The Way of Love

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
The Way of Love
Saturday of the 3rd Week of Pascha
9 May, 2009
Galatians 4:4-7 ; Matthew 2:1-12

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I do not know if you are aware of this, but in the Scriptures, in the Gospel, we do not hear our Saviour saying very many times : “I command you to do this or that”. Mostly He is setting an example for us to follow and telling us the direction in which we should be going. He is being like a teacher. However, today He gives us a very specific commandment. This commandment is : “‘Love one another’”. Our Saviour will usually say : “‘Love one another as I have loved you’” (John 13:34 ; 15:17). In other words, the way of those who follow Christ is the way of love. This is His commandment – that we should love. We should live a life of love. We should live a life in which we love God first above everything else, and one another as ourselves.

It might be remembered that He, Himself, says that in the summary of the Old Testament Ten Commandments. If we look at the Ten Commandments, themselves, these Ten Commandments are, as our Saviour says, all focussed on the love of God and the love of neighbour. In fact, these Ten Commandments (which anyone can look up in 2 Moses [Exodus], and 5 Moses [Deuteronomy]) are summarised by this direction from the Lord : “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength’” ( Mark 12:30, [5 Moses 6:5]). Our Saviour says, connected with this : “‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’” (Mark 12:31 and 3 Moses [Leviticus] 19:18). In other words, the whole environment of a Christian should be characterised by love : love of God. Our self-identification as Christians, should be with Christ. If we pay attention to the Gospel today, our Saviour is saying to us : “‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’” (John 14:9). In the reading today, He is not saying this in precisely these words, which He says elsewhere, but in words to this effect. There is a complete identification in love between the Father and the Son.

In the life of the Holy Trinity, the same may be said to be true about the Holy Spirit. In the life of the Holy Trinity, the Three Persons are never absent from each other. The Three Persons all exist in love. They all have distinct Personalities. They are not detached from each other in any way. In every way, they are involved in everything each other does, says, and thinks. This is a mystery beyond any human comprehension, so let us not try to figure it out – no-one has until now. Saint Alexander of Svir, a great Karelian saint (whose relics we venerated very recently), was given a vision of the Holy Trinity and yet even he still did not figure out how the Holy Trinity lived together (I am not sure that he even tried). He simply experienced the Holy Trinity, and responded in his life to this revelation of the Holy Trinity. God reveals Himself to us as love and in love, and He invites us to respond in the same way.

Today we are with the Apostle Paul as he is in the process of responding to Christ’s self-revelation to him. I think there is very often a big misunderstanding about the Apostle Paul and his motivation. We heard that before this revelation of Christ to him, he had been breathing threats against all Christians everywhere in Jerusalem and Damascus. We heard how he was putting them in prison and was responsible for the deaths of many. Why was he doing this ? It was not because of hatred. It was because of being completely misguided. It seems to me that he was over-zealous in his love for the Lord. He suffered badly from tunnel vision, and did all sorts of strange things, just as the Lord said at the end of today’s Gospel reading : “‘The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service’”. Because he was completely out of focus, this was the precise position of Saul of Tarsus (as he was then known) at that time. He loved God, but he was out of focus. Our Saviour knew this love, met him face-to-face and straightened him out. The Apostle Paul, being no slow learner at all, responded in love. He immediately began defending the One he had been persecuting. As a result, he, himself, received a “dose of the medicine” he had been giving before to others from people who had the same sort of tunnel vision.

As our Saviour Himself is warning us today, we, who follow Christ, have to be prepared for opposition. The world certainly does not owe us a living. I remember hearing, many years ago, a parishioner of our Cathedral complaining to Father Gregory Papazian. Father Gregory was definitely formative in Cathedral history by his personality and character (I mean that in the best sense) because of His very clear love of the Lord. This person was complaining to Father Gregory that he could not get any work. He was saying : “Should not the Lord provide me with work, somehow ?” Father Gregory said : “You are living in the world, but you are not of it. The world does not owe you a living. You have to wait for the Lord to open the doors. The world is the world, and because you are a follower of Christ, the world is going to resist you”. Eventually this person did get work, and he has been able to live until now, although he is one of those persons who does not have an easy path in life. Nevertheless, he is still with us and he is still a person who loves the Lord.

This is what is important for us, as believers : to remember that our relationship with the Lord is the way of love. This love is not like the world’s love. It is love without any sort of conditions, without strings attached. It is love that is self-emptying, in the same way that the Saviour’s love is self-emptying. It is love that looks to serve the other and not to be served, in the same way that our Saviour has taught us. It is love that helps to give life to people around us. This way is not an easy way in many respects because the darkness does not like the Light shining in it. We, who are carriers of Christ, in some way are participants in that Light. The darkness tries to hide from the Light or put out the Light, and the Light will definitely be put to the test.

However, if we keep our hearts and our minds focussed on this relationship of love with the Saviour, and if we continually try to live in accordance with it in our relationships with each other, the Lord will always be with us, no matter what. He will increase this love. He will enable us to live the lives that He has prepared for us. He will help us to grow up into the persons that He has prepared us and designed us to be (people who are like Father Gregory, whom I wish you all could know). I hope that you all will be able to grow up in your lives to have this clarity of character that such people have. The true mark of Christians is a unique character that is stable, that is at peace, and that is characterised fundamentally by the love of Jesus Christ, to whom be glory, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.