Love and True Faith

In the life and teaching of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, it is interesting to note that what he considered to be “true faith” was the manifestation of the love of God in us towards all the world. It would have certainly been 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.

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18 Responses to “Love and True Faith”

  1. John Says:

    Fr. Stephen,

    The phrase from the Divine Liturgy, “Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess…”

    Is this word “mind” the same as the Greek word “nous”? Obviously St. John’s Liturgy was originally written in Greek and I’ve heard it said that “nous” is often translated from the Scriptures (poorly) into English using the word “mind”.

    I’m curious as to what that phrase really means, practically. “One mind” can come off as something different than your remarks in this entire post if viewed incorrectly. Could you please clarify?

    Thank you,
    John

  2. St. Silouan on Love and True Faith | Being mediocre Says:

    […] and True Faith Posted on February 4, 2011 by John| Leave a comment An excerpt from another post by Father Stephen and my comments, or a question actually, below: “It is for this reason (at […]

  3. Tweets that mention Love and True Faith « Glory to God for All Things -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andrew Mitry, Robin Brookes. Robin Brookes said: "Love and True Faith" – http://is.gd/gtYR44 […]

  4. Yannis Says:

    It must be a hard fate for clerics to dedicate all their lives trying to preserve, justify and spread a particular doctrine in practice while, at the same time, having – nominally at least – as their “true” goal to reach it’s essence by transcending it’s limitations – the very limitations that define it and thus make it possible for it to be preserved, justified and spread ie to be a doctrine.

    It’s certainly a worthy challenge to be sure, but i wonder how many of them clerics do really succeed, let alone believers.

  5. fatherstephen Says:

    John,
    The phrase uses “omonoia” (same or one mind) and is similar to St. Paul’s admonitions for us to be of “one mind” or of “the same mind.” But, nous, the root word in these phrases, also carries the sense of “heart” (certainly not “mind” as conceived by modern rationalism). Thus, the Creed (and its doctrines) cannot be rightly confessed when we are not at peace with one another, or not loving one another. Doctrine is more than rational proposition, it is, in the words of Fr. Georges Florovsky, a “verbal icon of Christ.” The reasonable part of us participates, but so must the heart as well. Thus we must love. This is the “true faith.”

  6. easton Says:

    thank you, father stephen. the bottom line, and yet it seems at times so hard to do…

  7. John Says:

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen for your response.

    John

  8. Love and True Faith « Απόψεις για τη Μονή Βατοπαιδίου (και όχι μόνο) Says:

    […] Source: https://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/love-and-true-faith/ Αναρτήθηκε στις Christianity, In English. Ετικέτες: Faith, Love, St. Silouan. Leave a Comment » LikeBe the first to like this post. « Hymn of Praise to the Creator Blog στο WordPress.com. Theme: Garland by Steven Wittens and Stefan Nagtegaal. […]

  9. Love and True Faith | "ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑ ΡΩΜΗΩΝ" Says:

    […] Source: https://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/love-and-true-faith/ […]

  10. Lina Says:

    It seems to me that if God is love and we are made in his image then we are made to love as he loves. I realize that this is difficult, our hearts being so fickle but God is capable of purifying our hearts if we ask Him to do so. I love the prayer, “Save me, whether I want it or not!” Keep saving me God, keep healing me, we can cry out!

  11. Audrey Says:

    I appreciate the words of Fr. Sophrony: “he knew the Holy Spirit in the love which with its advent drives away all hatred, like light cancelling darkness.” I am wondering if all true love experienced by any human being is evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit?

  12. Gilbert Says:

    Father Stephen,

    I know very little about Orthodoxy, other than the major differences between Eastern and Western thought. However, I am curious about the concept of “loving God” or “loving Jesus”, of relationship, in Orthodox theology.

    Maybe it’s just my ignorance, but it doesn’t seem to me this is emphasized in the Orthodox world nearly as much as in the Western world. Why is this? Or am I wrong about this.

  13. Andrew Smith Says:

    Very well-written piece.

    The concept of how truth without love is arrogance is one that I’ve had to struggle with in my journey – so long as truth is without love, it will always be deficient; but so long as truth is placed within love, then we are able to fearlessly proclaim it, as is most expedient.

  14. fatherstephen Says:

    Gilbert,
    The emphasis on love of Jesus and loving God, of relationship, could not possibly be stronger than what is found in Orthodoxy. It is a pity that you have not seen nor heard this of yet. It is quite strong. And without equal in the Christian world.

  15. Andrew Smith Says:

    @Gilbert – Many of our liturgical texts refer to a ‘good God who loves mankind’ – through our Divine Liturgy and in our other prayer services (Matins, Vespers, etc) as well.

    On the contrary, one will be hard pressed to find a reference to God damning people in Orthodox service books. The seeming-exception, when the Liturgy refers to ‘a good defense before the fearful judgment seat of Christ’, is because of an incomplete translation – the original word is the same word we get ‘crisis’ from…because at that crisis-point, we have to make the decision to love him back (or otherwise).

  16. FrGregACCA Says:

    Gilbert, to expand on what Fr. Stephen has said, the cornerstone of Orthodox theology is the concept of communion, beginning with the eternal communion that exists between the Three Divine Person of the Triune God and going from there to the communion that Christ restores between humanity and God and between humans within the Church.

    Perhaps what you are misunderstanding is this communion is never conceived of in individualistic terms: never just “me and Jesus”. No, this communion is mediated in, with, and through the Church and the Church’s celebration of the mysteries of the Christian faith, especially the Eucharist.

  17. Andrew Battenti Says:

    You are right Fr. Greg thank you for saying it.

  18. The Heart | The Church Fathers Says:

    […] And thus we are called to love.     https://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/love-and-true-faith/ […]

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