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For Quinquagesima: John Chrysostom on love

February 26, 2017

This being the last of the Sundays before Lent – the one called “Quinquagesima” -again from Faith and Life, here is an excerpt on love or “charity” – this one by John Chrysostom:

This is the marvellous point about Charity, that all other good things have evils yoked with them; the man who has no property is often puffed up on that account, the eloquent man has a morbid passion for glory, the humble-minded man is often, in his secret soul, actually proud of his humility; but love is free from every such mischief, for no one would ever be lifted up against the person he loves. And do not suppose the case of only one person loving, but of all alike, and then you will see the excellence of love. Or rather, if you choose, first imagine one person beloved and one person loving; that is, of course, loving as it is meet to love. Why, he will live on earth just as if he were in Heaven, every where enjoying tranquillity, and weaving for himself innumerable crowns. He who is such will guard his soul clear from envy, and anger, and jealousy, and arrogance, and vain-glory, and evil desire, and every unhallowed love, and every moral disorder. He will be as far from doing any evil to his neighbours as any other man from doing evil to himself. Being such as he is, he will be standing by the side of Gabriel himself, while yet he walks on earth. Consider how vast a blessing is the mere act of loving; how much cheerfulness it produces, in how great grace it establishes the soul; which is its peculiar excellence; for the other parts of virtue have each their pain connected with them, but love, together with its profitableness, has its pleasure too in abundance, and no pain at all. He who loves is more pleased to be commanded than to command (pleasant as that is); yea, love changes the nature of things, and appears with all blessings in her hands, gentler than any mother, wealthier than any queen, and makes difficult things light, rendering virtue easy and vice most bitter.

Hence it is that Paul says that Charity is the mother of all good things, and prefers it to miracles and all other gifts. For as, if golden robes and shoes appear, we need some other indication of sovereignty, but seek for no other if we see the purple and the diadem; so it is here. When a man wears the diadem of love, that is enough to point out the thorough disciple of Christ, not to us only, but also to the unbeliever. For, says He, “by this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” So that this sign is greater than all signs, since by means of it the disciple is recognized. For if any men were to do innumerable miracles, yet be at variance with each other, they would be laughed at by unbelievers; so, if they do no miracle, but thoroughly love one another, they continue to be reverenced and to be invincible by all. For Paul also is admired not for the dead whom he raised nor the lepers whom he cleansed, but because he said, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?” For if you add innumerable miracles to this, you will say nothing so grand. If he even glories, it is in weaknesses, in outrages, in his intense sympathy with the injured; just as here he also says, “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” These words are greater than dangers, and hence, when increasing the emphasis of his discourse, he places them last of all. Both soul and body did he give up that the men who stoned and beat him might attain a kingdom. “For thus,” says he, “has Christ taught me to love, who left that new commandment of His about love, and Himself fulfilled it by His own actions.” Combining then in our view these deeds of God and of men, let us emulate these virtues, and possess ourselves of that Charity which transcends all spiritual gifts.

–St. Chrysostom, Hom, xxxii. on 1 Cor.

Love is the “mark of the Christian.”

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