More thoughts on attachment.
Years ago, while nursing my three-week-old baby, I commented to a friend: "One of the nicest things about being the mother of a newborn is that what I naturally want to do is what I'm supposed to do. It's never been easier to do the right thing by somebody." Before having children I thought of myself as pretty self-centered (still do, really) --- I never guessed that someday I would perform with pleasure, for someone else's benefit, the most objectively un-rewarding tasks.
Last night we watched one of the Neufeld Power to Parent series of DVDs. (I've written more on them here, here, and here.) A line jumped out at me: attachment helps you put up with unpleasant smells --- and I had a bit of a revelation: It's attachment that makes it easy to love people.
More precisely, attachment is the natural process that's designed to make it easy to love others the way we're called to love them.
That explains a lot, I thought --- no, it clarifies. I've been thinking about love since two Sundays ago, when the Gospel reading was the famous "Love your enemies" discourse from Luke 6. Love your enemies --- really, everybody --- and it occurred to me that when Jesus says "For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?" you could say that he means, loving those you're attached to, right? Because it's easy to act lovingly (like in First Corinthians --- patient, kind, not pompous, not inflated, etc.) towards those you are attached to. It's easy, naturally easy, because attachment does so much to make you disposed to exercise patience, disposed to offer kindness.
Attachment makes it easy to be vomited on repeatedly without shoving your little one off your lap and yelling Yuck!, for example.
"Love your enemies" is the extreme, difficult case --- it proves that He means "love everybody" (like in First Corinthians --- patient, kind, not pompous, not inflated, etc.) --- love all those other people that mean nothing to you or even that you find really unpleasant --- in short, everyone that you're not attached to. People for whom it's not naturally easy. Never will be. Try to be attached to your enemies (unless maybe you suffer from Stockholm syndrome) and you're not going to have much success.
Attachment is the natural way that we become disposed to love. The other way, the supernatural way, is through the sacraments.
Luke 6, that same chapter with "Love your enemies," ends with the parable:
I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built.
Though we affirm they provide supernatural grace (and what is grace but the power to love?), the sacraments touch us where we are by natural means, through the senses. They attach us to Christ (cf. vine, branches). And if they attach us to Christ can they make us both supernaturally and naturally inclined to obey Him? Can it be made easier to love our enemies or even distasteful and annoying people, without feeling loving toward them, through deeply felt sense of belonging to Christ and knowing that it's what He commands?
You can bring it even more full-circle, I think. Perhaps we can deepen our felt attachment to Christ by making use of the natural attachment instinct.
I am a mother of small children. In my everyday life the sight of a nuzzling, stirring infant, the little hands opening and closing, the little mouth opening and head turning from side to side, pick me up, warm me, give me milk, awakens in me an response that is instant and deep. The response is a real and instinctive, very strong, desire to obey. Can I harness that by contemplating the Infant Jesus? Can I have the same desire to obey His commands?
Jesus, always the same Person, offers many faces to contemplate. There is the Bridegroom; there is the broken and bleeding prisoner that so touched the women of Jerusalem; there is Christ who lays down His life for His friends; Christ who "spoke with authority, not as the scribes;" Christ transfigured, Christ who says "Follow me." To which face do you instinctively respond with the desire to obey?