He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Monday, March 28, 2016

Love it to Death: The Resurrection of Love

The love in my heart has died many times.  It has been crushed by the boulder of my pride, preventing me from loving by ensuring that I never saw the needs of another, tending only to my own desires which so filled my vision.  My fear has suffocated it, preventing me from reaching out in love to others who most needed my strength and courage, pulling out of me all that is truly alive, stopping the breath of love that fuels each beat of a loving heart.

Over and over, I have missed the mark of divine love, whether because of my wrath, my sloth, my envy, my gluttony, my greed, or my lust.  Over and over again, my love has been wounded, scourged on its way to death by my sins which separate me from divine love.  Over and over again, my heart has been emptied of love as it was shoveled out by the efforts of pleasure-seeking, the work of my slavery to the ego from which I long to be free.

And yet each time my love has died, no matter how wounded or battered I have left it, love has risen again in my heart, called forth from the tomb into the garden of life.  While I was trapped in the darkness of my sins, a great light has shown me the path to love.  Though I descended to hell on earth where divine love is locked out by my refusal of His invitation, Love opened the door to my hardened heart and stretched out His hand to me, asking me to embrace Him once again and let my heart of stone be softened by love alone.

The love in my heart, like Lazarus, comes forth from the tomb when I heed the Master's voice and do not resign myself to the ultimate death of a life without Love.  If I but obey His commands, I can rise to love again, resurrected by the power of Love whose Kingdom is not of this world and therefore is unbound by the laws of this world.  My love is resurrected by the one who loved us unto death, descended to Hades and broke its doors in two so that the righteous dead might rise again, those who were asleep awakened to a new life with the resurrected Love.

The resurrection of Christ which we celebrate at Pascha (known as Easter in English) is the resurrection of Love Himself, the glorious return of the builder of the world to the garden of life, and He does not return alone.  He invites with Him the children of Adam and Eve who were asleep in Hades, restoring them to the paradise of love for which they were made.  The Lamb of God who was slain for our sins returns as the Good Shepherd to lay us down in great pastures, to lead us by the Living Water from which we gain eternal life, our souls restored by the Cup of Love poured out for us.

He loved to death the sting of death by bearing our sins upon the cross, showing us that we too must follow Him in loving to death the sting of death in our lives which is called sin, taking up our cross daily and falling under its weight so that one day we might rise again with Him.  Love showed us that the only way to resurrection is through the tomb, that we must love to death all that would keep us from rising again to new life.

He showed us by His life that we must accept His invitation to resurrect the love in our hearts if we would be resurrected in body and mind, that before we can rise with Him we must fully love God with all of our strength and our neighbor as ourselves, keeping the law of Love which fulfills the Law of Moses.  He calls us to love to death all that separates us from the Love who is not bound by the laws of this world, to love Him by keeping the Law he gives to us, the Law of Love which frees us from the slavery of sin when we practice it diligently by teaching us to hit the mark of divine love.

He showed us that to way to love sin to death is by a life dedicated to service to the poor and vulnerable, mercy and a call to repentance for the condemned, and love for the enemies who hate us.  He showed us that by loving to death all that is not of divine love in our life, we have hope for the resurrection of all those who love Him in the Resurrection of Love.

Let us resurrect the divine love of Love in our hearts each day so that we may share it with others and help them to accept His invitation to leave the life of slavery to sin so as to share in the Resurrection of Christ who is Love, drawn by His hand out of the tomb of death and into the garden of life.

By Surgun100 - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8724640

Note: This icon depicting the resurrection of Christ shows us that as He was resurrected from the grave, so too does he lift us up from the grave, trampling down death by death.

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