Spiritual Friendship and the Trinity
Father Alexander Pocetto, OSFS, explains:
“The Salesian conception of spiritual friendship is grounded on the biblical truth that we are made in the image and likeness of God. This means that in our very make-up we were created and destined to love as God loves. “Just as God created man in his own image and likeness, so also did he ordain a love for man in the image and likeness of his divinity” (Love of God, I, p. 170). We are all made in the image and likeness of the Trinitarian God.
So we are all called to love as the three divine persons love. Interestingly enough, Francis views the love that exists in the Blessed Trinity as the holiest kind of spiritual friendship imaginable. “. . . if friendship is to be loved and desired”, he exclaims, “what friendship can be so in comparison with that infinite friendship which is between the Father and the Son…” (Love of God,I,p.196). Francis stresses that communication is natural to the Trinity. “From all eternity,” De Sales explains, “there is in God an essential communication by which the Father, in producing the Son, communicates his entire, infinite and indivisible divinity to the Son” (Love of God, I, p.111).
By rooting our understanding of spiritual friendship in the Trinity, Francis is able to draw out of it an almost inexhaustible richness. In the love of friendship which exists in the Trinity, persons are safeguarded even though they are continually communicating themselves to each other. In this friendship, the identity of each is never lost or overshadowed by the other. This has very positive implications for human friendship.
It is through spiritual friendship that a person becomes what he/she is. In order to enter into a spiritual friendship, people have to accept themselves as they are. We have to first be a friend to ourselves before we can become a friend to another. True friendship modeled after that of the Trinity requires that friends have a very profound respect for each other. Nonetheless, “. . . it demands that we challenge our friends to be who and what they really are without ever implying in the challenge a withdrawal of our affection for them.” 7
We find a good deal of original and creative thinking in the way De Sales develops his ideas on friendship and especially spiritual friendship. It is true that Richard of St. Victor saw in the Trinity the model of human friendship in his De Trinitate. Before Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas spoke of charity as a love of friendship. De Sales’ originality lies in the ecstatic and dynamic character that he gives to the love of benevolence and hence to the love of friendship. This ecstatic quality is derived from his conception of trinitarian love and how it reached or went out of itself in the mystery of the Incarnation. The dynamic aspect of Salesian love makes us readily understand and appreciate the reciprocity and communication that are essential to the love of friendship.”
Source: Spiritual Friendship in Salesian Spirituality, Fr. Alexander Pocetto, OSFS
7: Andrew Greeley, The Friendship Game, (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970), p. 93.
REFLECTION: WHAT CHARACTERISTICS MAKE YOUR SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS DIFFER FROM OTHER FRIENDS?
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