The Beloved Disciple’s School of Love

Desert elders, initiated in the Beloved Disciple’s School of love, continue to behold the Cross as the glory of love, not as penal substitution demanded by a punishing, feudal deity.  Some contemporary secular Christians prefer to identify this feudal monstrosity with Christianity in order, by rejecting it, to advocate their religionless spirituality of love.  But this was not the perspective of the Beloved Disciple’s School of love, which was never tempted to replace love with feudal justice.   When Hesychasm was flourishing in the desert, monasteries and hermitages continued to embrace the Beloved Disciple’s vision of the Cross of unselfish love that schooled numerous elders and countless saints.  There was no division between Christ and the Spirit, between Holy Orthodoxy and spirituality, because there was no nihilistic vacuum into which a feudal mind-set could intrude or could continue to obstruct the mysteries of the Cross of uncreated love, long after its parodies were rejected.  Of course, contemporary schools of love are right to address the parodies of the feudal past, but if they merely react against them, they may remain unconsciously bound to them.  It is the task of the Beloved Disciple’s ancient schools of love to remind modern spirituality of love’s many creative ways to re-imagine the Cross and overcome feudal confusions and divisions, to see love’s Cross of uncreated love through the eye of the Beloved Disciple, whose voice is heard in the Fourth Gospel, three Johannine epistles of love and the Revelation of the glory of love.

Schools of love are precious in the sight of the Beloved Disciple but not confusions that high-jack the Cross by imposing on its uncreated love a plethora of monstrous feudal dead-ends.  Love can become a means of control unless it is purified of the feudal will to power that empowered old parodies. The popular power of secularist spiritualities desperately needs liberation from these parodies if it is to flourish as illumination.  Otherwise, misperceived hatred of the Cross will continue to succeed in defining the Cross as an enemy of love, defining the resurrection too, as an enemy of love’s resurrecting energy.  Such confusion is divisive in the extreme, even when the underlying intention is love.  Listening to the Beloved Disciple, secular schools of love may begin to turn again and see, as glory purifies and illumines love from within.  Love’s glory shines from the Cross, releasing feudal distortions into loving clarity.  Re-imagining the Cross of love’s glory so that it is perceived again, the Beloved Disciple’s schools of love can breathe once more and the wisdom of love’s glory inspire expansive love.  The voice of the Beloved Disciple was never totally silenced, even when many totalitarian distortions ruled the day, so schools of love always have access to love’s ancient wisdom of love’s glory that undoes confusion and division.

What is at stake, here, is not some minor point in Anselm’s theory of the Atonement, but love’s creative power to hallow and heal, love’s capacity, as the Cross of glory, to save and liberate.  If the Cross is denied and the resurrection rejected merely because it was parodied by feudal powers and notions of justice long ago, then feudal vanity has emptied the Cross of the uncreated love it always was and actually is, and modern nihilism has totally reduced love to empty nothingness.  Schools of love certainly do not intend to plunge Christianity into vacuous heresy as the price required by love.  The Beloved Disciple held steady when schools of love were buffeted and bruised by centuries of Calvinism, proving to elders and saints, and to bewildered schools of love, that fidelity to love does not inevitably descend into heresy.  Wisdom always knew the Cross was not penal punishment but uncreated love, and this remains true even in an age of rampant secularism.  Confusion is understandable but remains curable, just as division, confusion’s inevitable consequence, is never inevitable when the glory of love’s radiance prevails, as it does with the Beloved Disciple’s wisdom.   All are agreed that the wisdom of love is beckoning, but there is disagreement over how to handle old parodies of the past.  Are they to define Christianity forever, or are they to self-liberate into love’s glory, the glory of the Cross?

Schools of love discover that love needs wisdom if they are to handle the parodies of the past without disintegration into vacuous heresies.  They discover that great discernment is needed if the past is not to imprison the Cross in feudal parodies.  Decisive insight is called for if discernment is to see through power-driven parodies and dissolve them from within.  Penal substitution served feudal power and oppression, which is why the Beloved Disciple never gave it a moment’s serious attention.  Secularism mirrors the diseased religiosity it hates, which is why it cannot cure the sicknesses of degenerate religion.  The Beloved Disciple has always offered a radical alternative, which is to see through the pretensions of feudal power, in the light of wisdom’s reign of glory.  The Cross shatters the delusions of every prevailing power, unveiling love, transforming loveless notions of justice favoured by oppressive feudal powers into new transfigurations of uncreated love.  To fail to see this is continue to be taken in by the parodies imposed by ruling feudal powers, even though the fundamental intention is to inspire a spirituality of love.  The Beloved Disciple continues to offer love’s radical alternative, which is to behold the Cross utterly shatter its parodies by giving the power and glory back to love.  Such love is beloved of every saint, schooled by the love unveiled through the Beloved Disciple, being love’s Cross of glory revealed in the Fourth Gospel, love’s Cross of uncreated wisdom unveiling the glory of love.

The Beloved Disciple stood lovingly at the foot of the Cross and personally witnessed Christ resurrected in the garden of love, beholding, as a pre-eminent eye-witness to the Cross and resurrection, love crucified and resurrecting in every moment, and consequently, was never tempted to see the Cross or resurrection as the enemy of love.  It was feudal parody that confused the Cross with punishment, leaving a long legacy of divisive confusion that betrayed love.  Schools of love rightly challenge the subtle power of these feudal parodies, but sometimes fail to root them out completely.  The unfortunate result is that they continue to define the Cross and resurrection as enemies of love, so spiritualities of love are reduced to becoming the enemies of the Cross and resurrection, becoming unwitting enemies of love’s uncreated glory.  Love, however, is itself its own ultimate answer, because, love creatively re-imagines the Cross anew as the revelation of uncreated love, revealing the ultimate power and glory of love.  Many knots unravel when the wisdom of the Cross reveals the uncreated glory of love, that is, when love itself unveils the glory of love.  Schools of love joyfully bear witness to this love by which the Cross redefines itself, way beyond old feudal parodies.  The Beloved Disciple’s witness to the Cross of uncreated love arises within love’s inexplicable mystery, which resurrects love again and again in every generation.  Of course, there is no one, final or exclusive way the Cross of uncreated love cures enmity between the Cross and love, for there is nothing restrictive about uncreated love.  But feudal parodies lose all power to confuse and divide when the Cross of uncreated love restores all power and glory to love.