On Love by St. John of Kronstadt

Be zealous after love: all things shall pass away, but love shall eternally remain, as God Himself, who is Love.

Excerpts from the diary of St. John of Kronstadt onLove

Love calms and agreeably expands the heart and vivifies it, whilst hatred painfully contracts and disturbs it. Those who hate others torture and tyrannise themselves

What is sweeter than love? And yet there is not much love in us! Wherefore? We love our flesh exceedingly, and with it everything carnal, material and earthly! Let us, therefore, despise the flesh and walk by the spirit, mortifying the works of the flesh by the spirit.

Lord! Thou, Whose love to us infinitely surpasses the love of every father, of every mother, of the tenderest wife, have mercy upon us!

Looking upon the Saviour's cross, contemplate Love, crucified upon it for our salvation; and think, for what blessedness He has saved us, and from what torments He has redeemed us! He has snatched us from the jaws of the beast and has brought us to the Father! O love! O redemption! O terrors of everlasting torments! O indescribable, endless blessedness!

The most abominable enemy [the devil] endeavours to destroy love by love itself: love for God and our neighbour — by love for the world, for its fleeting blessings and its corrupt, impious habits, by carnal love, by the love of riches, of honours, of pleasure, of various amusements. Therefore let us extinguish every love for this world in ourselves, and let us kindle in ourselves, by self-denial, love for God and our neighbour. Every beauty in this world (personal beauty) is only a faint, insignificant shadow of the uncreated beauty, of the unspeakable goodness of God's face; every earthly enjoyment is nothing in comparison to future delights. I pray, Lord, that the faith of Christ may penetrate into the depths of my heart, that Christ's Gospel may penetrate all my thoughts, feelings, words, and deeds, into all my bones and my brains, and not me only, but all men, as the universal truth, the highest wisdom, and the life eternal. " And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent."[806]

The heart that loves carnal delights is unfaithful to the Lord. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon."[509]

What is mercy? Mercy is to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, who do us harm, who drive us away, to defend those who are persecuted, and so on.

What is the name of our God? Love, Mercy, Compassion, Bountifulness. When you pray, contemplate with the eyes of your heart Love and Mercy standing before you — the Lover of men listening to you.

God is love, and I am an image of God; therefore I ought to be all love. God is the most perfect good, free from the least shadow of evil; I am an image of God; therefore I ought also to be perfectly good, without even a shadow of evil.

Love does not suffer self-justification, does not exalt itself, is not puffed up.

In order to test yourself, whether you love your neighbour in accordance with the Gospel, pay attention to yourself at the time when others offend you, abuse you, mock at you, or do not render you the respect due to you, and which is customary in social intercourse, or when your subordinates err against the rules of the service, and are negligent. If you remain calm on such occasions, are not filled with the spirit of enmity, hatred, impatience — if you continue to love these persons as much as previously, before their offences or negligence, then you do love your neighbour in accordance with the Gospel; but if you become irritable, angry, agitated, then you do not do so. "If ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?"[792]

The purer the heart is, the larger it is, and the more able it is to find room within it for a greater number of beloved ones; whilst the more sinful it is, the more contracted it becomes, and the less number of beloved can it find room for, because it is limited by self-love, and that love is a false one; we love ourselves in objects unworthy of the immortal soul — in silver and gold, in adultery, in drunkenness, and such like.

We stand before the altar of love in the presence of Incarnate Love Itself, but we have no love to each other. How strange it is! And we do not even care about this. But love will not come of itself without our zeal, efforts and activity.

Up till now you have not learned to love your neighbour. You answer men's dislike towards you by dislike on your part. But do the contrary; answer others' dislike by heartfelt goodwill and love; the more dislike you see towards you, the more you should love. Dislike is a malady, and a sick person should be more pitied, should be shown greater care and greater love, exactly because he is ill. Do you not know that the bodiless enemy uses his craftiness against all, infects all with the poison of his hatred? And you, too, are not exempt from his craftiness. Do not serve him, then, the spirit of enmity, but serve the God of love with the utmost zeal. Remember that God the Word died for your brethren.

The Lord is my life, my breath, my strength, my light, peace and joy, my food and drink; what shall I bring to such a Benefactor, or what shall I render unto Him? I will render unto Him, with His help, obedience to His Will, the fulfilment of His commandments. "If ye love Me," says He Himself, "keep My commandments."[1227] I will endeavour to please Him by seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and by counting earthly blessings as naught in comparison to heavenly ones; I will not let my heart cleave to anything earthly. O, Lord! grant me strength to accomplish this. Strengthen me Thyself by Thy right hand. My Strength, do not forsake me! Grant that I may put my trust in Thee alone, my Nourisher — in Thee, Who hast never forsaken me!

Contemplate in man his Divine origin, the soul, which is created after the image and likeness of God; and for the sake of this origin always respect and love man with your whole heart, unfeignedly.

