Spirituality for Today – November 2010 – Volume 15, Issue 4

The 5 Love Languages and the Sacraments

By Gerard-Marie Anthony

Every person is made for love. You know it, I know it. It is what keeps us connected to one another. It makes us complete. Since it is what makes us complete, it also is what helps us to become fully human. Therefore we should look at love and how to obtain it.

A photo of frost on the trees on a bright sunny Autumn morning

Love is something that must be communicated in truth, not given dishonestly or deficiently. If it is given in any other way, it leaves us empty. Since it is communicated, it must be given as well as received. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there are 5 main ways in which one receives or gives love. These are known as the five love languages and are as follows:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

Each of these ways of communicating love are unique and good in themselves. Objectively speaking, words of affirmation are no better that quality time or physical touch. Acts of service are equivalent to receiving gifts. Subjectively, or depending on the person, each love language can be better for a specific individual. For example, some people love physical touch, as for others, it makes them uncomfortable. Others may like quality time and no amount of gifts or service will equal those precious moments that you spend with him or her. This is why we must be able to discern the way people want to be loved and not impose our own personal preference of how we think they should be loved upon them. This is why there is so much confusion and emptiness in relationships. Often times, people try to make the other into either an image of themselves or a perfect image of who they want the other person to be. Both are wrong because no one likes to be forced to accept something. When it is forced, it is not true love because it is no longer focused on the other, but only on self.

If this holds true for us, human beings who are made in the image and likeness of God; how much more would it hold true for God, Three Divine Persons? God gives us the specific way He wants us to love Him; these are His covenants. God, in a certain sense says, "I have a certain love language and it is found within my covenants." The last covenant He established with us are His Sacraments. In these, God has given us a way to love Him in the way He asks. It is not that singing, sitting down and meditating on Scripture, or doing nice things for people are bad. They are good, in fact very good; but they are not the ultimate way that God tells us to love Him. The way He asks us to love Him is through the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist which is the "new and everlasting covenant" (1 Cor. 11:25). This is why the Sacraments, in particular the Mass, should not be avoided. The Eucharist is the ultimate response to God's love language because it is a participation in God's ultimate act of love, our redemption. It is the greatest assent to God's love language because it fulfills His deepest desire-to be our Immanuel (see Is. 7:14/Mt. 1:23), to dwell with us through the Real Presence in love. The book of Wisdom tells us this, "Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love" (Wis. 3:9).

If we are to find love, we must imitate Christ because Christ is God, and "God is love" (1 Jn. 4:18). This is the second part of these love languages within the covenants. In them God loves us how we ask Him to be loved. He uses the Sacraments to communicate each one of the five love languages. This is absolutely mind blowing when you think about it. He fulfills the first love language by giving us words of affirmation through the form or words of the Sacraments. For example, in confession He speaks through the priest, "I absolve you of your sins…go in peace." In the Eucharist, He says, "This is my body given up for you." In the Sacraments, Jesus takes up the second love language by spending quality time with us as He waits to be with us. In Baptism for instance, God waited for all eternity to infuse His divine life into our souls. Jesus accomplishes the third love language by giving us gifts through the Sacraments. He strengthens the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. He gives us the gift of another person to spend their rest of our lives with in marriage. He even blesses us with an invitation to live the marriage of Christ and His Church here and now through the gift of celibacy (in the Latin Rite also the priesthood). Finally he gives us comfort from illness in the Anointing of the Sick. Christ carries out the fourth love language of acts of service for us by humbling Himself and dying on the cross so that we could once again experience God's love for ever. Finally, He gives us the fifth love language of physical touch. Since Christ became flesh and is one with His Church (see Eph.. 5:31-32) when the Church touches us through the Sacraments, it is Christ touches us. When we receive Christ in the Eucharist, our flesh is touched by His Divine flesh. Hence we can understand the great phrase of Mother Teresa, "When you look at the cross, you understand how much he loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how He loves you now."

Therefore, when it comes to the Sacraments, dare to love and be loved in truth. Embrace the Sacraments and in this you will fulfill the love languages and find the love our hearts seek by loving and being loved with the greatest love of all, God's love.