The “Monk of the Eastern Church” begins a new section of his meditation on divine love with a reply of the tortured soul to God’s seemingly imperious demands, and concludes with assurance that those demands are both grace and gift.
Infinite Love storms the very gates of our life. It could be that I’ve already achieved a kind of peaceful co-existence with God. Perhaps I’ve been able to convince myself that I am more or less “in order” with my soul and therefore more or less at ease with myself. Maybe I’ve even foreseen a happy and peaceful ending to my earthly life.
Then suddenly all these assurances are turned upside down by a divine calling. God demands something of me that I never expected. It’s almost like receiving the news of an unwanted child.
Should I listen to this urgent request? Should I make a decision that will cost me dearly? Why in the world would I? Everything seemed to be going so well. Is it really necessary to accept these uncertainties, these new anxieties? Do I really need to tread again the tortuous pathway of that first calling, the one that came so long ago? Do I really have to leave my own familiar homeland, with no idea as to where God is leading me?
I never spoke these things to God, but I certainly thought them. Of course I never said “No” to the Lord, but I have certainly given Him a reply that amounts to a respectful refusal: “Please allow me to live in your presence just as I am!”
“Just as I am….” That person who is me, myself, represents a present state of being, a life lived in a well defined situation, with a collection of things to which I’ve become thoroughly attached. That includes my relationship with God, which seems perfectly adequate. What more could I want?
Love without limits seeks to invade my life. It troubles the calm waters of my daily existence. It shatters all that seems stable, in order to open before me new horizons that I never before imagined.
Will I refuse? Will I run from this announcement, this command, that God has just spoken to me? If I do refuse, I may not necessarily be estranged from every other form of love. But the love I finally do embrace will be both relative and limited. It will amount to a rejection of absolute Love, with all its audacious demands. It will be the stillness of a stagnant pond, rather than the tumult of the high seas.
Lord of Love, break the bonds that hold me back! I will never return to that place of familiar complacency. O Lord of Love, may I live before you as the person I shall become!
Breaking the limits
“My child,” God replies, ” I will never leave you be. I want to teach you how to surpass yourself, to encounter something more, something greater.
“It is good for you to be satisfied with any form of harmonious beauty. Yet you need to discover the painful tearing away from yourself that will allow you to behold what is truly sublime.
“This doesn’t mean you should disdain your intelligence. After all, I am the origin and the summit of all thought. I just do not want you to be forever bound by the slow deliberations of human reflection. I want to give you vision!
“Be obedient and pious—virtues that so many people mock today. But I do not want you to sleep away in some comfortable morality or piety. I want to inspire within you a sense of sacrifice!
“You know all too well the distance that separates you from your God. Just be careful not to measure that distance in order to keep to it, slumbering in an attitude of complacency, of least effort.
“My child, I want to reveal to you each day the truth and reality of God made man, your Lord of Love who took flesh, your flesh. For it is in taking upon himself human nature, without mixture or confusion, becoming a human person, that Love without limits breaks every limit, in the most sublime way possible.”