For all the wealth and diversity of the English language, we are rather poor in our use of the word "love". That is, when expressing different types of love we are limited to that one word, "love". There are three different types of love and the ancient Greeks had a word for each of them: Love of the Body, the Mind, and the Soul.
Eros - this is used to describe physical attraction and romantic love. When not used in the romantic sense, it typically indicates a possessive type of love. Pope Benedict, in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, recognized that God's love for humanity has an "eros" aspect to it insofar as God wants to "possess us" as His own.
Philia - an intellectual or friendly type of love. This is the type of love we have for our interests & hobbies, and for many of our friends. Philadelphia is often called the city of "Brotherly Love", which is precisely the English tranlation of this Greek word.
Agape - the highest of "loves", agape is an unconditional, self-sacrificing love. This is the type of love a parent has for a child, that spouses should have for one another, and that God has for humanity. Agape love has no concern for its own self interest. It is agape that St. Paul is referring to in his often quoted passage from 1 Corinthians (chapter 13).
Before signing off, I want to leave you with three helpful ways to remember the different types of love:
Eros - the pronunciation is similar to "arrows", and one can think of cupid's arrows piercing a heart, a symbol of romantic love.
Philia - a former student often said to me, "I-feel-ya" (sounds similar to philia) and said this expression indicated understanding and respect for a friend, making it a good reminder of an intellectual and friendly love.
Agape - when I think of agape I think of "a gaping embrace", like the wide open arms of a hug from someone who always loves and always forgives.
Hopefully these help shed some light on the greatest of all spiritual gifts, Love.
Ad Jesum Per Mariam,