The love of our Divine Saviour, Jesus Christ, of God the Father, and of the Holy Spirit to us is so great, so immeasurable, that, in comparison to it all human dislike, enmity and hatred against us become insignificant, and seem to vanish entirely. It is because of this boundlessness of God's love to us and the insignificance of human enmity that the Saviour commanded us all to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them which despitefully use and persecute us. [1171] We are in the love of God; does it greatly matter to us if men are not well disposed towards us? What can they do against us when God has so loved us?

How can I be cold to my neighbour when the Lord commanded me to love him as myself, or as He Himself has loved us? But we often become cold to our neighbour because we attach ourselves to earthly delights, and are self-loving. And, therefore, let us renounce earthly delights, self-love, and intemperance, so that we may please our Lord.

Our heart, full of passions, loves enjoyment and tranquillity, cannot endure bitterness and afflictions, and does not like anyone to disturb us in any way; for instance, by a request to do something for him. But the Lord commanded us to renounce the sinful rest of the flesh, and to be the servants of all, and Himself showed us an example, for He knew no rest upon earth during His service for our salvation. The Apostles were also an example of this, especially the Apostle Paul.

Contempt for creation touches the Creator; therefore do not dare to speak the following words or any similar to them, "I dislike that man's face, though he may, perhaps, be a good man;" for this is diabolical hatred of God's creature and odiousness. Remember that every man is an image of God, and that all his glory is within him, in his heart. Man looks upon the face, whilst God looks upon the heart.

Christ, the Son of God, the Most Holy God, "is not ashamed to call us sinners brethren;"[624] therefore do not at least be ashamed to call brothers and sisters poor, obscure, simple people, whether they be your relatives according to the flesh or not, do not be proud in your intercourse with them, do not despise them, for we are all actually brothers in Christ — we were all born of water and the Spirit in the baptismal font and became children of God; we are all called Christians, we are all nourished with the Body and Blood of the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, the sacraments of the Church are celebrated over all of us, we all pray the Lord's prayer: "Our Father..." and all of us equally call God our Father.

To love God with all your heart means — to love with all your soul meekness, humility, purity and chastity, wisdom, truth, mercy, obedience, for the sake of God, and never to act contrarily to these virtues; that is, not to become proud, irritated, angry against anyone; not to commit adultery even in the heart; not to violate chastity, either by look, thought, or gesture; to avoid every inconsiderate, needless word and deed; to shun every iniquity; to hate avarice and covetousness; to flee from self-will and disobedience.

A Christian ought to pray for all Christians, as for himself, that God may prosper them in life, in faith, and in spiritual wisdom, and may free them from sins and passions. Why? In accordance with Christian love, which sees in all Christians, its own members and members of God the Christ, the common Saviour of all, desires for them the same as for itself, and strives by every means to do unto them as unto itself.

The God of Love is unchangeable, and we ought to be unchangeable and constant in our love. "Charity never faileth,"[961] whilst dislike, hatred, or indifference and neglect proceed from the Devil.

Love for God and our neighbour, in our present corrupt state is impossible without self-sacrifice; he who wishes to fulfil the commandment concerning love for God and his neighbour, ought to devote himself in good time to great deeds and privations for the sake of those that he loves. (Amen.) "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He (the Christ) laid down His life for us."[923] "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."[924]

He truly bestows charity who gives from his heart, and with a loving heart. He is truly merciful who converses with everyone heartily, and not only with the intellect and lips, who renders sincere, hearty respect to everyone, who preaches the Word of God and serves God with a true heart, not hypocritically — in a word, who embraces all, and carries all in his heart by love, despising everything material that may become a hindrance to love between himself and his neighbour — such a one is truly merciful.

What is the human soul? It is the one same soul or the one same breath of God, which God breathed into Adam, and which until now is diffused from Adam upon the entire human race. Therefore all men are as though one man, or one great tree of mankind. From this comes the most natural commandment, founded upon the unity of our nature: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God [your Prototype, your Father] with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. Thou shalt love thy neighbour [for who can be nearer to me than the man like unto me, of the same blood as me?] as thyself."[718] To fulfil these two commandments is a natural necessity.

Do not for one moment fulfil your own will, but fulfil the will of God, which is love for all, even for our enemies, and our holiness; whilst our will is sin of various kinds: self-love (and not the love of God), malice, hatred, pride, envy, sensuality, gluttony, drunkenness, theft, covetousness, fornication, craftiness, slothful-ness, hardness of heart, and insensibility to our neighbours' sufferings, rejoicing in their misfortunes; rancour, murmuring, blasphemy, scoffing at sacred things.

Christian love prefers rather to endure all the outward discomforts of life, narrowness, want of fresh air, losses, than to allow impatience, vexation, irritation, anger, murmuring, through these outward and similar discomforts, against those who inconvenience us by living at our expense and at the expense of our tranquillity, either through need or out of caprice. Love endures everything and bears everything to its own detriment, to the detriment of its own material and bodily life: for where love is, there is God's grace and every good thing, there is tranquillity, there is sufficiency. A Christian suffers everything so long as he is not deprived of God's grace, which is the greatest blessing to him.

