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love is the law

October 7, 2012

It seems like I’ve spent the majority of this weekend at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, where the 61st annual Portland Greek Festival is being held, which, if you know me, is kind of funny considering how much I used to shun churches in my younger days. But whereas I used to scoff at organized religious institutions, particularly Christian ones, I’ve since found myself increasingly drawn towards spiritual people and places of all kinds, often getting a feeling of expansive peace and interconnectedness whenever I come into contact with deeply spiritual people and teachings of all faiths.

Eastern Orthodox churches seem to especially draw me in, not only because of their beautiful iconography, but because of some of the symbolism underlying them as well. Some of them (like the one depicting Jesus’ descent into Hades, for example) are quite philosophically complex, and I find them intriguing to contemplate, not unlike Christian koans in a way. The concept of theosis is also appealing to me, i.e., the idea of trying to emulate the life of Jesus, and genuinely putting into practice his teachings on forgiveness, generosity, renunciation, and unconditional love in order to become more god-like, to become one with the best aspects of our humanity and share a deep sense of communion with one another.

Of course, there are certainly many Christian ideals and theological aspects that I don’t like and will probably never agree with; but I respect Christianity and the Christian community for what it is or potentially could be to people. It’s a guiding light in times of darkness, and a source of comfort and a place of refuge in difficult ones. It’s a journey towards wholeness for those who feel incomplete. It’s a celebration of life and happiness in a world filled with sadness and death. It’s a philosophy, a riddle, a vehicle for gnosis. And deep down, it can be characterized by one simple commandment, which Jesus gave to his Apostles at the Last Supper: love one another.

It’s hard not to appreciate this commandment and the spirit it was given, or the people who sincerely endeavor to follow it. It speaks to the salvific power of love, and reflects the idea that there’s something special, something divine, in our interactions with other people—an idea that’s mirrored in Bible passages such as, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love,” and echoed by Church Fathers like Augustine of Hippo: “Once for all, then, a short precept is given you: Love, and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.”

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