I often find myself asking, what may appear too poetic for some, or odd for others, is the question: is friendship beautiful? As certainly as there are stars in the heavens, there would probably be that many answers. But allow me to answer the question by consulting the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas as he addresses the question via charity since charity is proper to man and proper to friendship.

Charity comes from the Old French word “charité“, which has its root in the Latin, caritas–or, you guessed it, love. Charity therefore is understood as love. As beings created by the Divine Essence itself, we are therefore beings capable of expressing caritas, or Charity. Our being moves according to the essence of charity or direct our actions in the name of charity. In this sense, then, we have actualized a motion in the direction of what can be loved–namely God, the Angels, the saints and, finally with one another.

Unfortunately, understanding the true meaning of caritas can be a result of mixed terms or analogies and metaphors which attempt to convey a person’s own experience using the virtue that is called charity; thus the adverse effect in the end would be a limited understanding of this particular virtue. As a result love then ends up as a misused term when it is directed toward objects, or, in this case, matter or the material.

As human beings we are created with a distinct essence far different from that of nature– that we are spiritual beings too. Although we are created to interact with nature, our created being (our essence) forges an inclination to lead our humanity with our spirit. It is man’s ens, (or being), as proper to itself as that which is created by God. That relation shapes and defines our humanity. This relation thus shapes and defines our human nature. But beyond this shaping and defining we are also capable of a much higher function that radically separate mankind from the rest of nature; our intellect.

As beings who seek that which is most proper to us, caritas is proper to the human soul making it a distinctly a human trait. Caritas cannot be a product of nature, as nature does not infuse the soul alongside its Creator. Rather as one that is created by the Highest Being we call God, this reality then, (as beings created by God), substantiates our nature as belonging to the divine.

This brings us to the topic at hand–how is friendship beautiful?

As a brief, the term friend or friendship has its Germanic origins in the word Freund, which is translated as ‘to love’. You can see where this is going.

The common term between that of freund and that of caritas is, in fact ‘love.’ Love is that noble character that, when properly understood and therefore practiced, causes man to rise above all things irascible. To encounter one who is grounded in the virtue of caritas is one who properly addresses the hierarchy of the order as created by God. To live daily in this virtue opens the eyes of understanding to the world around them. Love properly generated towards others therefore encapsulates that which is beautiful; thus bringing to their life the actual presence of God since He is the Ultimate Generator of Caritas. Much of this theology is connected to the Catholic belief in the Eucharist–Christ as Ultimate Sacrifice dies for all of us and in the Holy Mass under the species of bread and wine is transubstantiated by a priest, who in Persona Christi in the mystery of faith become actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Caritas is ultimately actualized in his death and is made present in our Holy Masses between Heaven and Earth. Love then is that which is proper between man and God.

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Question 23, Article 1 in Secunda Secundae Partis, he writes in reply to the objection that Charity is not friendship.

“On the contrary, It is written (John 15:15): “I will not now call you servants . . . but My friends.” Now this was said to them by reason of nothing else than charity. Therefore charity is friendship.

I answer that, According to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 2,3) not every love has the character of friendship, but that love which is together with benevolence, when, to wit, we love someone so as to wish good to him. If, however, we do not wish good to what we love, but wish its good for ourselves, (thus we are said to love wine, or a horse, or the like), it is love not of friendship, but of a kind of concupiscence. For it would be absurd to speak of having friendship for wine or for a horse.

Yet neither does well-wishing suffice for friendship, for a certain mutual love is requisite, since friendship is between friend and friend: and this well-wishing is founded on some kind of communication.

Accordingly, since there is a communication between man and God, inasmuch as He communicates His happiness to us, some kind of friendship must needs be based on this same communication, of which it is written (1 Corinthians 1:9): “God is faithful: by Whom you are called unto the fellowship of His Son.” The love which is based on this communication, is charity: wherefore it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God.”

Since God is beyond all material matter, He is therefore beautiful. Therefore, Friendship is Beautiful!