Loving your neighbor

Love in the eyes of an Orthodox

And because in the article “There are no perfect children and neither are there perfect parents” I was saying that children have the right to live where there is love, I bring to your attention another perspective on love, a feeling so much sung and praised, but yet unknown in the true meaning of the word. I am suggesting you an Orthodox view…

“Love is a deeply human reality and of such complexity, that some give up all definitions, considering the words as useless and powerless. Love cannot be defined.  It is as mysterious as life. Hence the variety of the almost contradictory aspects of love. For the word “love” is the most fluid, the most complex, the vaguest and varied in meaning of all words.

It comprehends heaven and earth, soul and body, pureness and passion, nostalgia and instinct. For some, it is only instinct, even if it is clothed in the delusive veil of a pure ideal; for some, it is spiritual face, purely spiritual, which merges souls and unites them with God. For some it is a demonic power, through which a mysterious fascination is exerted over man in order to turn him into a blind instrument of his species, for others it is a ray from Paradise descending straight from God’s heart, in order to lift our life to perfection¹. Love is not just a feeling, as we are inclined to believe. It is more than that.

According to the Christian view, love springs from man’s very spiritual being. The person itself, in its essence, is love, that is the tendency to communion. God is love (1 John 4:8); the man, the image of God in the world, is love. That is why, due to his very being, he is predestined for communion, he cannot live alone, he cannot attain perfection on his own.

Love is ecstasy, that is self egression, so that by losing yourself into the other person, you could find yourself more completely. If unity is the aspiration of love, then duality is its necessary condition. It accomplishes a suprapersonal unity, in which the persons do not dissolve through communion, but attain fulfillment. This is the paradoxical power of love: that of uniting and at the same time preserving the individuality and bringing it to perfection. It is ‘unity within duality’. Love holds the nostalgia of eternity in itself.  It cannot conceive of separation. It gives the impression that the persons have been searching for each other and have belonged to each other since eternity, that they are predestined to belong to each other forever. Love is creative force. It brings to life the potentialities hidden within the human being and brings them up to date.  It dynamizes all energies and enriches one’s being and life, by intensifying it, fulfilling it, making it perfect. This dynamic, creative nature of love finds its expression in the love between spouses, besides the mutual self-abnegation and perfecting.

Love is creative: it calls to life, it creates life, it enriches life. The love which accomplishes the communion between husband and wife, calls necessarily for eternity or the indissolubility of this communion and its creative nature. There is a positive ratio between family love and God, since love and Christian family are steps towards God, as reflexes of transcendent realities. And God is spring and transfiguring power of life in the Christian family.

The life and soul of the Christian family is love. And it is love that God’s grandeur is reflected in. Love itself has something ‘deeply sacramental’, it is like the receipt of the Eucharist – only it is a receipt of the essences of life, where the creative breath of the Divinity can be sensed. In this personal communion, in this giving from one soul to another, one can sense the presence of God’s steps in the Christian’s soul. Because being a Christian means thinking with love, talking with love, working with love. Family is a community of love when its members strive to uproot all the vices in their lives and to embellish their souls with all the virtues which shine in the Person of Christ. It is a community of love only when it fulfills the words of the Apostle, who says: ‘love is long suffering, love is kind, love is not jealous, it does not boast, it is not inflated, it is not discourteous, it is not selfish, it is not irritable, it does not enumerate the evil, it does not rejoice over the wrong, but rejoices in the truth. It covers all things, it has faith for all things, it hopes in all things, it endures in all things. Love never falls in ruins.’ (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

The Christian family moulds its members through the warmth of love on whose altar self-giving – par excellence – is brought as offering. There is no other place where one can find the same resources of patience, love and self-abnegation as in parents.

The Christian family remains what it has always been. The sanctuary in which the azure flame of Orthodoxy burns ceaselessly. Of the Orthodoxy which is truth, of the Orthodoxy which is love.”

(Metropolitan Nicolae Mladin)

Translated by Claudia

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