By my love for God and my neighbour I belong to heaven, I am heavenly; whilst by worldly cares, especially by worldly attachments, I belong to the earth, I am earthly, devilish. "Lord and Master of my life, grant unto me, Thy servant, the spirit of love."[823]

Bear in your heart continually the words "Christ is Love," and endeavour to love all, sacrificing for the sake of love, not only your possessions, but even yourself.

Through faith and love, through the prayer of faith and love, I can include both God and men in my heart. How deep and vast is the human heart! How great is man!

Remember the Love that laid down His life for men, and do not spare your very life itself for your brother, but unmercifully crucify your carnal man, who turns you away from sacrificing yourself for your brother.

Love. With love for God and your neighbour in your heart you will possess all things and will lack nothing; for where love is, there is God; and God is everything to us, and chiefly our life, peace, sweetness, and blessedness. It is strange and pitiable to see through what vain causes the Devil deprives us of love for God and our neighbour: through earthly dust, in the strict sense of the word — the countless dust which we trample under feet: through money, food, and drink, dress, houses, honours, through all these things which pass away, together with their mother, the earth, and with our own much cared for bodies, which are also nothing but dust.

To love God with all our heart means not to have any attachments to anything earthly, and to surrender all our heart to the Lord God, fulfilling His Will in everything, and not our own; to love God with all the soul means always to have all our mind in Him, to stablish all our heart in Him, and to submit all our will to His Will in all circumstances of life, both joyful and sorrowful; to love God with all our strength means to love Him so that neither any opposing power nor any circumstance of life, neither tribulation nor distress, nor persecution, nor peril, nor the sword, nor height, nor depth, [794] shall be able to separate us from the love of God; to love God with all our understanding means always to think of God, of His mercy, long-suffering, holiness, wisdom, omnipotence, of His works, and to withdraw ourselves by every means from thoughts of vanity and from evil recollections. To love God means — to love righteousness with all our soul, and to hate iniquity, as it is said: "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity"[795] ; to love God means — to hate oneself, that is, our old carnal man: "If any man come to Me, and hate not his own life, he cannot be My disciple."[796] In us, in our thoughts, in our hearts and in our will, there is an evil power extraordinarily living and active, which always, every day and every moment, endeavours to estrange us from God, suggesting thoughts, desires, cares, intentions, undertakings, words and acts of vanity, exciting the passions and forcibly instigating us to them, namely, to malice, envy, covetousness, pride and ambition, vanity, slothfulness, disobedience, obstinacy, deceit and intemperance. To love God means — to fulfil His commandments: "If a man love Me, he will keep My words. He that loveth Me not, keepeth not My sayings."[797]

Great is Thy love, O Lord: Thou hast wholly spent Thyself out of love for me. I gaze upon the cross and marvel at Thy love to me and to the world, for the cross is the evident token of Thy love to us. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."[780] Thy life-giving Mysteries, Lord, serve as a perpetual, glorious proof of Thy love for us sinners; for this Thy Divine Body was broken for me, for us all, and this Blood was poured out for me, for us all. Lord, I glorify the wonders accomplished by Thy Holy Mysteries upon Thy believers, to whom I have administered Them; I glorify the innumerable cures of which I was witness; I glorify Their all-saving action in myself. I glorify Thy mercy to me, revealed to me in Them and through Them, and Thy life-giving power, acting in Them. Lord! in return for this Thy great love, grant that I may love Thee with all my heart, and my neighbour as myself, grant that I may also love my enemies, and not only those who love me.

"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."[761] Why is the Lord's presence pre-eminently promised to two or three? Because there, where two or three are gathered in the name of Christ, is the Church, the union of faith and love; there is mutual love. "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another."[762]

A Christian ought to love God, and his neighbour, the image of God, so fervidly and deeply that he may always be able to say: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ [and of our neighbour]? Shall tribulation, or distress or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword,"[746] or money, or the sweetness of food and drink, or a luxurious dwelling, or cares about dress, or various worldly pleasures? But I count all these earthly things as dross, and worldly pleasures as a dream. I ascribe the faults of my neighbours to the corruption of nature, to the action or wiles of evil spirits, to insufficient or bad education, to the unfavourable conditions of life, to the natures of parents and tutors. Knowing my own sinfulness, my own malice, avidity, impurity, my own infirmity, I cannot hate men like unto myself, having the same weakness and vices; for I should love my neighbour as myself, and I love myself, although I know myself to be guilty of innumerable sins; lastly, I ought to love them because we are all one body.

Our life is love — yes, love. And where there is love, there is God; and where God is, there is every good. " Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."[721] And therefore joyfully feed and delight all, joyfully gratify all and trust in the heavenly Father for everything, in the Father of bounties, and the God of every consolation. Offer that which is dear to you as a sacrifice of love for your neighbour. Bring your Isaac, your heart, with its many passions, as a sacrifice to God, stab it of your own free will, crucify the flesh with its passions and lusts. As you have received everything from God, be ready to give back everything to God, so that, having been faithful in small things you may afterwards be made ruler over many things. "Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things."[722] Look upon all passions as upon illusions, as I have found out a thousand times. Amen.

