Commentary on Hymn XXVIII: To Antinous Deus Amabilis

O Antinous, Deus Amabilis,
you are the lovely god, fairest of mortal boys,
beautiful even amongst the gods.
O Antinous, Deus Amabilis,
you are the lovable god, most attractive
in your beauty, in your kindness, in your
open-handed welcome to those who seek you.
O Antinous, Deus Amabilis,
you are the loving god, the passions of your mortal heart
now kindled from red-hot to blue-white, your love
and loyalty a divine ecstasy.
O Antinous, Deus Amabilis,
accept the offering of my love,
and return it to me, if you will;
love me and in that love,
may all my loves be purified;
may I love like you, be as lovable
as you, become as lovely as you,
O Antinous, Deus Amabilis.

Amabilis…

“Amabilis” is one of my favorite titles for Antinous and perhaps the one that sums up my experience of him. He is Deus Amabilis, the Lovable God. He is not intimidating, scary, spooky, “dark”, or whatever (although he is not without a wrathful side). He is open, approachable, attractive, even likable. While many have looked at his surviving representations and seen a lazy, sulky, or melancholy adolescent boy, in my devotion I have found him to be a good listener, a patient friend, a god of good cheer. His surface beauty is matched by a deep goodness; he wants his devotees to be happy and does what he can to help them.

On the other hand, I don’t want to imply that Antinous is a doormat. Just as he did when mortal, he has definite preferences; he likes some people, loves some people, and rejects some people. He does not welcome homophobes, TERFs, racists, or other bigots into his court. He is on the side of liberation, inclusion, and equality, which means he opposes those who want to oppress, exploit, exclude, or dominate others. While I have been at pains throughout this series to convey that he does not reject straight people just for being straight, neither will he reinforce heteronormativity. He can be wrathful in the protection of his own, and he can be demanding of those who have pledged their service to him. Yet I myself find his demands empowering: If my god expects me to do a thing in his service, he must have good reason to think that I actually can do it, and do it well. (Such as writing this series of blog posts.)

For years I struggled, as a Christian, to have the sort of feelings about Jesus that I read about in the medieval mystics I loved so much. I was baffled by the fact that I had much more devotion to Julian of Norwich than to the god of her devotion. I loved liturgy and theology and saints and the Holy Spirit, and often felt more or less indifferent to Jesus. I didn’t know what I was missing until I encountered Antinous and fell in love with him. You can’t generate devotion to a deity in yourself any more than you can generate romance or sexual desire; I think there has to be a spark of something, perhaps the initiative of the deity and not the mortal. In any case, I am fonder of Jesus as a deified rabbi than I was of him as The Incarnate WORD, and I am deeply devoted to Antinous as the god who, to me, is the most lovable and also the most intelligible.

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