The Gospel Rejects Love Dependent on Hot-bloodedness, on the Feelings of the Carnal Heart

St Ignatius (Brianchaninov). "On Prelest". On Loving One's Neighbour.

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) (1807-1867)

What can be lovelier, more wonderful that love for one's neighbour? To love is blessedness. To hate is torture. All of the Law and prophets are concentrated in love for God and one's neighbour  (Matt. XXII, 40).

Love for one's neighbour is the road by which we are led to love for God, since Christ deigned to mysteriously put on every one of our brothers, and through Christ, God Himself (1 John)

Do not think, beloved brother, that the commandment to love your neighbour is already near to our fallen hearts. No, this commandment is spiritual, but our hearts are lorded over by flesh and blood. This commandment is new, but our heart is old.

Our natural love is corrupted by the fall; it must first be put to rest (this is commanded by Christ) and only then can holy love, love in Christ, be acquired from the Gospels.

Love, inspired by the movement of blood and the feelings of the body, has no value in light of the gospel. And what value can it have, when one swears to give his life for the Lord, when his blood is hot, swears that he does not know Him only a few hours later, when his blood is cooled (Matt. 27:33-35,74)?

The Gospel rejects love dependent on hot-bloodedness, on the feelings of the carnal heart. It says, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. 10:34,35,36).

The fall of mankind subordinated the heart to the lordship of the blood, and through the blood, to the lordship of the prince of this world. The Gospels release the heart from this bondage, from this slavery, and bring it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches how to love one's neighbour. True love that is sustained by the Holy Spirit is fire. This fire puts out the fire of earthly, carnal, fallen love (Ladder, Homily 15, chapter 3).

"He who claims that he can have the one kind of love together with the other is deluding himself', said St John Climacus (John of the Ladder) (Homily 3, chapter 16).

How far has our nature fallen! He who is by nature capable of fiery love for his neighbor must exert a tremendous amount of willpower over himself in order to love him in the way the Gospels command.

Fiery, natural love easily turns to disgust, to irreconcilable hatred (2 Sam 13:15). Natural love has even been expressed with a dagger. Our natural love is covered in open wounds! What a terrible wound is passionate attachment! The heart possessed by passionate attachment is capable of any injustice, of any crime, if only to satisfy the cravings of its diseased, so-called love.

"Dishonest scales are abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight" (Proverb.11:1).

Natural love gives only earthly goods to the beloved; it does not even think of the heavenly.

It battles against heaven and the Holy Spirit because it is under the dominion of the spirit of evil, the fallen and impure spirit.

Let us approach the Gospel, dear beloved brother; let us look into this mirror! Looking at it, let us take off our old clothes into which we have been clothed by our fall, and let us decorate ourselves with a new robe, which is prepared for us by God.

The new robe is Christ Himself. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal 3:27). The new robe is the Holy Spirit. "You are endued with power from on high" (Luke 26:49), said the Lord. Christians are clothed with the qualities of Christ through the action of the all-good Spirit.

Such a robe is possible for every Christian. The apostle says: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:14).

First, guided by the Gospels, throw off all enmity, remembrance of evil, anger, judgment, and everything else that acts against love.

The Gospels require that we pray for our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and forgive our neighbour anything that he may done against us.

Whoever strives to emulate Christ, let him fulfill all these commandments through actions.

It is not enough only to read the commandments of the Gospel with pleasure and to be amazed at the level of morality they contain. Unfortunately, many are content only with this.

When you begin to fulfill the commandments of the Gospel through deeds, the lords of your heart will stubbornly battle against you. These lords are your own carnal state, which subjects your flesh and blood, and the fallen angels who dominate the carnal state of mankind.

The carnal mind, its truth and the truth of the fallen spirits, will require that you do not dishonour yourself and your worldly situation, but protect it at all cost. But you must bravely withstand this invisible war, guided by the Gospels, guided by the Lord Himself.

Sacrifice everything for the fulfillment of the commandments of the Gospel. Without such a sacrifice, you will never be able to follow them. The Lord said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself" (Matt. 16:34).

When the Lord is with you, you can hope for victory - the Lord cannot be defeated.

Ask the Lord to grant you this victory; ask it with constant prayer and tears, and unexpected grace will be given to your heart; you will immediately feel a sweet satisfaction of spiritual love for your enemies.

