The myth of Cupid and Psyche has been much on my mind as we approach Valentine’s Day this year. Do you know it? The story goes like this:
Psyche, daughter of a king, is so beautiful and kind that Cupid, the god of love himself, has fallen in love with her from afar. Because of the jealous intervention of other gods, Cupid is only able to court her with a very strange condition. He can only approach her in the full darkness of night, or a curse will strike and bring disaster.
Cupid and Psyche meet and fall in love, all by night, and for a time all is well. Psyche, however, becomes consumed with curiosity. Why does her lover refuse to let her see him? What could he be hiding? Is he some sort of horrible monster? One night, after he is asleep, she strikes a match and looks on him, beholding the most beautiful young man she has ever seen. Yet in that very moment, the curse is fulfilled and Cupid is torn away from his beloved Psyche.
And we? How often have we ourselves reached out for love and yet feared to let ourselves be fully seen? In this month of reflecting on our theme of Identity, it’s poignant to think of all the ways we hide ourselves from one another, even from those we love. For fear of conflict, maybe, worried that our differences will spark an argument we’re not prepared to handle. For fear of rejection, sometimes, worried that if we allow ourselves truly to be seen, warts and all, we could not possibly be loved. Sometimes we may suppress our true being so deeply, even we ourselves have lost sight of it.
Yet, for love to deepen, we have to take the risk of letting ourselves be seen for real. It can be so hard, but let us take courage from the testimony of our religious ancestors that our true self, our true being is always loved and worthy of love. That’s the message of our Universalist forebears who felt and knew so deeply that all are loved, no one excluded – everyone worthy and precious, no exceptions. If we can truly let this message into our hearts, it will transform us.
Psyche is devastated but refuses to despair. She travels to the home of the gods and begs for their mercy. They set her a series of ordeals, near-impossible tasks that she barely manages to accomplish. Finally, after a long and weary time of difficult work, the gods take pity on Psyche and she is reunited with her beloved Cupid. And so, in the beautiful words of Edith Hamilton, “Love and the Soul (for that is what Psyche means) had sought and, after sore trials, found each other; and that union could never be broken.”
Our soul longs for love. We long to know and be known, to hold and be held. My prayer is that each of us will find an answer to that longing – in the love of friends and family, and in the beauty of the earth and in the mystery that our ancestors called Love itself. Peace and blessings to all.