Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Are you looking for love? To be cosmic, I think we are all looking for love. I assure you, I am not being trite. All of us want to find someone to love and have at least one other person in this world love us. Love is central to human culture. It is the foundation of music and poetry (yes, “love” does sometimes become clichéd!), and it is the positive glue that helps hold families and all of society together. It is the one of the world’s big themes—either love longed for, lost or found. This month, we honor romantic love on the 14th, St. Valentine’s Day (our Orthodox wedding anniversary!), and by the way, St. Valentine was a real person (or persons), although his story and his association with February 14 are complicated. Look him up on the “wiki.” What a great opportunity to tell someone special in your life that you care for them!
Perhaps this is a good opportunity, as well, to honor the God who is the source of everything and the source of all love. God shows us what love is. He calls us to learn about love from Him and to imitate His love. God calls us to be motivated by love. Recently I ran across these wonderful words from the Elder Thaddeus that I would like to share with you:
God is Love (1 John 4:16). And if we call upon God in our life as the Holy Fathers teach us, then we are calling upon Love. If we know and believe that He is present everywhere at all times and if we are united with Him in our hearts, He will teach us how to love our neighbor. For we do not know how to love either the Lord or our neighbor. The evil spirits often so interfere with the Divine love given us by God that they often lure us away from the path of real and true love. Their suggestions are full of the physical and emotional aspects of this world: enjoyment and lust, which is nothing but enslavement.
It often happens that a person, either young or old, falls in love with another person or even an object. Some people fall in love with gold and cannot bear to be separated from it or from their wealth, house, and possessions, and they become enslaved. If someone were to take this from them, they would become desperate. Many times the powers of evil bring such people to the brink of self-destruction.
Is this love? The spirits of evil often come and meddle with the Divine love that God has planted in us. That kind of love is without discernment. But the love of God is boundless …. Love is perfection, says the Apostle (cf. Rom. 13:10). God is perfect, He is faultless. And so, when Divine love becomes manifest in us in the fullness of Grace, we radiate this love not only on the earth, but throughout the entire universe as well. So God is in us, and He is present everywhere. It is God’s all-encompassing love that manifests itself in us. When this happens we see no difference between people—everyone is good, everyone is our brother, and we consider ourselves to be the worst of men, servants of every created thing.
In this kind of love we are humbled; our soul is at peace and in humility. And humility is the perfection of the Christian life. It is not in the raising of the dead or in working miracles that Christian perfection lies, but in extreme humility. When we are illumined by the Grace of the Holy Spirit in the fullness of Divine love, then we want to serve everyone and help everyone. Even when we see a little ant struggling, we want to help him.
So, love is sacrifice. Love sacrifices itself for its neighbor.
To whomever we give our heart, this person can harm us or abandon us. The spirits of wickedness are constantly putting evil thoughts into our feeling of love and preying on us. Divine love is boundless and all-encompassing, whereas we are attached to men and lifeless things of this world. Our hearts have been imprisoned by the things of this world, and if those things are taken away from us, our hearts are saddened and they suffer.
One must love God first, and only then can one love one’s closest of kin and neighbors. We must not be as idols to one another, for such is not the will of God.*
Amen. “Love never fails.” You can find this book in our bookstore.
*(From Our Thoughts determine our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, trans. Ana Smiljanic (Platina, CA: Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2010), pages 119-121.