. Each lover in giving presence to the answering beloved at once gives the beloved to the beloved anew. But the partnering communication between the two, in which each is given more perfectly to rest in him- or herself through and with the other, exceeds and empowers the contribution of both at once. In this sense, the reciprocity between two in love is already a third to which they openly turn and which thus precedes their mutual desire as its end. Hence, the theme of mediation serves to explain why the desire for union with the beautiful in which the lover is made happy (born anew forever) would at once be, as Diotima has it, a desire for begetting before the beautiful. If it is through and with a beloved other who loves me that I fully indwell myself, we two most fully abide with one another, and so most fully address ourselves to our hoped-for tomorrow, through and with a third whom we together contemplate and live for. “Thus, it is necessary that those who are—and are worthy to be—supremely loved seek with the same desire someone else to be included in their love.”3 Mediation preserves and perfects difference, and the beloved joyfully acquiesces in the beloved’s difference from himself above all in receiving her (and himself in union with her) through the “second difference” of their fruit. Indeed, the difference from God and others that each created person receives with being is for the sake of such fecundity. In part two of this essay, accordingly, we attend to the manner in which the inner generosity of all loving mediation between persons appears in its natural proliferation in further mediation. The will aspires toward God through its descent into the flesh, and, we argue, the natural destiny of the will in its mediation through the body is generative communion with another embodied person.


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