But the battle still awaits you! You must still be courageous! Look at the objects of your affection; are they still pleasing to you? Is your heart still attached to them? You must reject them.

The Lord, the Giver of the law of love, demands such a rejection from you not in order to deprive you of love and the ones you love. Rather, by rejecting carnal love, tainted by sin, you will become capable of spiritual, pure, holy love, which is the highest blessedness.

He who has felt spiritual love will only despise carnal love, seeing it for the unsightly parody of love that it is. How can one reject the objects of one's attachment, which seem to have become physically bonded to the very heart of man? Turn to God with the words: “All these things, Lord, are Yours. Who am I? I am inconsequential creature who has no value.”

 “Today I wander through the world, today I may be useful for my beloved in some way, but tomorrow I may die, and become as nothing to them!”

“Whether I desire it or not, death will come, other situations may arise that separate me from those whom I consider my own, and they will no longer be mine. They were never in actual fact mine. There was some sort of relationship between us, and fooled by this relation I called and considered them my own. But if they were truly mine, they would forever remain in my possession. The creature belongs only to the Creator. He is their God and Lord. My Lord, to You I give Your own. I have attached them to myself unlawfully and uselessly."

It is better for them to be God's. God is eternal, omnipresent, all-powerful, eternally good. To His own He is the most loyal, most dependable Helper and Defender.

God gives all that belongs to Him to His people, and when God gives such a gift to a man, man's beloved becomes His own, at first in body, and eternally in spirit.

True love for one's neighbour is established on faith in God; it is in God Himself. "That they all may be one," said the Saviour of the world to His Father, "as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be in Us" (John 27:21)

Humility and loyalty to God kill carnal love for it is kindled by self-esteem and absence of faith. Do whatever good you can - whatever the commandments declare - to your beloved ones; but always commit their care to God, and your blind, carnal, careless love will transform little by little into a spiritual, wise, holy love.

But if your love is passionate, contrary to God's Law, then reject it as foulness.

When your heart is not free, this is a sign of passionate attachment. When your heart is enslaved, this is a sign of insane, sinful passion. Holy love is pure, free, entirely in God. It is the action of the Holy Spirit in the heart, depending on the extent of its purification.

Having cast aside any enmity, any passionate attachment, and having rejected carnal love, strive to acquire spiritual love: "shun evil, and do good" (Psalm 33: 15 LXX).

Give honor to your neighbour as the image of God, honour him in your heart secretly, so that only your conscience may see it. Then your deeds will mysteriously act in concert with your spiritual disposition.

While honoring your neighbour, make no distinction of age, gender, or social status, and slowly, holy love will begin to illuminate your heart. The reason for this holy love is not flesh and blood or the vagaries of emotions, but God Himself.

Those who are deprived of the glory of Christianity are not deprived of the glory that is given at their creation. They are still the image of God.

If the image of God is cast out into the horrible flames of hell, even there I must honour him.

What do I care for the flames, for hell? The image of God has been cast there by the judgment of God. I must preserve my honour for the image of God, thereby preserving myself from hell. Even the blind, the leper, the mentally insane, the child at the mother's breast, the convicted criminal - all these you must honour as the image of God. What business do you have with their diseases and their deficiencies? Watch over yourself, so that you might not be deficient in love.

In each Christian, you give honour to Christ Himself, Who said for our instruction, and will again say when our eternal fate is decided: "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethern, you did it to Me" (Matt. 25:40).

In your interaction with your neighbour, remember these words of the Gospel, and you will become a confidant of love for your neighbour. Thus, by being this confidant of love for your neighbour, you enter into love of God.

If you think, however, that you love God, but in your heart lives an unpleasant disposition toward even one person, you are grievously self-deluded.

St John the Theologian says, "If someone says, 'I love God', and hates his brother, he is a liar. And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also." (1 John 4:20, 21.).

The appearance of spiritual love for one's neighbour is a sign of the renewal of the soul by the Holy Spirit. The Theologian says again: “we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14).

The perfection of Christianity is contained in the perfect love for one's neighbour. Perfect love for one's neighbour is contained in love for God, which has no limit or perfection, which is eternal. Growth in God's love is eternal, because love is eternal God (1 John 4:16). Love for one's neighbour is the foundation of all other love. Beloved brother! Seek to reveal in yourself true spiritual love for your neighbour; having acquired it, you will acquire love for God, and you will enter the gates of resurrection, the gates of the Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.