(Continuing on from the last couple of days . . . )
And, as we know, the Lord calls us to not just put up with the people around us, those who are difficult to love, but to love them as He loves them. “To love one whom others despise is to demonstrate God’s love for that person, for one who is more precious than the whole world. It is perhaps to save that person from self-hatred.” (Clément, p. 283)
The spiritual person hides the faults of others, as God protects the world, as Christ washes our sins in his blood, as the Mother of God stretches the veil of her tears over the human race. “It was said of Abba Macarius the Great that he became, according to the writings, a god on earth, because in the way God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would hide the faults he saw as though he had not seen them, and the faults he heard about as though he had not heard of them.” (ibid., p. 284)
Isaac of Nineveh said: “Spread your cloak over anyone who falls into sin and shield him. And if you cannot take his fault on yourself and accept punishment in his place, do not destroy his character.”
More on all this tomorrow, but think on this today: this is how Christ loves you.
So this morning I have been thinking about a chapter in the book, The Roots of Christian Mysticism (Fr. Olivier Clement), entitled “The Difficult Love” which I read a few years ago. I ended up re-reading it a few times, and I would like to blog about it for a couple of days (at least). The first sentence in the chapter gave me pause: “Spiritual progress has no other test in the end, nor any better expression, than our ability to love.” And so went the rest of the chapter. Interestingly enough, the chapter is situated in a section entitled: “Approaches to Contemplation.” It is also the last chapter in the book, which says something in itself. Clement laces the chapter with quotes from many and various ancient writers. Here is a sampling:
Pseudo Macarius: “Those who have been judged worthy to become children of God and to be born from on high of the Holy Spirit. . .not infrequently weep and distress themselves for the whole human race; they pray for the ‘whole Adam’ with tears, inflamed as they are with spiritual love for all humanity. At times also their spirit is kindled with such joy and such love that, if it were possible, they would take every human being into their heart without distinguishing between good and bad. Sometimes too in humility of spirit they so humble themselves before every human being that they consider themselves to be the last and least important of all. After which the Spirit makes them live afresh in ineffable joy.”
St. Isaac of Syria: “This shall be for you a luminous sign of the serenity of your soul: when, on examining yourself, you find yourself full of compassion for all humanity, and your heart is afflicted with pity for them, burning as though with fire, without making distinction between one person and another.”
Okay. So far so good, but more on this tomorrow. (If you don’t want to wait, I did give a talk on this in 2005 which is available here with a handout.)
A sermon for the Feast of the Nativity by St. Isaac the Syrian.
This Christmas night bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;
This is the night of the Most Gentle One –
Let no one be cruel;
This is the night of the Humble One –
Let no one be proud.
Now is the day of joy –
Let us not revenge;
Now is the day of Good Will –
Let us not be mean.
In this Day of Peace –
Let us not be conquered by anger.
Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake;
So, rich one, invite the poor to your table.
Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask;
So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us.
This present Day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.
Today the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of our humanity,
In order for humanity to be decorated by the Seal of Divinity.