by Scott Hahn

Doubleday, 2002

192 pages, $19.95

Available in retail and online bookstores.

This is arguably Scott Hahn's best and most important work in print to date. In previous books, the popular speaker and theologian has traced the theme and reality of covenant in Scripture (A Father Who Keeps His Promises) and examined the covenantal nature of the Church's liturgy and worship (The Lamb's Supper). Now, in First Comes Love, Hahn plunges even more deeply into the supernatural foundation of the New Covenant—the Trinity—and shows how the triune God is the source and sustainer of both human families and the Church, the family of God:

“For at the core of human experience is the family,” he writes, “which is familiar to all of us, and which most of us think we understand, while somewhere far beyond the limits of our minds is God the Blessed Trinity, whom many people find remote, abstract, and inaccessible. Yet I propose that we don't understand what we think we understand—that is, the family—and we do possess a key to understanding what we find inscrutable: the Trinity.”

The Trinity, described in the Catechismof the Catholic Church as “the central mystery of Christian faith and life,” is inexhaustible but not unknowable. In becoming man, Hahn explains, the Son reveals the inner life of the Trinity and invites mankind to enter into that eternal, perfect Communion. Drawing upon the Catechism, the Church Fathers and the writings of Pope John Paul II, Hahn reflects upon the profound truth of deification, the process by which man is filled and animated by God's own supernatural life: “Christian life, then, is a participation in the life of the Trinity,” he writes.

Beginning with courtship and marriage, and building on the theme of family and love, First Comes Love moves on to the Incarnation and then ascends to an extended consideration of the God who is family, covenant and love. Covenant—the complete gift of self to another—is illuminated by the light of the Trinity, in which the three divine persons eternally give themselves to one another in total love: “Covenant is what God does, because covenant is who God is.” Hahn then masterfully shows how the Incarnation, the Church, and the family logically flow from the reality of the triune life of self-gift and love.

Written in a popular and personal style, the book clearly seeks in places to communicate the brilliant, but often dense, writings of Pope John Paul II pertaining to family, love and sexuality.

This is evident in Hahn's depiction of the Fall, when Adam and Eve refused to sacrifice their natural desires for the greater, supernatural good. This failure, of course, was cause for the Incarnation. “Jesus' life, death and resurrection were a revelation in time of the eternal inner life of the Blessed Trinity,” writes Hahn.

Sacrifice is the way to God; it “is the only way that humans can imitate the interior life of the Trinity. For God is love, and the essence of love is life-giving. … Sacrifice, then, became the essential mark of all subsequent covenants between God and humankind.”

Insightful, engaging and spiritually challenging, First Comes Love demonstrates that Hahn has few equals when it comes to explaining the complex riches of the Catholic Faith without watering them down or dulling their potency.

There is no greater vocation than to be a true child of God, and First Comes Love is a fine articulation and explanation of that precious truth.

Carl E. Olson is editor

of Envoy magazine