The Difficult Love (1)

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.)