“God is Love. He who abides in love abides in God and God in him”(1 John 4:17), thunders Saint John, the Apostle of love. Love is the most beautiful flower within the garden of virtues. It is the most vivid color within the rainbow of Heaven. It is the most precious pearl on the crown of faith. It is the key that opens all the doors of human relations. It is the medicine that cures every illness. It is the national anthem of Paradise.
A certain Saint would pray with these words: “O Lord, allow me to help others, not for others to help me. Give me the strength to love, not to be loved. Give me the strength to be understanding, not to be understood .” Love – the way it was taught by our Lord Jesus Christ, not the way it is distorted by people – is an expression of sacrifice. It is a “sweet smelling, spiritual aroma.”(Eph. 4: 18)
Love is not measured by what you give, but according to how you give. Love is not stretching out your hand only, but giving your heart as well. If you know how to share with others, then you know how to love “For God loves a cheerful giver”( 2 Cor. 9:7). God loves the merciful person who gives eagerly, with a cheerful face, and on his own accord. The root of charity is found in the heart. It originates from our heart and ends in the palm of our hands. Alms without love is frigid and oppressive. It is a flower lacking beauty and fragrance. For what value does the most exquisite and expensive gift have when it is offered without a genuine smile?
A certain man of God stated, “Each soul who is overcome with love is already a reflection of God.” Love both contains and transmits light. It is simultaneously a carrier and an emitter of light. “He who loves his brother abides in the light.”(1 John 2:10)
Truly, what good is it to conquer the universe if we cannot conquer our brothers with love. What good it is to explore and discover new galaxies if we do not succeed in finding the ‘Star‘ of Bethlehem, that is, the God of love. What new cosmos are we expecting the telescopes to show us if we remain ignorant of the “new commandment” of love? Without love, all things are pointless, ugly, and futile. “What a misfortune for us to lack love!” exclaims Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk. All of man’s works and achievements acquire value only when they are accompanied by love.
Love overlooks the flaws of our brother. It forgives mistakes. It tolerates bad habits. It gives way to obstinacy. It avoids criticism, it is oblivious to sarcasm. It disperses suspicions. It does not accept slander. It does not pass judgment or debase others publicly. It covers all shortcomings in a polite and brave manner. “Loves suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seeks its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil”(1 Cor. 13:46), thunders the Apostle Paul. Love, through its simplicity and sincerity, is unaware of evil. No fierce wave of evil or deceit can disturb it.
The person who loves is the greatest victor in the spiritual battle. He wins using a smile and kindness. In other situations, to yield constitutes a defeat; however, concessions made on account of love are a victory. Saint Gregory the Theologian advises: “Let us win using compassion.” Let us not forget that every great love is a crucified love. It carefully walks up all the steps leading to Golgotha. It feels pain, just as Christ suffered while on the Cross. Each offering demands sacrifice, and every sacrifice is valuable.
“Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward”(Matt.10:42), promises the Lord. Love conducts itself with discretion and kindness toward the person who is hungry, who is thirsty, who is a stranger, who is neglected, who is imprisoned, toward every suffering soul. People who are in jail are also our brothers. This is why the divine Apostle Paul orders, “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them”(Heb. 13:3).
Each nation has its own national anthem, and so does Christianity. It has the Anthem of Love. May this sweet and melodious hymn constantly be on our lips and in our soul.
~ Elder Ephraim of Arizona