How can we love God with all our heart, with all our soul and all our strength, and with all our thoughts? With all our heart means — undividedly, not dividing ourselves between the love of God and love of the world, or in general of creatures. If, for instance, you pray, pray with an undivided heart, not allowing your attention to be distracted by vain thoughts, by earthly attachments; be wholly in God, in His love, with all your soul — that is, do not only love Him with part of your soul, not only with your mind, without your heart and will sharing in this love — with all your strength, not with half your strength or slightly. When you have to fulfil any commandment, fulfil it most zealously, unto sweat and blood, unto laying down your life for it, if necessary, but not slothfully, indolently or unwillingly.

Grant, Lord, that I may ever love each of my neighbours as myself, and not be angry with them for any cause, and not serve the Devil in this way. Grant that I may crucify my self-love, pride, covetousness, incredulity, and other passions. Let mutual love be our name; grant that we may believe and trust that the Lord is everything to us all; that we may not be careful nor anxious for anything; that Thou, our God, may truly be the sole God of our heart and nothing besides Thee. Let there be union of love between us as there ought to be, and let everything that divides us from each other, and prevents us from loving one another, be despised by us, like the dust trampled under foot. So be it! So be it! If God has given us Himself, if He abides in us and we in Him, according to His own true words, then what will He not give me, what will He spare for me, of what will He deprive me, how can He forsake me? "The Lord is my shepherd: therefore can I lack nothing."[666] "Shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"[667] And therefore, my soul, be perfectly at rest and know nothing but love. "These things I command you, that ye love one another."[668]

Love does not reflect. Love is simple. Love never mistakes. Likewise believe and trust without reflection, for faith and trust are also simple; or better: God, in whom we believe and in whom we trust, is an incomplex Being, as He is also simply love. Amen.

Love your neighbour as yourself; for, by loving your neighbour you love yourself, whilst by hating your neighbour, you before all do harm to yourself, you before all hate your own soul. You know this by experience. O, most wise, creative, and life-giving laws of the Lord! How good it is to fulfil them, although the flattery of sin makes their fulfilment difficult. How blessed is the Lord's yoke for the soul, and how light His burden, that is, His commands.

If you have Christian love for your neighbour, then all heaven will love you; if you have union of spirit with your fellow-creatures, then you shall have union with God and all the dwellers of heaven; if you are merciful to your neighbour, then God and all the Angels and Saints will be merciful to you; if you pray for others, then all heaven will intercede for you. The Lord our God is holy, be so yourself also.

The life of the heart is love, whilst malice and enmity against our brother are its death. The Lord keeps us on the earth in order that love for God and our neighbour may wholly penetrate our heart. This is what He expects from us all. This is, indeed, the purpose of the world's standing.

We are all one, and must love one another as ourselves. The selfish grudging of anything to another, and the vexation at giving, the impulse to grudge, proceed from the Devil. Every attachment to earthly things is an enticement of the Devil and of our own self-love.

True love willingly bears privations, troubles, and labours; endures offences, humiliations, defects, sins, and injustices, if they do not harm others; bears patiently and meekly with the baseness and malice of others, leaving judgment to the all-seeing God, the righteous Judge, and praying that He may teach those who are darkened by senseless passions.

Love for God begins to manifest itself and act in us when we begin to love our neighbour as ourselves, and not to spare either ourselves or anything belonging to us for him, as the image of God; when we endeavour to serve him for his salvation in everything that we can; when, for the sake of pleasing God, we refuse to gratify our appetites, our carnal vision, our carnal wisdom, which is not subjected to the wisdom of God. "For he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, Whom he hath not seen?"[534] "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts."[535]

Behave to your neighbour with a perfect heart — that is, truthfully and with the same love as you would have for your own self, so that your neighbour, on his part, may love you in return; and even if he does not love you, he will at least respect in you your virtue, will honour it, and will himself emulate it.

We must love our neighbour still more when he sins against God, or against ourselves, because then he is sick, because then he is in spiritual misfortune, in danger; then, especially, we must have compassion upon him, pray for him, and apply to his heart a healing plaster — a word of kindness, instruction, reproval, consolation, forgiveness, love. "Forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."[546] All sins and passions, quarrels and disputes, are truly spiritual diseases; that is how we must look upon them. Or, all passions are a fire of the soul, a great fire, raging inwardly; a fire proceeding from the abyss of hell. It must be extinguished by the water of love, which is strong enough to extinguish every infernal flame of malice and of other passions. But woe and misfortune to us, to our self-love, if we increase this flame by a fresh infernal flame, by our own malice and irritability, and thus make ourselves the assistants of the spirits of evil, ever endeavouring to inflame the souls of men by means of many and various passions. If we do so, we ourselves shall deserve the fire of Gehenna; and if we do not repent, and do not become in future wise unto good and simple unto evil, then we shall be condemned, together with the Devil and his angels, to torments in the lake of fire. Therefore, do not let us be overcome of evil, but let us overcome evil with good. How accursed are we men! How is it that we have not yet learned to consider every sin as a great misfortune for our soul, and not to pity, heartily, sincerely, lovingly, those who fall into such a misfortune. Why do we not flee from it as from poison, as from a serpent? Why do we linger in it? Why have we no pity upon ourselves, too, when we are subjected to any sin? Why do we not weep before the Lord, who created us?

