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Compassion

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Compassion

The Godd Samaritan

The word of God tells us that our role in terms of us and others is one, to love and have compassion: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

Faced with the suffering of others, and with the sin of others, the true and genuine Christian needs to first of all have the look of compassion, then words of consolation, and then works of healing, caring and forgiveness. “If anyone,” St John says, “has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” This is echoed in the words of St James: “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” The first urgency in the presence of suffering and grief is to relieve it.

A modern Orthodox theologian has emphasized that we can only have genuine and effective compassion if we have a genuine relationship with Christ. “In our own lives, Jesus is our living and permanent reference. He is at the same time the giver of the Spirit and the gift of the Spirit. In Him the heart serves the apprenticeship of prayer and, through it, the apprenticeship of love. I learn love when the mysterious transfer of my ‘me’ to the centrality of Christ occurs; when ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ ; when it is no longer I who pray but the Spirit who prays in me; and when it is no longer I who love, but the Father who loves in me…. When we follow the path of Jesus, we learn how to offer our own hearts to God. It is then that the heart opens and fortifies itself in the spirit of compassion. The human being is able to be filled with the misery of the world, to carry it on his or her shoulders, and to lay it down before the throne of God. But our hearts are weak and inconstant. Giving up, we tend to close up, to protect ourselves from suffering - which is always too great- to ignore or forget it. Nonetheless, this same heart is called to love, to compassion, to mercy. It can only respond to this call by merging into the heart of Jesus. That requires, as a precondition, a purification, an exorcising of the evil that is in us, in all its forms. The evil in the world can be exorcised and burned only to the extent that the roots of evil which lie in our own hearts are exorcised, banished, and burned, consumed in the face-to-face with Jesus, His cross, and His Spirit.”

Those that love and have compassion do not miss out, they get back a lot more than what they give. St Silouan puts it as follows. “I will not hide from you the things for which the Lord gives His grace. I entreat you – love one another, and you will behold the mercy of the Lord. Let us love our fellow man, and the Lord will love us… Ask the Lord for strength to love your brother, and then you will see that there is peace in your soul. With all your might ask the Lord for humility and brotherly love, for to him who loves his brother the Lord gives freely of His grace. Try yourself: one day ask God for brotherly love, and the next day live without love, and you will see the difference. The spiritual fruits of love are manifest- peace and joy in the soul, all men will be dear to you, and you will shed abundant tears for your fellow-man and for everything that has breath, and all creation. Often a single sympathetic greeting will work a happy change in the soul; and contrariwise one unfriendly look will result in grace and the love of God departing, When that happens, make haste to repent, that the peace of God may return to your soul… If we love our brethren with all our might, and strive to humble our soul, victory will be ours, for the Lord bestows His grace above all for brotherly love.”

Fr Porphyrios would say that “in our life there is one thing worth striving for: love, to worship God and to love our fellow man, for all of us to be one, with Christ our head. Only in this way will we be granted Grace, the kingdom of Heaven, eternal life. Love towards others cultivates love for God. We are happy, when we love all people mystically. No one can reach God if he does not first go through other people. ‘For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.’ Let us love, let us sacrifice ourselves for others, expecting nothing in return. In this way we become well balanced. Love that expects something in return is selfish. Such love is not genuine and pure…. Above all is love. That which needs to concern us, my children, is love for others, for their spirit. Whatever we do, prayer, giving of advice, making suggestions, we need to do with love. Without love prayer does not help, advice hurts feelings, suggestions do more harm. Others can feel it if we love them or not, and they will respond appropriately.”

Even if others have hurt us, or have judged us harshly, or done us an injustice, our role is to love them and be compassionate. If they have done us an injustice, even a huge one, we need to have the faith that God will bring justice, our role is not to revenge or bring justice, our role is to forgive. If they are very critical of us, fairly or unfairly, then we need to remember that we all desperately need to be humble, and if others judge us we should see it as a blessing because it can help us in our struggle to reach humility. Fr Porphyrios would say, “Let us spread our love to all unselfishly, not caring about their stance. When the Grace of God comes inside us, we will no longer care if they love us or not, or if they speak kindly to us. We will feel the need to love all. It is pride when we want others to speak kindly to us. Let us not get upset when they do not speak nicely to us. Let us allow others to speak as they want to us. Let us not be beggars for love. Our desire is to love and to pray with all our heart for them. Then we will realise that they will love us, without us seeking it, without us begging for their love. They will love us sincerely and freely from the depth of their heart and without pressure.”

God has boundless compassion for all of us, and our calling is to reach the likeness of God, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Even if we have progressed in the spiritual life, if we do not have compassion for our fellow man, and thus move onto selfless, unconditional and unhypocritical works of love, we have not truly progressed. St Paul made this clear: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Very Rev. Dimitri Kokkinos
Parish Priest of St John the Forerunner – Parramatta (NSW)

Footnotes

1 Romans 13:8
2 1 John 3:17
3 James 2:15-16
4 Matthew 25:31-46
5 Galatians 2:20
6 Boris Bobrinskoy. The Compassion of the Father. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Crestwood,
New York 2003, pp.65-66
7 Archimandrite Sophrony. St Silouan the Athonite. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. Crestwood,
New York 1991, pp. 426-427
8 1 John 4:20
9 Γέροντος Πορφυρίου Καυσοκαλυβίτου. Βίος και Λόγοι. Ιερά Μονή Χρυσοπηγής. Χανιά 2003
10 Matthew 5:45
11 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

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