Love of enemies

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Saint Silouan the Athonite bears witness to love of enemies as the spiritual criterion of true Orthodox Christian Tradition.  Whenever political enmity threatens to divide the Orthodox Church, the mystery of Pentecost speaks to her condition, revealing how love of enemies acknowledges the many warring tongues even as it bears witness to the one Spirit, the one flame of fire alight in many hearts.  The unity of the Church is hidden in the mysteries of the deifying unity of God, so when institutional unity ceases for a time to be a provisional icon of the unity of God, the Spirit restores wholeness as a Pentecost of purifying tongues of fire, enlightening tongues of flame and hallowing tongues of deifying glory.  In God, Father of all healing mysteries, the Church is always and forever the Body of Christ revealing love’s glory, the wisdom of the Cross, unveiling Pentecost as love of enemies.  The Great Peace is not confused with the false peace imposed by worldly powers but stands still and steadfast as the true peace of the Kingdom of heaven.   Schism is of this world, not of God, and it is healed when humility and love embrace enemies in the Spirit of Christ crucified, Christ glorified and glorifying through the hallowing Name.  Christ is in our midst and is always and shall ever be in our midst even when political enmity tears us apart and our geo-politics fills us with hollow pride.

There have always been divisions and splits among us because our differences have always been tempted to descend into division, which is why Orthodox Tradition bears witness to Christ in whom there is difference but no division, union but not confusion.  Christ does not impose but frees us to enter into communion with him in freedom, liberating us from geo-political pride and worldly nationalism.  The Spirit frees by humbling pride and healing the schisms that follow the ideologies of worldly power.  Love of enemies is not subservience to the dictatorial machinations of worldly power  but love’s glory in action resisting every kind of collusion with that power.  There are times when the Church is martyred by the powers and there are times when the powers seek to dominate the Church so as to turn it into an arm of nationalistic ideology.   The powers were always so, being fallen angels who sought to use the things of God for their own ends.  The saints have always known spiritual warfare with the powers and have never claimed to master them in their own power.  The Spirit awake in their hearts bears witness to Christ’s victory over powers, warning them not to trust their own power.  Christ in their midst is experienced by them as love of enemies, well able to listen to the concerns and sufferings of the enemy and not impose.  

Schism arises when love of enemies is crushed by pride, the pride of worldly powers whose political fears rule hearts, replacing costly love.  Pentecost draws close at such times, offering the wisdom of the Paraclete, empowering difference to resist the temptation to descend into division and unity to refrain from imposing itself as a deceptive, two-faced confusion.  Ecclesiastical politics must always return again and again to the Paraclete, to the purifying humility of love of enemies, to the many different tongues of flame that bear witness to unity, not the dictatorial unity of worldly powers but the wholesome unity that does not impose itself but frees and heals.  Unselfish love finds God’s hidden way around every sort of political or ecclesiastical enmity, just as wisdom sees through every nationalistic quagmire, being able to transcend all binary oppositions.  Holy Church has always held steady even when her patriarchs were for a time caught up in ambiguity because the Body of Christ stands still and steady in the heart of the apostles, prophets and saints, welcoming, when the time came, the wounded patriarchs back into Christ’s undying fold of love.  There is no new schism because temptations to schism are as old as mankind.  But Pentecost makes all things new, inspiring love of enemies in every age.  Wisdom hallows the Name so glory renews communion in every heart, ensuring unbroken communion in the mysteries of union in the hearts of the saints.