I have heard some people say, “Ah! Human love is useless,” which is a great error. Human love is useless and barren only when it excludes divine love and does not strive for it. Is anyone directly given divine love; or who can determine its bounds? Love can and must be learned. It begins in us from earliest childhood, and if we progress well in it, then by God’s mercy and grace we will be vouchsafed divine love also. Man is endowed with the talent of love as a gift, and if we sincerely preserve within ourselves the paths that lead to it, this talent will grow into fruit. The true transformation of human love is divine love. Human love begins, divine love completes.
Doing deeds with love is a great talent. Without works, faith, as well as prayer, is dead. Deeds done with love cover a multitude of sins. The five foolish virgins lacked deeds performed with love, and therefore they were deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit, and through grace— enlightenment, purification, and illumination with even more love.
The love of the Lord is hidden from those who are inexperienced in serving God, for if He were to show us fully how much He loves us it would be to our detriment. We would forget about fear and reverence before Him; and being willful, we would turn the freedom given to us for spiritual progress into failure. Therefore the Lord allows temptations to come upon us, so that we would be tested and learn, and attain greater progress. For if temptation increases, God’s grace also increases.
How can we learn to love? The Lord shows us other people’s tragedies in order to teach us: Do not be indifferent to your neighbor’s pain. If you can help him, do so; if you can’t do anything to help, you can in any case have compassion. Pray for him. Prayer raised with love has great power. By this we exercise ourselves in love and learn to love.
Some people say that love abides in them, but they don’t even know what love is. Or who can fathom it? Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (I Cor. 13:4-7).
If you have contempt for even one person, you are far from the Kingdom of Heaven. Love is the mother of all virtues. The heart belongs first and foremost to the One Who gave it to you—This is the first and great commandment (Matt. 22:38).
~from The Orthodox Word, No. 308
“Give me a word!”
How long shall we continue in this manner, our intellect reduced to futility, failing to make the spirit of the Gospel our own, not knowing what it means to live according to our conscience, making no serious effort to keep it pure?
-St Mark the Ascetic
God sends us trials out of His mercy, so that after we have suffered these ordeals we may be crowned by Him. Without temptation, no one has ever been crowned.
-St Nilos of Sora