Elder Germanos Stavrovouniotis
Those who strive to achieve perfect love, both for God and for their neighbor, can also confess our Lord Jesus Christ ‘in the Holy Spirit’ (see 1 Cor. 12, 3).
You have to believe that God loves you even if everybody else turns away from you and everyone abandons you.
You should see all your brothers in the monastery as a single person. In other words, don’t make exceptions and don’t have more love for anyone in particular. Love all of them to the same extent, because you’re all brothers, you’re all living in the same home, in the same monastery.
When you think that the others don’t love you and aren’t supporting you, then remember that, even when everyone else abandons you, you still have God as your helper. ‘For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord has taken me to himself’ (Ps. 26, 10). A certain monk was ill. About a month passed and no-one went to his cell to see him and help him. Then God sent an angel to serve his needs. Later, when his fellow monks recollected him and visited him to see if he was ill or anything, as soon as he caught sight of them, he said: ‘Get out of here’. They asked: ‘Why are you sending us away?’. He answered: ‘You didn’t think of me for long enough. You didn’t come and see me, you didn’t help me. But God sent an angel and he was looking after me. But as soon as he saw you, he left. I’d much rather that you left and that the angel came back!’.
Why shouldn’t we have love for all people. On the subject of love for our neighbor, which you asked me about, it’s written somewhere: ‘Have love for everyone and keep your distance from everyone’. What does this mean? It means that love isn’t active merely in its external manifestation. Mainly, its active within our soul. This means that you should have love for those who anger you, for those who condemn you, for those who make a mockery of you. Say to yourself: ‘They’re my doctors’. Yes, the medicine they’re giving you is bitter, but it’s very beneficial. In any case, you’ll then be applying the words of the Lord: ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6, 27-28). It’s not necessary to tell them I love them in so many words. What’s important is to have love for them within me, no matter that they’ve behaved badly. And since they may be punished for their bad behavior, I’ll entreat God to have mercy on them, to enlighten them, to forgive them, so that they aren’t punished. What should I bear them ill-will? Since they don’t want me, I’ll keep my distance. But in no way will I harbor the thought, the temptation to act against them. I’ll ask God to have mercy on them, to enlighten them, to forgive them and to save them.
The more you strive to love God, the more He’ll reveal himself to you.
Those who want to harm other people eventually end up doing harm to themselves. But those who love even their enemies, in actuality are bringing benefit to themselves.
The more we strive to love Christ, the more we feel joy and happiness within us. There’s no greater happiness in the world than for our heart to be inflamed by love for our sweetest Lord.
‘No-one can serve two masters’ (Matth. 6, 24). If we’re to love Christ with all our heart, we must first realize that all worldly things are fleeting and vain, and that we should not be attached to any of them. If we’re to love our neighbors as ourselves, we have to disdain three things: riches, pleasures and the plaudits of other people. Are we in the position to say with Saint Paul: ‘Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Sorrows, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or the sword’? (Rom. 8, 35). If we are, then we really do love Christ.
It’s of no great value to love those who love us: ‘What grace is there in that?’ (Luke 6, 32). What matters is that we should love those who are hostile towards us and those who hate us.
The imitation of Christ means, above all, imitating His love for people. We should sacrifice ‘the wishes of the flesh’ (Eph. 2, 3) for the love of our brothers and sisters.
Just as ‘God is love’, so in the opposite manner, the devil is hatred. Those who love as God commands become imitators of Him. Those who hate their brothers and sisters become devils, and have a foretaste of hell even in this life.