Commentary on social and moral issues of the day

Love in a Time of Recession

Fr. Vasile Catalin Tudora

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The LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you (Deuteronomy 23:5).

What makes our Christian religion unique is that we know people must be saved. As Christians we have a Savior that loves us and in His love He comes down on Earth and saves us by becoming one of us, by entering in a relationship of love with us — love that culminates in His sacrifice on the Cross. He did not come to change a political regime, or to rule as a dictator, but He came to love us, to be our Brother making us in turn adopted children of the Father.

He saves us by His love for us and this is what makes the biggest difference, because love means communication, interaction, sacrifice. In the Christian understanding of salvation man enjoys a higher state of being by entering in an eternal relationship with His Creator, into union with the Living God.

This detail is what makes Christianity different than the pagan religions of the East that teach salvation as an annihilation of one’s self and a plummeting in an undefined essence or energy. I may be out of my circle of suffering and incarnations when I reach nirvana but how can I experiencing my salvation if I cease to exist? How can I enjoy something that I am not aware of since I am no more?

The secular philosophers also search for the goal of human existence by trying to understand the essence of humanity. They want to discover the simple laws that govern everything hoping it might explain life. But what do I care if the essence of humanity is saved? I care about myself being saved, about my wife being saved, about my children being saved, about my brother being saved? Mankind in general doesn’t move me in any way! Mankind makes sense to me only when is full of people that I know and I relate to, hopefully in love.

This is important because we are not just essence, we are not just nature, we are not just “men” in general but we are first of all John, Mary or George. We identify ourselves as “whom” we are, not “what” we are. All men share humanity as nature but what makes any man unique as a person is only revealed as reflected in the others, by seeing ourselves interacting with others. Only then, through comparison, we can be taller, shorter, more or less beautiful etc. All these differences are deemed meaningless if the others would not exist. If only I exist then I have no terms of comparison and my existence is solitary and miserable.

St. Athanasius the Great wrote that Christ died on the Cross with His arms spread apart so He can gather at His loving chest in a final embrace all mankind, bringing them together with Him and through Him with each other. Christ surely died on the Cross, but His vision of bringing all people together, did not die with Him, but through His Resurrection is fulfilled and given substance. Christ has suffered death not just to pay a debt to God, but to allow us to see His true feelings for us, His unfading care for a humanity that has betrayed Him so many times. In His sacrifice and through His Resurrection everything is made new, the past is forgotten and the way to the Kingdom is open again to man.

In the Resurrected Christ we don’t just have an earthly Friend, but we have a Brother/Man in heaven who relates with us for eternity. In Him everything we do among us on earth is reflected above: “Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it to Me”(Matt. 25:40). With Christ Incarnate, Crucified and Resurrected relationships become again the basis of our salvation. The New Adam, Christ, restores in potentiality our link with God — if we follow Christ on the path that leads from death to life we are with Him forever, partaking in the life of the Holy Trinity.

The relationship that God wants us to have with Him and with one another is not any type of relationship but a unique one, one that is based on the application of one commandment in our lives: “...that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). And He loved us so much that He went as far as to sacrifice His own live for us, despite our rejection. He was our friend and we have treated him like our enemy. Yet He did not stop from His salvific mission but rather said: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luk 23:34).

This should be the kind of relationships that should govern our lives, not our daily egoistical endeavors in which we seek only our pleasure and, once we don’t get anything out of a relationship, we runaway to the next one. We should be as faithful in our relationships as God is faithful in His love for mankind. We should look at ways to be together, not to be divided by our own selfish personal interests.

Without accomplishing this commandment we cannot achieve our salvation, we cannot be united with God if we separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters. Because “those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1Jn 4:20-21).

Our love for God is primarily fulfilled by loving our brothers and our enemies altogether without limitations. Through our fellow man I reach God, because by loving my brother I recognize and I respect the image of God that is in him, and in the same time this image becomes more prominent in me.

As we approach again His Passion and His resurrection we should meditate upon new ways to serve God through our brothers, fulfilling the commandment of love because “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”(1Cor 13:7). Christ has endured all for us, but through His suffering hope comes into the world as the light of the Resurrection shines upon us.

Fr. Vasile Tudora pastors St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Euless, Texas, and edits the Gladsome Light Dialogues blog

Posted: 19-Apr-2009

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