The Greatest of These is Love



Attempting to describe my affection for the Harry Potter book series is impossible; the mark it has left on me is undeniable and I am a different person today because of it. Though there are many powerful messages in its pages, the strongest is love in all forms … friendships that grow and strengthen, the love parents have for their children, and romantic love both true and lasting and weak and waning. Love survives, transcends, grows and offers salvation. It is the redemption of Snape and the destruction of Lord Voldemort. From the very beginning, the power of love is apparent when Harry wonders how he survived the death curse that killed his parents. Dumbledore reveals it was his mother sacrificing her life for his that allowed him to live. “That kind of love leaves a mark, Harry… it is in your very skin.”

Lily was given a choice to save herself and abandon her son but she chose to die and in doing so gave Harry the ultimate protection. The religious symbolism of her sacrifice comes full circle in the last book when Harry realizes that to defeat Lord Voldemort, he must first die. By this time, Harry is in control of the Deathly Hallows, powerful objects that make him invincible: the Invisibility Cloak, the Resurrection Stone, and the Elder Wand. But to save the world from evil, Harry permits Voldemort to kill him. In the afterlife, he is given a choice to continue on into eternity through a more permanent death or to return and fight his enemy. Because of the love he has for humanity, Harry chooses to rise again and defeat Voldemort.

Love is the one thing Lord Voldemort does not understand and as a result, he underestimates the love Harry has for his friends, the Malfoys have for their son, and Snape has for Lily Potter. Not only does her death save Harry, it turns Snape against the Dark Lord, giving the professor a chance at redemption.

Throughout the series, Snape’s dislike of Harry is apparent. While ultimately sacrificial in his actions, Snape takes out his deep resentment for James Potter on his son by harassing him in class, ordering him into detention, and insulting his friends. One has to wonder how much of his behavior was genuine or forced through his feigned loyalty to Voldemort. Snape’s true motivations are so deeply hidden not even Voldemort suspects the truth, but he is forced to do things he hates in order to succeed in his goal of enabling Harry with the strength to eventually defeat Voldemort. He succeeds, but not without losing his life. In one of the most powerful chapters in the entire series, we learn the truth about Snape and his relationship with Lily. It is a beautiful and heart-breaking story of forsaken love; mistakes and choices that cause her affection for him to fade as Snape pursues evil and James wins her over. It shows the true heart of Snape, in his selfishness and guilt.

His love story makes the rest pale in comparison but we find examples of true love over and over again… in Fleur’s devotion to Bill in spite of his injury, in Tonks’s marriage to Lupin, in the contrast between the attraction of Harry and Cho and his feelings for Ginny, even in Hermione and Ron admitting their feelings for one another. But in the end, it is the nonromantic love that makes an impression on us: the friendship of the Boy Who Lived, His Best Friend, and the Insufferable Know-It-All sustains Harry through the most difficult portions of his life. In good times and bad, Hermione and Ron are there for him, cheering him on and giving him the support he needs to love enough to sacrifice his life for them and become worthy of looking up to. It is because of their faith in him that Harry transforms into a leader, a teacher, and inspires such characters as Neville to find courage. In the end, love is the driving force in all their lives. Love makes Dumbledore give Harry challenges to prepare him for what lies ahead. Molly kills Bellatrix out of love for her daughter and remorse over the loss of her son. Love causes Narcissa to betray Voldemort in exchange for information about the fate of her child.

Rowling manages to reach deep into the soul of her reader and elicit a wide variety of emotions, from laughter at humorous antics to tears of sorrow and cries of outrage. A generation was raised on her subtle philosophies, that courage is finding the strength to stand on your convictions, evil is to be fought against at all costs, there are some causes worth dying for, and love triumphs over all. In her world, from the instant Harry is left on the steps of his uncle and aunt’s home on Privet Drive to when he sends his youngest son, Albus Severus Potter, off on the train to Hogwarts, our spirit is tugged on, our heart is broken and mended a dozen times, and we are encouraged to remember that love redeems… and “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” ■


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charity Bishop would dearly love to spend all her free time mulling over, theorizing, and philosophizing on the vast spiritual / moral lessons of cinema and Victorian literature, but alas, she must make a living, so her days are spent doing editorial work. She devotes her free time to babysitting her bipolar cat, writing books, blogging, and searching for spiritual truth in all aspects of life… when she isn’t editing Femnista!


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