The Four Degrees of Love: Part 2

We pick up where we left off in the first segment of St Bernard’s Four Loves. The article I last posted was about a study group on the “Four Degrees of Love” by Bill Gaultiere.

The First degree we discussed was about selfish love or “loving yourself for your own sake“, which is the natural and carnal love with which we are all born. At a gathering called a “morning of reflection” shortly after the study, we heard a talk based on this article. The notes we received for reflection outlined the first degree of love as:

We love ourselves for our own sake; since we are unspiritual of the flesh we cannot have an interest in anything that does not relate to ourselves.

The Second Degree

The second degree is summarized in Gaultier’s article:

People who are animal and carnal by instinct, who only know what it means to love themselves, can begin to love God for their own blessing.

[This second degree of love] means you now love God. Yet it is still love for your own benefit, not God’s own sake. Nevertheless, it is wisdom to know what you can do by yourself and what you can only do with God’s help to keep you from offending God by sin. If when sufferings occur and sins gain in frequency, then we are forced to turn to God for His unfailing love. Eventually will not even the cold heart of stone in a cast-iron cage be tenderized by the goodness of God’s grace? Will this one then not be forced to love God — not selfishly — but because God is God?…

In notes from the morning of reflection to summarize:

We begin to see that we cannot subsist by ourselves, we begin to seek God for our own sakes. We love God, but only for our own interests.

What does the second degree of love look like on a Christian? The Practical side…

(From our own conversation as a team:) We discussed that our own hearts of gratitude please God and shows others His love by example. We need to extend this gratitude to those around us for even the smallest of efforts or menial tasks. After decades of marriage it is the spouse who recognizes the efforts the other spouse puts into working to pay household bills or to help with the dishes, take out the trash, or change a lightbulb. But even before that, it is perhaps understanding that I couldn’t have done those menial tasks had God not been the one to put the breath in my lungs that morning. Gratitude toward God lends toward the mending of our wounds and changes the hearts of others around us by its proximity to humility. Only a humbled heart can experience gratitude because gratitude it directed to something outside of our own doing.

As mentioned above, the Holy Spirit has been working with our prayer team all year on how to rely on Him to fight our battles and challenges and to relinquish the need to feel in control of things continuously. What we liked about the second degree was that the human heart begins to be moved by the Divine toward deeper love outside of itself, understanding that we are loved by no doing of our own and God and His grace move our hearts toward Him.

Photo by Ben Cheung on

NEXT TIME: Love in the Third Degree: God for God’s Sake

2 thoughts on “The Four Degrees of Love: Part 2

  1. Pingback: The Four Degrees of Love: Part 3 | The Domestic Church of Bosco

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