Love to the End
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. (John 13.1)
We have come to the Holy Week of our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, the Pascha/Passover of the Lord. This week, sometimes called Great Week, is the holiest week in the Church Year precisely because it takes us into the heart of the One Mystery of Christ which is the Paschal Mystery.
In St John’s Gospel Christ refers to His Pascha as His “hour”. You might recall that at His first miracle, at the wedding in Cana, He told His Mother that His hour had not yet come. But now His hour had come and St John tells us in chapter 13 that knowing His hour had come and loving His own, Christ loved them “to the end.”
We might tend to think that this “to the end” means that Christ loved them to the end of His life. We would be, however, mistaken. For His life does not end. He has - or we might say, He is! - indestructible, Divine life. Loving them “to the end”, then, means something else.
The word “end” in Greek (“telos”) is an interesting word. It doesn’t simply mean end as in “it’s over” - the end. It also means, and is commonly used to indicate, the completion or the perfection of something. And thus St Cyril of Alexandria states that in the case of John 13.1, the phrase “to the end” means that Christ loved his own “to perfection”.
Holy Week, as we said, places us before the Paschal Mystery of Christ. And we know the contours and the shape of this Mystery largely because of this week with its hymns, iconography, and scriptures. Let us recognize that what we are witnessing in the Paschal Mystery is, as St John tells us, Christ’s love “to the end.” It is the completion of love. It is perfect love.
Do you want to understand perfect love? Come and see the Master wash the disciples' feet.
Do you want to taste perfect love? Come and partake of the Mystical Supper.
Do you want to know perfect love? Come and stand before the Cross.
And if you want to see what the world has to say about perfect love then come and weep at the tomb of the perfect lover.
Christ has loved us “to the end.” Let us love Him, even with our imperfect love, in Holy Week, worshiping His Passion so that He might show us also His holy resurrection.
With love in Christ,
“Give me a word!”
Love and hatred are not merely subjective feelings, affecting the inward universe of those who experience them, but they are also objective forces, altering the world outside ourselves...if this is true of my love, it is true to an incomparably greater extent of Christ's love. The victory of his suffering love upon the Cross does not merely set me an example, showing me what I myself may achieve if by my own efforts I imitate him. Much more than this, his suffering love has a creative effect upon me, transforming my own heart and will, releasing me from bondage, making me whole, rendering it possible for me to love in a way that would lie altogether beyond my powers, had I not first been loved by him.
-Met. Kallistos Ware