In today’s reading from Romans 13, St Paul says that “love is the fulfilling of the law.” ‘Love’ is a troublesome word – it covers too much ground. In this respect English is poorly off compared to other languages. Latin, for instance, can distinguish between amor meaning physical love and caritas meaning spiritual, and specifically, Christian, love. Caritas gives us our word ‘charity’, the word used for ‘love’ in older translations of the Bible (cf. the Christian group called ‘Caritas’). The great exposition of ‘charity’ in this sense is to be found in 1 Cor 13 in the King James Version. However, the meaning of ‘charity’ has narrowed over the centuries and modern translations of the Bible have discarded it in favour of ‘love’. Greek is probably richest in words to cover the various kinds of ‘love’. In a letter dated 18 February 1954, C.S. Lewis listed four Greek words, each referring to a different kind of love: storge meaning the love that binds family members; philia meaning the love of friends; eros meaning sexual love; and agape corresponding to Latin caritas. Lewis points out that this last kind of ‘love’ is not a state of feeling at all, but a matter of will – see his ‘Mere Christianity’, Book III, Ch 9.
A Word in Season