As our country is consumed with politics since last week’s storming of the Capitol and next week’s inauguration of Joe Biden, I ran across these words from Saint Maximus the Confessor, and thought they were an appropriate reflection for all of us, both for the political season we’re in, as well as the Christian season of Epiphany.
Love is therefore a great good, and of goods the first and most excellent good, since through it God and man are drawn together in a single embrace, and the creator of humankind appears as human, through the undeviating likeness of the deified to God in the good so far as is possible to humankind. And the interpretation of love is: to love the Lord God with all the heart and soul and power, and the neighbour as oneself.
Which is, if I might express it in a definition, the inward universal relationship to the first good connected with the universal purpose of our natural kind. Other than this there is nothing that can make the human being who loves God ascend any higher, for all other ways of true religion are subordinate to it. This we know as love and so we call it, not divisively assigning one form of love to God and another to human beings, for it is one and the same and universal: owed to God and attaching human beings one to another. For the activity and clear proof of perfect love towards God is a genuine disposition of voluntary goodwill towards one’s neighbour.
For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, says the divine Apostle John, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). This is the way of truth, as the Word of God calls himself, that leads those who walk in it, pure of all passions, to God the Father.
This is the door, through which the one who enters finds himself in the Holy of Holies, and is made worthy to behold the unapproachable beauty of the holy and royal Trinity. This is the true vine, in which he who is firmly rooted is made worthy of becoming a partaker of the divine quality. Through this love, all the teaching of the law and the prophets and the Gospel both is and is proclaimed, so that we who have a desire for ineffable goods may confirm our longing in these ways.— Saint Maximus the Confessor, in a letter to John the Cubicularius (from Maximus the Confessor, by Andrew Louth)