True Christianity: The Soul's Journey

Righteous Elizabeth the mother of St John the Baptist

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


As You send the light and it goes on its way, O Lord; as You cause the sun to dawn upon the righteous and the unrighteous, upon the evil and the good; as You bring about the morning and give light to the whole world, O Lord of all, illumine also our hearts. Grant to us the possibility to please You on this day; protecting us from every adverse and evil influence that comes each day.

Through the intercessions of our All-Pure Lady, the Theotokos, of the immaterial ministering spirits and heavenly powers, and of all the Saints, who have pleased You from the beginning. For it is Your will to show mercy and to save us, our God, and to You we offer up glory, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy upon us and
save us. Amen.

by Father Nicholas Loudovikos PhD. in Theology, University of Thessaloniki and Professor of Dogmatics and Philosophy [source: Transcript of a homily]

Love and Practical Orthodox Theology

If there is no love for God there cannot be any theology; there can be legalism, there can be justice....but there can't be theology. One must love God in order to theologize properly, because if one doesn't love God, his theology will be hostile to man and to God-regardless if that person realizes this and regardless if he is seated "upon a lofty theological throne".

"Said the Lord to His disciples: thus I command you, to love one another" it says in here. The only Commandment that I give you is to love one another. Of course we all know just how weighty this Commandment is, and that it is essentially the point where all of Christian reality converges-all struggles, all ascetic labors.

The purpose of ascesis in the Orthodox Church is not the acquisition of charismas; it is not about acquiring virtues-No, not even virtues-but to attain love. It is a struggle that is undertaken, because I am aware that I do not love. And he is fortunate, who has perceived that he cannot love. He is fortunate, who can perceive that his true illness lies in the fact that he cannot love-to love sincerely, in the manner that love truly is. Love is that which Abba (Father) Isaac describes as "I love to love"…I want to love, I enjoy loving…but, unfortunately, it is not an easy thing to do!

Now this thing, love: how does one go about learning how to love? What is this thing, this vast lesson about? The vast lesson is to firstly love, and afterwards, when I have learned to love, the charismas will come; otherwise, charismas are catastrophic. No matter what charisma I may receive, if I haven't learned to move a little in the direction of love (even if by falling and getting up again), that charisma-whatever charisma it may be-will destroy me. And it will also be used by me to destroy others, inadvertently.

Thus, the acquisition of ascesis is the acquisition of love; Orthodox asceticism is a social asceticism. Ascetics and monks don't head for the mountains because they hate their fellow-man. If one does this, he will be deluded as a monk. An ascetic goes out to learn-to somehow depart from the turbulence, to sequester himself in his inner cell, to remain carefree for a while, to become indifferent, to relax a little from the cares of the world and to observe his own weakness and seek the appropriate medicines.

That is what monasticism is about. It is not an indication of automatic sanctity; it is however indicative of a person who understands what he has to do. Because unless we too who live in the world become likewise carefree, unless we too become less preoccupied, unless we too don't confine ourselves to our spiritual matters and ourselves, we won't be able to figure things out for ourselves.

Anyway, that's how one moves on, and that's where he realizes his huge deficiency; in other words, one realizes that God-for some reason that we can't know and can't imagine-is love…and in fact an ineffable love-a tremendously humble one…a love that is inconceivably noble. In this way, I begin to become aware of my own illness. And by understanding my weakness, I embark on ascesis in order to move towards where the Lord is calling me.

This is why a monk relinquishes all ownership of things...we here don't have that; instead, we have the law of needs, don't we? In other words, what do we need? That's what we should seek. To possess things, as though we don't have them, right? So, why does a monk do it (relinquish ownership)? So that he can focus his mind constantly on this matter: to follow the One Who shows you the inner light and Who offers you the Kingdom-the path leading to the Kingdom.

