Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reflections on the Wisdom of Elder Porfyrios

Another day, when I was upset because certain people did not respond to me with love, the Elder said, “Today, people ask to be loved and that is why they are disappointed. The right thing to do is not to care whether they love you or not at all, but rather, whether you love Christ and other people. This is the only way in which the soul is filled.

Elder Porfyrios of Greece

To be a child of God — that is, to accept the Grace of Holy Baptism, Chrismation, and the Life-giving purification of the Holy Eucharist — it is necessary to love. In the above quotation, the Elder rightly notes that we too often confuse the Christian witness to love with a Western, politically correct, emphasis on being a “nice person”. In this confusion, we come to believe that we are living a Christian life when we ’get along’ with everyone and others in return are nice to us. Our idea of the Godly life becomes one of merely finding a social common ground that leads to peace and the absence of conflict with others.

Yet the Divine Love which we are called to live requires much more of us. It requires a higher standard of Love in us that does not turn a blind eye to sin, nor leaves us silent in the presence of evil and temptation. This Love may often bring us into conflict with the world wherein the spirit of the age wishes to incline us to the “easy path” and a tendency to bend all ’rules’ towards a ’common good’ that admits no absolutes.

Therefore, the Christian life is a challenge. We reject the notion that all morality is relative. This may often lead us into conflict with others; indeed, with society itself. In such circumstances we instead commit ourselves to a Love so powerful that it does not shrink from recognizing sin as sin. We sacrifice the ’easy path’ for a love that seeks a better way for others (as well as ourselves); one that wells up to Eternal Life. In this spirit, we can accept the rejection of others, those who have not experienced to true Love and therefore live diminished lives. We accept it because by means of it we offer to others a vision of humanity that is itself divine and able to offer a greater freedom and life that that offered by a sterile and corrupt world.

Finally, in living life as children of God, we can glimpse at the true personhood of those who are spiritually crippled and so unable to love us. We also find our own personhood revealed in the Grace that fills us and enables us to love those whose lives are otherwise unlovable. We experience a fullness of life that the world cannot offer. This live brings healing and renewal. It changes us and provides the invitation to change in others. Life becomes filled with value and purpose; the sufferings of this present world become opportunities to discover that we are more than animals reacting to the passions of the moment. We begin to live the life for which we were created when the Holy Trinity “formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the spirit of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen 2.7) In short, we experience redemption and salvation.

Thanks be to God.

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