Kamal Hourani is a first year student in the Religious Studies Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a participant of our Digital Disciples Program.
On the evening of Wednesday, November 18, 2015 the Holy Cross Bookstore hosted its fourth Symposium at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Michael Tishel, co-director of the Office of Vocation and Ministry at the school, presented a talk entitled, “St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia: Model and Teacher of the Gentle Way.” Michael briefly stated the major points of St. Porphyrios’ life before moving on to examine his writings.
Three passages were read concerning love and relationships. One concerned God’s relationship with us, one talked about our relationship with God, and the last examined our relationships with our fellow human beings. Michael did not give much commentary after the readings to allow the Saint to speak for himself.
St. Porphyrios’ experiential understanding of self-emptying love was abundantly clear in the power of his words.
St. Porphyrios describes God’s supreme, passionate love for us (his eros) and instructs us to reorient all of our relationships through the lens of our own eros for God and everything else. We should be so on fire with the love of God that, in St. Porphyrios’ words, we should appear drunk. That is certainly a high bar to match.
He reminds us that love never violates the other by referencing the image from the Book of Revelation where Christ is described knocking at the door of our heart. Christ gently tries to get us to open up to him out of his love. In the same manner, we should treat others gently and knock at the doors of their hearts so that we may all enter into a more genuine fellowship.
We cannot force ourselves upon God either. Prayer is not a demand for grace but a tender plea for a gift. If grace could be received on demand, God would not really be acting out of free will nor the source of salvation. Instead of demanding, we should employ waiting, openness, and vigilance to receive God’s grace.
St. Porphyrios was truly a lover of God. His heart burned with compassion for the whole world. His saintly example reminds us of what a genuine, gentle spiritual life looks like: it is living with divine eros.
This saint’s love was encapsulated in his last words: “That they may be one.”
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