Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia
Love for your neighbor encourages love for God
There’s one thing that’s required in this life, love and worship for Christ and love of our fellow human beings. We should all be one, with Christ as the head. This is the only way to acquire grace, heaven, eternal life. Love for your neighbor cultivates love for God. We’re happy when we love everyone else, mystically. Then we’ll feel that everyone loves us. There’s no way to reach God except through other people. Because, if you don’t love other people, whom you can see, how can you love God, Whom you haven’t seen [1 Jn. 4, 20].
We should love, sacrifice ourselves for others unselfishly, without expecting anything in return. That’s when we find our balance. Love that expects a return is selfish. It’s not genuine, pure or true. We should love and suffer with everyone. If one part suffers, all the other parts suffer with it… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. [1 Cor. 12, 26-27]. That’s the Church: me, you, other people, all aware that we’re members of Christ, that we’re one. Selfishness is egotism. We shouldn’t ask ‘Let me endure, let me go to paradise’, but rather we should feel this love for other people. Do you understand? That’s humility. So if we live united, we’ll be blessed, we’ll live in paradise. Each of our neighbors is ‘flesh of our flesh’. How can I be indifferent to them, how can I upset them, how can I hate them.
This is the greatest mystery of our Church: that we can all become one in God. If we do this, we become His. There’s nothing better than this unity. This is the Church. This is Orthodoxy. This is paradise. Let’s read what Saint John the Evangelist wrote about the Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane: ‘so that they may be one, as we are… so that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you… so that they be one as you and I are one… so that they may be made perfect in one… so that were I am, they may be also’.
Do you see? He says it time and again. He emphasizes unity. We must all be one, with Christ as the head. Just as Christ, the Son, is one with the Father. Here is where the most profound depths of the mystery of the Church are concealed. No religion says this. Nobody asks this refinement which Christ requires of us: that we should all become one with Him. This is the complement or fullness of the Church. In this unity, in this love in Christ. There’s no room for rupture, or fear. No death, no devil, no hell. Only love, joy, peace and worship of God. Then you’re able to say, along with Saint Paul: ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’.
We can reach that point very quickly. Good intentions are required and God’s ready to come into us. He knocks at the door and makes all things new, as it says in the Revelation of Saint John. Our thought process is transformed, it’s freed of wickedness, it becomes better, more holy, more efficient. But if we don’t open the door to the Person Who’s knocking, if we don’t have what He wants, if we’re not worthy of Him, then He won’t enter our heart. If we’re to become worthy of Him, however, we have to die as regards our former self, so that we’ll never die at all. Then we’ll live in Christ, incorporated into the whole body of the Church. Then divine Grace will come. And if Grace comes, we’ll receive everything. Once, on the Holy Mountain I saw something I liked very much. In a boat on the sea, there were some monks holding sacred objects. They all came from different places, but they said ‘This is ours’, not ‘mine’.
Let’s dispense our love generously
Love above all. What should concern us is love for other people, for their soul. Whatever we do, be it prayer, advice, guidance, let it be done with love. Without love, prayer’s of no benefit, advice wounds, guidance is damaging and destroys the other person, who senses whether we love them or not and reacts accordingly. Love, love, love. Love for other people prepares us to love Christ more. Wonderful, isn’t it?
Let’s dispense our love generously, taking no account of other people’s attitude. When the Grace of God enters us, we aren’t concerned with whether or not people love us or speak to us in a kind manner. We’ll feel the need to love all of them. It’s egotism to want others to address us politely. If they don’t, it shouldn’t bother us. Let them talk to us as they wish. We shouldn’t beg for love. Our aim should be to love and pray for them with all our soul. Then we’ll see that other people do, indeed, love us, without our seeking it, without begging for their love. They’ll love us freely and sincerely, from the depths of their heart, without us forcing them to do so. When we love them without seeking any return, they’ll love us back, they’ll swarm round us like bees. That’s true for everybody.
If somebody else annoys you or tires you out, just think: ‘Now my eye’s hurting. Or my arm. Or leg. I need to look after it with a lot of love’. But don’t imagine that you’ll be rewarded for supposedly doing good, nor that you’ll be punished for the bad things you’ve done. You come to knowledge of the truth when you love with Christ’s love. Then you don’t demand that others will love you. That’s the right thing. It’s up to us whether we’re saved. God wants us to be. As Scripture tells us, He wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.
‘We owe no-one anything, except to love one another’
If anyone does us down, in any way, either by slander or insults we should think that he or she is our brother or sister who’s been overwhelmed by our opponent. They’re victims of this opponent. So we should share their pain and ask God to have mercy on both them and us. And God will help both of us. But if we get angry with them, then both they and the opponent will jump upon us and use us badly. If you judge others, you don’t love Christ. Egotism’s to blame That’s where condemnation of others starts from.
Let me give you a little example. Let’s imagine that somebody’s alone in the wilderness. Nobody else is there. Suddenly this person hears somebody else weeping and shouting some way off. Off they go and come across a terrible sight: a tiger’s seized somebody and is madly tearing them to bits. They’re desperately crying out for help. Soon it’ll be too late. What can the other person do to help. Go and run to them? How? That’s not a possibility. Call for others to come? Who? There isn’t anybody else. Maybe pick up a rock or two and throw them at the person under attack, to finish them off quickly? ‘Hardly!’ we’d say. But this is what might happen if we don’t understand that another person is being overwhelmed by the devil, the tiger. It escapes us that, if we deal with them without love, it’s as if we cast stones at their wounds, in which case we do great harm and the ‘tiger’ then jumps on us and we do the same, but worse. Then where’s the love we have for our neighbor, and even more so, for God?
We should understand the badness of other people as an illness that afflicts them so that they suffer and can’t be free of it. This is why we should regard others sympathetically and treat them with kindness, saying to ourselves ‘Lord Jesus Christ’, in order to strengthen our soul and not condemn anyone. We should look at all the saints. We all bear within us the person we once were. Our neighbor, whoever they may be, is ‘flesh of our flesh’, our brother or sister and ‘we owe no-one anything except to love one another’, according to Saint Paul. We can never condemn others, because ‘nobody has hated their own flesh’.
If somebody has a passion, we should try to cast them rays of love and kindness, so that they can be cured and set free. This will happen only by God’s grace. Remember that they’re suffering more than you. In a monastery, if somebody’s at fault, let’s not say so. Let’s stand by in prayer, respect and watchfulness. We should endeavor not to do harm. If we endure the aspersions of others, it’s considered martyrdom. Let’s do so with joy.
Christians are noble. We should prefer to be slighted. If goodness and love, enter us, we forget any injury that’s been done. Herein lies the secret. If harm comes from far away, you can’t avoid it. The art is to spurn it. By God’s grace, even though you see it, it won’t bother you, because you’ll be full of grace.
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