It is impossible to represent and to think of the cross without love. Where the cross is, there is love; in the church you see crosses everywhere and upon everything, in order that everything should remind you that you are in the temple of the God of love, in the temple of love itself, crucified for us.

Jesus Christ, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is an unfathomable abyss of love to men. In this abyss of mercy plenteousness of mercy for all will be found, only turn to God with faith, hope, and hearty contrition for your iniquities and your offences against the Lord, our Master and Benefactor.

Dislike, enmity, or hatred should be unknown amongst Christians even by name. How can dislike exist amongst Christians? Everywhere you see love, everywhere you breathe the fragrance of love. Our God is the God of love. His kingdom is the kingdom of love. From love to us He did not spare His only-begotten Son, but delivered Him up to die for our sakes, "to be the propitiation for our sins."[186] In your home you see love in those around, for they are sealed in baptism and chrism with the cross of love, and wear the cross; they also partake with you in church of the "supper of love."[187] In church there are everywhere symbols of love: crosses, the sign of the cross, the saints who were pleasing to God by their love to Him and to their neighbour, and Incarnate Love Itself. In heaven and upon earth everywhere there is love. It rests and rejoices the heart, like God, whilst enmity kills the soul and the body. And you must show love, always and everywhere. How can you not love when everywhere you hear love preached, when only the destroyer of mankind, the devil, is eternal enmity!

You easily forgive yourself, if you have sinned against God, or against men; accordingly easily forgive other people too. Love your neighbour as yourself, forgive him much. "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven,"[424] said the Lord. By this love is known. Even this is little for love to do: love loves its enemies, does good to them which hate it, blesses them that curse it, and prays for them which despitefully use it.

Glory to the one God, Glory to Him Who loves all and bountifully bestows upon all His spiritual and bodily gifts! Glory to Him who is no respecter of persons and Who reveals the mysteries of His love, omnipotence and wisdom unto babes!

You who pray, give God your heart, that loving true heart, with which you love your children, your father and mother, your benefactors and friends, and in which you feel the sweetness of pure unfeigned love.

That which a man loves, to which he turns, that he will find. If he loves earthly things, he will find earthly things, and these earthly things will abide in his heart, will communicate their earthliness to him and will find him; if he loves heavenly things, he will find heavenly things, and they will abide in his heart and give him life. We must not set our hearts upon anything earthly, for the spirit of evil is incorporated in all earthly things when we use them immoderately and in excess, this spirit having become earthly by excessive opposition to God.

Everyone sees that light is shed upon the earth from heaven, because the sun, the moon, and the stars light us from the heavenly circle. This shows that the uncreated wise Light, the Lord our God, dwells pre-eminently in the heavens; and from Him every light descends upon us, both material and spiritual — the light of the intellect and of the heart. "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."[123] "God is love."[124] All thoughts, feelings, every disposition of the heart tending to destroy love and create enmity, proceed from the Devil. Let this be engraven in your heart, and hold fast in every way to love. "Follow after charity."[125] Bear in mind: that which is in opposition to the old carnal, sinful man, that do; go all your life against his will. This is the object of your life, and also your glory in Jesus Christ. "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."[126] Stablish in your heart the following truth: one thing alone is worthy of all our hatred — that is, sin or vice; and towards men nourish exclusively love. The royal law is plain: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."[127]

Love your enemy, and you will be wise. O, if only you knew what a triumph, what blessedness it is to love your enemy, and to do good to him! So did the Son of God, so did God in the Holy Trinity, triumph, and still triumphs, through His love, over the ungrateful and evil-natured human race; so also did God's saints triumph over their enemies, by loving them and doing good to them.

Love your neighbour as yourself; for, by loving your neighbour you love yourself, whilst by hating your neighbour, you before all do harm to yourself, you before all hate your own soul. You know this by experience. O, most wise, creative, and life-giving laws of the Lord! How good it is to fulfil them, although the flattery of sin makes their fulfilment difficult. How blessed is the Lord's yoke for the soul, and how light His burden, that is, His commands.

We are accustomed to the works of God, and therefore value them but little; we do not, for instance, value even man as we ought to — that greatest work and miracle of God's omnipotence and grace. Look upon every man, whether he is one of your household, or a stranger to you, as upon something perpetually new in God's world, as upon the greatest miracle of God's omnipotence and grace, and do not let the fact of your being accustomed to him serve as a reason for you to neglect him. Esteem and love him, as your own self, constantly, and unchangeably.

Render all honour to every man, especially to the Christian, because of the fact that God deigned to receive human nature into the closest union with His Divinity, so that He became God-man. Therefore, looking upon any man, think, "The Lord Himself was in every respect similar to this man, excepting sin;" and if you know, or see, that he does not know this truth of the incarnation of the Son of God, and is leading an unworthy life, then teach and guide him. Also love every man as you love yourself, because he is another you, and is therefore called your neighbour in God's commandments: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

Furthermore, love every man as yourself — that is, do not wish him anything that you would not wish for yourself; think, feel for him just as you would think and feel for your own self; do not wish to see in him anything that you do not wish to see in yourself; do not let your memory keep in it any evil caused to you by others, in the same way as you would wish that the evil done by yourself should be forgotten by others; do not intentionally imagine either in yourself or in another anything guilty or impure; believe others to be as well-intentioned as yourself, in general, if you do not see clearly that they are evilly disposed; do unto them as you would to yourself, or even do not do unto them as you would not do unto yourself, and then you will see what you will obtain in your heart — what peace, what blessedness! You will be in paradise before reaching it — that is, before the paradise in heaven you will be in the paradise on earth. "The kingdom of God is within you,"[73] says the Lord. "He that dwelleth in love," teaches the Apostle, "dwelleth in God and God in him."[74]

Cultivate the Christian art of doing good, of heartily blessing those who curse you, by which you will please your Lord Christ, Who said: "Bless them that curse you. Love your enemies" sincerely, not regarding their enmity — but respecting in them the image of God, according to which they are created, and seeing in them your own self. "Do good to them which hate you," as the Son of the heavenly Father, Who is kind even "unto the unthankful and to the evil," believing that you will overcome evil with good, because good is always more powerful than evil. "Pray for them which despitefully use you," so that through your prayer you may save them also, by God's grace, from the evil malice and the snares of the Devil, and save yourself too from misfortune. "Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again,"[436] for everything comes from God, and, should the Lord will, He can take everything away from you. Remember, that you yourself have come naked out of your mother's womb, and naked shall you return thither, [437] and shall not take anything away with you. If you will thus live, you will gain for yourself the priceless treasure of peace and love, and shall live long on the earth: for "the meek-spirited," it is said, "shall possess the earth: and shall be refreshed in the multitude of peace."[438]

Count all worldly delights as — dross and corruption; do not love anything earthly, do not grudge anything earthly to any man, and do not nourish any animosity against him through such things. Love aspires to rejoice the beloved and is sparing of nothing.

Everything, except true love, is an illusion. If a friend behaves coldly, rudely, spitefully, insolently to you, say — this is an illusion of the enemy, if a feeling of enmity, arising from your friend's coldness and insolence, disturbs you, say: — this is an illusion of mine; but the truth is, that I love my friend, in spite of everything, and I do not wish to see evil in him, which is an illusion of the demon, and which is in me also; I will be indulgent to his faults, for they are in me also; we have — the same sinful nature. You say that your friend has sins and great defects? So have you. — You say, that you do not love him because of such and such sins and defects. Then do not love yourself either, because you have the same sins and defects as he has. But remember, that the Lamb of God took upon Himself the sins of the whole world. "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant" for his sins, defects, and vices? Everyone " to his own master standeth or falleth."[580] But, in accordance with Christian love, you must be indulgent in every possible way to the faults of your neighbour, you must cure him of his wickedness, of his spiritual infirmity (for every coldness, every passion is an infirmity) by love, kindness, meekness, humility, as you yourself would wish to receive from others, when you suffer from a similar infirmity. For who is not subject to infirmity? Whom does the most evil enemy spare? Lord! destroy all the snares of the enemy in us.

love your neighbour as your own self, magnanimously bearing with his faults, infirmities, errors, the outbreak of his passions.

Love your neighbour as yourself; for, by loving your neighbour you love yourself, whilst by hating your neighbour, you before all do harm to yourself, you before all hate your own soul. You know this by experience. O, most wise, creative, and life-giving laws of the Lord! How good it is to fulfil them, although the flattery of sin makes their fulfilment difficult. How blessed is the Lord's yoke for the soul, and how light His burden, that is, His commands.

To love your neighbour as yourself, to sympathise with him in his joy and sorrow, to feed, clothe him, if he is in need of food and clothing; to breathe, so to say, the same air with him — look upon all this as the same thing as feeding and warming yourself, and do not count these as virtues or as works of love to your neighbour, lest you grow proud of them. "For we are members one of another."[901]

My God! how the love and sincere sympathy of our neighbour towards us rejoices our hearts! Who shall describe this blessedness of the heart, penetrated with the feeling of others' love towards me, and my love to others? It is indescribable! If here on earth mutual love so rejoices us, then with what sweetness of love shall we be filled in heaven, when we shall dwell with God, with the Mother of God, with the heavenly powers, with God's saints? Who can imagine and describe such bliss, and what earthly temporal things should we not sacrifice in order to obtain the unutterable bliss of heavenly love? God, Thy name is Love! Teach me true love, strong as death. I have most plenteously tasted its sweetness from my communion in the spirit of faith, in Thee, with Thy faithful servants, and have obtained plenteousness of peace and life through it. Strengthen, O God, that which Thou hast created in me. O, had it ever been thus all the days of my life! Grant that I may oftener be in the communion of faith and love with Thy faithful servants, with Thy temples, with Thy Church, with Thy members!

The loving Lord is here: how can I let even a shadow of evil enter into my heart? Let all evil completely die within me; let my heart be anointed with the sweet fragrance of goodness as with a balsam. Let God's love conquer thee, thou evil Satan, instigating us, who are evil by nature, to evil. Evil is most hurtful both to the mind and to the body. It burns, it crushes, and it tortures. No one bound by evil shall dare to approach the throne of the God of love.

Up till now you have not learned to love your neighbour. You answer men's dislike towards you by dislike on your part. But do the contrary; answer others' dislike by heartfelt goodwill and love; the more dislike you see towards you, the more you should love. Dislike is a malady, and a sick person should be more pitied, should be shown greater care and greater love, exactly because he is ill. Do you not know that the bodiless enemy uses his craftiness against all, infects all with the poison of his hatred? And you, too, are not exempt from his craftiness. Do not serve him, then, the spirit of enmity, but serve the God of love with the utmost zeal. Remember that God the Word died for your brethren.

...it is wisdom to love your enemies and not to take vengeance upon them either by word, thought, or deed;

Parents and teachers! Beware and be most careful not to let your children be capricious; otherwise they will soon forget to value your love; their hearts will be corrupted with wickedness; they will soon lose holy, true, glowing love from their hearts, and, on reaching maturity, they will complain bitterly that in their youth you spoilt them too much and encouraged them in their caprices. Capriciousness is the germ of the corruption of the heart, the rust of the heart, the moth of love, the seed of evil, and an abomination to the Lord.

As the Holy Trinity, our God is One Being, although Three Persons, so, likewise, we ourselves must be one. As our God is indivisible, we also must be indivisible, as though we were one man, one mind, one will, one heart, one goodness, without the smallest admixture of malice — in a word, one pure love, as God is Love. "That they may be one, even as We are One."[210]

Holy Virgin, our Lady! Thou, Whose love to Christians surpasses the love of every earthly mother, of every wife, hear our prayers and save us! May we constantly remember Thee! May we always pray fervently to Thee! May we ever undoubtingly and unfailingly take refuge beneath Thy holy protection!

Love every man in spite of his falling into sin. Never mind the sins, but remember that the foundation of the man is the same — the image of God. Other people's weaknesses strike us: they are malicious, proud, envious, avaricious, covetous, greedy; but you too are not without evil — perhaps even there is more in you than in others. At least in respect to sins men are equal. It is said: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."[218] All are guilty before God, and we all equally require His mercy. Therefore, besides loving each other, we must bear with each other and pardon — "forgive them that trespass against us" — in order that our heavenly Father may "forgive us our trespasses." Thus, with all your soul honour and love in every man the image of God, not regarding his sins, for God alone is Holy and without sin; and see how He loves us, how much He has created and still creates for us, punishing us mercifully and forgiving us bounteously and graciously. Honour the man also, in spite of his sins, for he can always amend.

Our love for God or for our neighbour will especially show itself, and its purity, strength, and constancy will be revealed when there is a contrary power (of the Devil) struggling and acting like fire in our hearts, and endeavouring to implant aversion, antagonism, contempt, hatred, and enmity in our hearts. Love is strengthened within us when the opposing forces endeavour, so to say, to uproot it, whilst we struggle in every way against these opposing forces, and by our struggle with the enemy purify, raise, and strengthen our love. It is in reward for this constant battle out of love for God and our neighbour, for this firmness, for this fiery, stubborn, constant, invisible war against the sub-celestial spirits of evil, that God weaves the shining heavenly crowns for the wrestlers of love for God and their neighbour. In this respect holy ascetics, known as the Holy Fathers, are worthy of thousands of crowns. They, out of love for God, forsook the world and all that is in the world; they went away into desert, uninhabited places, and there, shut up in their cells, they spent all their life in thinking of God, in prayer, in renouncing their own will, in fasting, watching, labouring, and in doing great deeds for the love of God, enduring during their whole life the assaults of the opposing forces, endeavouring by every means to shake their faith and trust in God, and especially their love for Him. To fight, for the love of God, against our own flesh and the Devil — that crafty, mighty, and evil enemy — not for some hours, days, and months, but for many years, sometimes sixty or seventy — is not this worthy of crowns?

My neighbour is a being with equal rights as myself, a man, like me also made after the image of God; and as he is the same as I am I must love him as I love myself. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,"[268] — therefore I must watch over him as over my own flesh and blood, behave lovingly, gently, and kindly to him, forgiving him his thoughts as I should willingly forgive myself my own, as I long for forgiveness or indulgence from others towards my own weaknesses — that is, that other people should not even notice them, as though they did not exist, or that they should notice them gently, kindly, pleasantly, and benevolently.

"Love thinketh no evil."[274] To think evil is the work of the Devil: it is the Devil in the man who makes him think evil. Therefore, do not have any ill-feeling in your heart against your friend, and do not think evil, lest you become united to the Devil. "Overcome evil with good"[275] — that is, the evil which you see or suspect. Your spiritual wisdom and your exploit of Christian love consist in this.

Worthless is the charity of the man who bestows it unwillingly, because material charity is not his, but God's gift, whilst only the disposition of the heart belongs to him. This is why many charities prove almost worthless, for they were bestowed unwillingly, grudgingly, without respect for the person of our neighbour. So also the hospitality of many persons proves worthless because of their hypocritical vain-glorious behaviour to their guests. Let us offer our sacrifices upon the altar of love to our neighbour, with heart-felt affection: "for God loveth a cheerful giver."[324]

Therefore let us strive to acquire mutual love, goodwill, and contentedness with what we have; friendship, hospitality, love for the poor, for the stranger, "and to attain to the summit of virtues," humility, meekness, gentleness, and holiness. Let us respect the image of God in each other, the members of Christ, our God, His Body, God's sons by adoption, the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, the dwellers with, and companions of, the angels in praising God. "That they may be one,"[365] as our God, worshipped in the Holy Trinity, is Himself one, and has created our hearts "as one" for unity — that is, simple, single.

God is love, a most-gracious, all-wise and omnipotent Being. Therefore, those who pray must believe that the Lord will give all things needful, bountifully, as He is loving, and bountiful wisely, as He is All-wise; and as He is omnipotent, there and then, when we do not expect.

What is the sign that a Christian man is near to Christ? The man who is near to Christ often turns with faith and love to Christ; often pronounces His sweetest name; often calls upon Him for help; often turns his eyes, thoughts, and heart towards Him. Christ the Lord naturally reveals Himself upon his lips and in his glance, because without Christ he is powerless, joyless. The man who is far from Christ seldom, very seldom, turns his thoughts toward Christ, and even then not with hearty faith and love, but only through some necessity, and as to a person who is little known to him, who does not rejoice him, does not delight his heart, and who has no attraction for him. This is why we see that those who are near to Christ do not let Christ out of their thoughts and heart; they live in Him; He is their breath, food, drink, dwelling — everything. Through the sweetness of His name and His beneficial touch they, so to say, cleave to Him with their whole being: "My soul hangeth upon Thee."[549] And in this cleaving they find unspeakable bliss, which the world does not know.

Therefore, in accordance with our Saviour's words, we must also love our enemies: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,"[394] for they, our brethren are also blind, have also gone astray.

It is necessary that the following words should be indelibly engraved upon our hearts, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,"[1332] and that these words should guide our heart upon meeting with anyone, at any time, whether he comes to us or we go to him; whether we have to do some work for him, or to give him anything, or simply to converse with him. Thus bear in your heart the words "love him as thyself," and carry on a perpetual mental war for the observance of these living words of our Lord. Force yourself to mutual love; intentionally trouble and disturb the worm of self-love and evil concealed within you; crucify it, and conquer it "by the power of the might"[1333] of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Love one another with a pure heart fervently."[1414] Remember these words of the apostle, and act in accordance with them. Forgive them that trespass against you, knowing that as the enemy disturbs you and sometimes sets you at enmity against others, so he also disturbs and sets them against you. Love and pity your enemies, as those who have gone astray. "Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing."[1415]

[67] St. Luke x. 21.
[73] St. Luke xvii. 21.
[74] 1 John iv. 16.
[123] St. John i. 9.
[124] 1 John iv. 16.
[125] 1 Corinthians xiv. 1.
[126] Galatians v. 24.
[127] St. Matthew xxii. 39.
[186] 1 John iv. 9
[210] St. John xvii. 22.
[218] Romans iii. 23.
[268] St. Matthew xxii. 39
[274] 1 Corinthians xiii. 5.
[275] Romans xii. 21.
[324] 2 Corinthians ix. 7.
[365] St. John xvii. 22.
[394] 1 St. Matthew v. 44.
[424] St. Matthew xviii. 21, 22.
[425] St. Luke vi. 27, 28.
[436] St. Luke vi. 27, 35, 28, 30.
[437] Job i. 21.
[438] Psalm xxxvii. 11; St. Matthew v. 5.
[509] St. Matthew vi. 24.
[534] St. John iv. 20.
[535] Galatians v. 24.
[546] Ephesians iv. 32.
[549] Psalm lxiii. 9.
[580] Romans xiv. 4.
[624] Hebrews ii. 11.
[666] Psalm xxiii. 1
[667] Romans viii. 32.
[668] St. John xv. 17.
[718] St. Mark xii. 30, 31.
[721] St. Matthew vi. 33.
[746] Romans viii. 35.
[761] St. Matthew xviii. 20.
[762] St. John xiii. 35.
[780] St. John xv. 13.
[792] St. Matthew v. 47; St. Luke vi. 32.
[794] Romans viii. 35, 38, 39.
[795] Psalm lxv. 8.
[796] St. Luke xiv. 26; St. Matthew xvi. 24.
[797] St. John xiv. 23, 24.
[806] St. John xvii. 3.
[823] Prayer of St. Ephraem the Syrian.
[901] Ephesians iv. 25.
[924] St. John xv. 13.
[961] 1 Corinthians xiii. 8.
[1171] St. Matthew v. 44.
[1227] St. John xiv. 15.
[1332] St. Mark xii. 31.
[1333] Ephesians vi. 10.
[1414] 1 Peter i. 22.
[1415] 1 Peter iii. 9.

Excerpts compiled from: My Life in Christ or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God, St. John of Kronstadt.