Love and the True Faith

churcupol1.jpg

Reading more on the life and teaching of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, I found it interesting that what he thought of as “true faith” was the manifestation of the love of God in us towards all the world. It would have been certainly the case that as an Orthodox monk, St. Silouan would have believed all of the Church’s teaching without question. And yet when he spoke of the true faith it was the state of the heart that he considered rather than running a doctrine check on somebody.

True doctrine is of great importance because it reveals the nature and truth of God and the world to us. But such knowledge is not the final goal of the Christian life. Our final goal is indeed the true faith – that is – the love of God towards all the world dwelling within our hearts. From Father Sophrony’s book on St. Silouan: 

The Staretz [St. Silouan] interpreted both the incarnation of God-the-Word and Christ’s whole earthly life as love towards the whole world, though the world is totally hostile to God. Similarly, he knew the Holy Spirit in the love which with its advent drives away all hatred, like light cancelling darkness; in the love which likens man to Christ in the inmost impulses of his soul. And this, according to the Staretz’ teaching, is true faith.

There is no opposition to rationality in any of this and certainly no opposition to true doctrine. But there is a recognition that the very simplist of all things – available to children and the weak minded (perhaps more truly available to them than the rest of us) – is the love of God dwelling in our hearts. Without this there is no true faith, no true salvation, no theosis, no true conformity to the image of God.

It is for this reason (at least) that the Church sets aside entire seasons of the year (such as Great Lent) so that we may pray and fast and give ourselves over to God in such a way as to acquire His love for the world in our hearts. And though true doctrine is found in every service, and there are feast days on the calendar to celebrate the great Ecumenical Councils – there is not anything like a season of the year set aside for the people of God to acquire “true doctrine.” It is simply the case that if we do not know the love of God for the whole world in our heart – then we would never be able to know true doctrine. The words spoken by the Deacon at every liturgy when he summons us to repeat the Nicene Creed say everything: “Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence and undivided.” We may say the words for the rest of eternity – but unless and until we love one another we will not truly know or believe a word of it.

And thus we are called to love.

8 Responses to “Love and the True Faith”

  1. Lista de intenţii [ 23 februarie 2008] « Teologie pentru azi Says:

    […] Despre iubire şi dreapta credinţă cu părintele Stephen Freeman./Noi am alege varianta 1 de coperţi, dacă am fi Laurenţiu Dumitru. E un format serios, fără stridenţe, cu nişte culori proprii mesajului. /Impozite, biruri şi taxe: un poem recent al poetului Adrian Păunescu, precum şi articolul în care autorul discută taxele şi impozitele prezentului în România./ […]

  2. Michael Bauman Says:

    A brother came to St. Anthony asking why was St. Anthony so much better known than he. After all, the brother said, my rule is stricter than yours. St. Anthony replied: “Because I love God more than you”

    Whatever we do for a reason other than the love of God takes us away from Him. “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. On this hang all the law and the prophets”

    That is the true faith.

  3. fatherstephen Says:

    Absolutely so.

  4. Katarina Says:

    Father Stephen,

    I have read your blog for two years now and have always been enlightened each and every time I come.

    My question, however, is this. You write much on love (and beautifully so–your postings on The Brothers Karamazov lead me to read and love the book for its many lessons), but I have yet to see a post on romantic love. What is your opinion of C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves? I am a junior in college, and have wondered what it means to have romantic love within the Church–should I pray to meet the right person (I dearly want to), pray for God’s Will? It seems every loving Christian man I meet is two steps away from engagement to a loving Christian woman. What are your thoughts? Would you consider writing a post on this topic?

    May God grant you many years.

  5. ethos T-shirts - London Says:

    I appreciate all your beliefs and what you saying. But do animals feel love the same way we do?

  6. fatherstephen Says:

    Katarina,

    I will look at doing a post on the subject. My wife was clearly a gift from God some 33 years ago. Three of my children are married (the oldest two were girls and their husbands are priests but their marriages are great love stories). My son married the only girl he ever loved (met her at a Church retreat when they were young teens.) I believe very strongly that God will be of great aid in our finding the right mate. May God bless you and keep you, and I’ll consider writing on the subject. I have been so blessed in this matter it’s almost embarassing.

  7. eneubauer Says:

    I really enjoy reading your posts. A friend in Dallas has turned me on to you in my earnest search for the “Ancient Way.”

    Of course I agree – in particular – if one of our goals as Christians is “union with God” then the byproduct of that goal will be the Love of God and our neighbor(s). What else matters if we miss this point?

    Upon reflection – since giving my heart fully to God 14 years ago – I remember being caught up in two things. Being absolutly in love with my Savior and a passionate desire to tell as many people as possible of my life-changing experience. And – somewhere along the way I (we) lost a little of that vision / experience (or I allowed that to drift as a focal point). Of course – as my faith deepens I am returning to my roots and focusing on my whole-hearted love and devotion to our Lord and finding practical ways to express this love to others (James 1)!

    Again, what else really matters if we miss these two points (love of God and neighbor) – thanks Michael Bauman for your thoughts / references. May love drive us onwards.

    In Christ,
    E

  8. Marianne Says:

    I never really thought of faith as the love of God before. In Hebrews, it says faith is the substance of things hoped for , and the evidence of things not seen. But maybe the love is the fuel that inspires the hope, if Who you have faith in, is the One you love.

    marianne
    http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: