by Metropolitan Macarius
A homily on the life-giving and unifying force of love, and a call to those lost in materialism to return to the love of Christ in the Church.
Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift. (II Cor. 9:15)
Love, which rests in human hearts desires to make itself manifest in some visible form. Such is the nature of true love. It cannot remain hidden for long in the heart: inevitably it will make itself known. The gift of love is excellent, but love itself is even more wonderful. The greatness of love is incomparable, it is limitless. God Himself has been pleased to have Himself called by the name of Love. Love is not a characteristic of God but His essence itself. God is love and he who abides in love abides in God.
Love is the wellspring of blessedness. Is not blessedness found in love for the All-blessed? Is not the blessedness of the Father found in the love of the Son, who sees Himself in that blessedness [of the Father], sees His wisdom and power? Is not the blessedness of the Son in the love of the Father, to Whom the Father reveals all, by Whom the Father creates everything and in Whom He rests with all love? Is not the Holy Spirit always with the Son and the Father – Love from Love and Life-creating, proceeding from the Father and with Love resting in the Son?
Everything has been called out of non-being into being by love. The love of God preserves all, cares for everything. Love and blessedness live together inseparably. Where love is, there also is blessedness, where there is blessedness, there also is love. The happiness of married couples is found in love. Love is the source of joy in the family. How warm, how radiant to be in the company of people where love for one another is the possession of each and every one, where love lays down its life for its friends!
Love brought the Son of God to the earth, love lifted Him upon the cross. Love united heaven and earth, love gathered together that which was divided. Love created one Church under One Head of the God-man out of the heavenly and earthly, out of angels and men.
Love is that power on the earth which unites all. All the separate parts of the limitless earth are tied together by love. Nothing lives only for itself but rather serves all and is upheld by all. What preserves order and existence in the world is not the struggle of the strong with the weak, not war with one another for existence, but the service of one for the other. Life is not preserved by the mother fighting with her children but by the mother’s love for her children where she completely forgets about herself. The sun does not shine and warm for itself but for others. Water does not quench its own but others’ thirst. The Czar lives for his subjects and the subjects for the Czar. The happiness of the citizens is found in their full unity; children live for their parents, the joy of the parents is in their children; their support in old age – their sons and grandchildren. The children’s joy is in their parents; when close to them the children are happy, satisfied, and at rest. Obviously here the law of love and self-sacrifice for others rules and not the struggle for survival.
Along with this law of self sacrifice there exists another natural law, that of self-preservation. Here the law of love divides into two parts – love as living for others, and love as living for oneself. But these two parts are not mutually exclusive, but rather only limit one another and thus equalize the life of all creation. As light and darkness, hot
and cold, exist along side each other, so together exist the law of self-sacrifice for others’ sake and the law of self-preservation for one’s own sake.
We mention these two laws since now some teach that all life exists by one law, the law which they call the struggle for survival. Hence they deny the meaning of the law of self-sacrifice for the good of others, when in fact that law of self-sacrifice or living for others, has a preeminent significance. When, as the result of ruining their nature by sin, people began to be guided primarily by the law of self-preservation and for its sake entered into a struggle for their survival, and as a result began to scorn the law of self-sacrifice, the law of love, then the harmony in the world of rational creatures was shattered. The well balanced order in life was disrupted and together with it happiness. In place of love enmity appeared, everyone began to look after himself disregarding others. Everyone began to arrange his own happiness even at the expense of others. Lawlessness increased, love withered, love, as well as happiness, departed from our lives. Instead of living like one body and soul, married couples divided into two and began to entertain malice towards one another. The stronger began to offend the weaker, the weaker to revenge herself on the stronger. Children rose up against their parents and parents against their offspring. A brother became not a brother but a next door neighbor, the rich began to oppress the poor, the poor to carry off the goods of the rich. The leader began to boast over those under him, his subjects acted hypocritical towards him. For everyone it became unbearable, cold, difficult. All of this because love waned.
A terrible bottomless pit appeared in our world, the pit of material inequality and poverty, separating the poor from the rich by an impassable chasm. What have we not tossed into this chasm in order to fill it up? Whole trainloads of money and capital of all sorts, endless sermons and edifying books, a flood of enthusiasm, thousands of social organizations dreamed up by us – and all this perishes in the chasm, and the pit gapes before us as always.
Once in ancient Rome the earth opened up and a bottomless pit appeared, threatening to engulf the whole city. No matter how much they labored, no matter how much they tried to correct the situation, nothing helped. Then they turned to the oracle; it answered that the pit would close if Rome were to offer that which was most precious to her as a sacrifice to the pit. It is well known what followed, Marcus Curtius, the noblest of all noble Romans, threw himself into the abyss – and it closed.
Is there no oracle who could give us the right solution? The advice of this “oracle” was given of old and is familiar to all: A new commandment I give to you as I have loved you, so should you love one another. If we were capable of entering into the depths of these words and of scaling their heights, if we were willing to toss into the abyss that which is most precious to us – our theories, our reasoning, our habits tied to that particular situation which we have been confirmed in, then we could offer ourselves to that pit as a sacrifice and it would always close. But will this happen?
The Lord lives, however, and His Church lives, which is His body. Truth and Grace abide in Her eternally. The love of Christ as the Head of the Church abides in Her eternally. Love will also never wane between Her members as members of the body of Christ. This love between Her members, between the pastors and their flocks will never disappear entirely, although it might grow weak at times due to sin. By the power of Christ’s Grace abiding in the Church, unity can again be restored. That spark of love which is hidden under the ashes of human weakness can by Christ’s Grace again revive and burst into flame. Having fired up it cannot remain hidden in the heart but goes forth appearing in various manifestations of love: in care for one another, in obedience even to the lowest. On the one hand it manifests itself in serving the salvation of others to the limit of complete self-forgetfulness, and on the other in the desire to hearken to the counsel and steadfastly follow the advice of those who direct us.
Glory to God for His unspeakable gift – the gift of love, where we find happiness on earth and blessedness in Heaven!
Macarius, Bishop of Tomsk, 1903
Originally Printed in “Orthodox Life” No. 3, 1997
Translated from “Pravoslavnaya Rus,” February 1/14, 1996