From To Be In Christ
It follows logically from the foregoing that if we live Christ’s life we love with Christ’s love. His life is all love; his spirit is all love. It is not so much that his love “rubs off” on us but that it actually animates us and “informs” our every activity. We breathe his spirit, and since his spirit is love we love with his love. Our love such as it is, is nothing without grace, nothing without his spirit. We have not invented what love there is in us; we cannot fashion charity as we can fashion a rose garden or an omelette. The most we can do is direct it from him within us to him outside us. Our love for others, provided it is in charity and not in worldly desire, is the response of divine love to the attraction of divine love. We may not be aware of the supernatural quality of the process, but this is what is happening: like stretching out to like: the magnetic attraction of part to part – in this case, part to whole – making one.
The way we know that we remain in him and he in us, says Saint John in his epistle, is that he has given us of his spirit. His spirit is his gift, as his life is his gift. The consequence is stated simply by Saint John: If he has so loved us, we must have the same love for one another.
If God is the source and principle of charity towards others, it should not be difficult for us to judge between what is loving in Christ and what is loving in worldly love. Am I expressing him who dwells within me or am I exploiting an emotion to gratify myself? Since Jesus expressed his love towards the Father and towards man in terms of sacrifice, we, if we are in union with him, must express our love in the same way. Again the test is easy to apply: am I ready to go any lengths in sacrificing myself for God’s sake and for the sake of other people? Greater love than this no man has than that he would lay down his life for his fellow men. True love, whether towards God or man, brings about its own reward: we love in peace and without guilt. Our love is no less strong because we have detached it from passion; it is all the more strong because we are drawing our love from the fount of love itself.
Since in the creation of man God designed love to be of one piece, the divisions of love caused by sin and selfishness must inevitably lead to the confusions we experience in our affections: jealousy, romantic fantasy, doubt, lack of clear judgment, loneliness, resentment, and dramatization.
In the days when ink was used in the classroom, boys were in the habit of folding a piece of paper, dropping some ink into the line of the fold, pressing the two halves together, and then opening the paper to see how the two patterns corresponded. Ideally the patterns should match one another exactly. So should the two articulations, coming from the one foundation, of charity. But they rarely do. One side may be clear while the other is blotted and blotched. Where in a soul of prayer there is no room for compassion, the assumption is that one side has been pressed too hard and the other not hard enough. All of you are one in Jesus Christ, says Saint Paul. Let us become gods for him, comments Saint Gregory of Nyssa, since he became man for us.