God as a Communion of Love

Those words-"to love one another"-"thus I command you to love one another"-is a comprehensive command, which is why elsewhere we read that "...On this commandment hinges the Law and the Prophets": everything leads us there. When one has love, he has everything. "Whether there be tongues, they shall be abolished; whether prophecy, it shall cease…" Only love shall remain forever-love (agape), which is God's manner of existence. It is the way that He understands Himself. It is the manner in which He exercises His freedom, within His very existence. Because, you see, God the Father is not the governor of the other (two) Persons; He wants them consubstantial-He begets a consubstantial Son, He begets a consubstantial Spirit. God is not a tyrant.. It is not "the Father" and "the Son" (separately). It is the Father and the Son in the manner of "the Father in the Son": "I am in the Father, and He is in Me". Freedom, therefore, as love. And freedom as love outwardly also...He could have been a tyrant, but He is not an oppressor…We need to understand what God is and how God loves, in order to gradually enter into that love.

The Healing of the Soul

We need to obtain blessing and grace in order to enter into the kind of love: to love the other from within him. From within him, not outside of him…to love like can I describe it...with fondness. Can you understand what I'm saying? How different a thing that is! It is not the same as that delightful image of love that we have been taught in our day and are inclined to believe that we all are so easy when it comes to loving and regard it to be something easy. Well, it is not easy; it is necessary, we desire it, we are inclined towards it, but it requires the grace of God for one to achieve it, to promote it, so that it will bear fruits. It requires grace, it requires a special blessing.

In one phrase alone it says "If the world hates you (plural), know that it first hated Me before it hated you" (St. John 15:18). There is hatred in the world, and a Christian will encounter hate also in the world. That is why it says all the more that we should love each other, so that we don't have the hatred of the world between ourselves also-isn't that so? "If the world hates you, know that it first hated me". A query is created here-a question: What does it mean, when it says "the hatred of the world for Christ?" What a strange statement...Well, the answer is given immediately after: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you" (St. John 15:19).

You do not resemble the world, and I do not resemble the world, and somewhere along the line, the world will display hatred, if you were to find yourself in an environment the way that I happen to be in myself-and perhaps others (I don't know) in here. In an environment of intellectuals, you will see that you can easily talk about the values of the Gospel, about love-for example. You can easily talk about the secondary things of our faith, but, for the main ones-the essentials-like the Virgin birth, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, you will encounter difficulty...

The Gospel contains many things that are very difficult to grapple with-the most daunting one being the Cross. The Cross, because they can readily understand what it means to fight against one's ideological opponents. But what it means to be crucified for their sake-for me to actually ascend the Cross instead of them-well that is a shocker! It will be an awesome thing, if the world comprehends what the Cross is a thorough stake that's driven into a person's natural intellect. And God Himself being crucified? The One Who by definition is the Authority? Don't forget that Christ was crucified for that exact reason: because they wanted Him in order to crucify others: "We hope He is the One Who is destined to liberate Israel"...When they saw Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, do you know what crossed the Judeans' minds? "Ah, here we have a perfect army; we will move forward, and He will be in the rear, raising all those that are killed". Can you imagine an army like that? Christ behind them, blessing; the Hebrew soldiers in front, and Christ-presto!-just one blessing over each one who is killed and the dead soldier stands up again. With an army like that, the entire Roman Empire could easily have been seized, in a matter of weeks!

If Christ is continually the sweet-talking teacher, Who tells us all sorts of nice things and we cheerfully follow Him, then something is amiss. We will eventually sense that difficulty of the Cross. We will sense that the path that grace is leading us towards is a path that is tough on our self-love. That is what we will feel, and it is the precise point that our faith lies. This is the precise point where our relationship will be tested, and if it passes, we will become authentic disciples of Christ.

Do you understand? A critical moment will come, when you will be asked to focus on that which--in our self-love--you regard as precious. That will be the moment of the Cross. We cannot expect someone else to be crucified for us; we ourselves must be crucified. "In Me is the world crucified" says St. Paul, "along with passions and desires"-isn't that so? The world is crucified in me, and me in the world...

(to be continued)

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George