Monday, February 15, 2010

The Ultimate Meaning of Death: Lovelessness

It’s true: to be unable (or unwilling) to love – and by this we mean loving as Christ loved us, with a freely-willed, unconditional, self-sacrificial love that asks nothing in return and includes so-called enemies – to be without this kind of love is the worst aspect of death (as we had known it before Christ). It’s worse than being without sight or speech, worse than being without breath, worse than your heart being unable to beat. It’s far worse.

To be without this kind of love is to be dead already, spiritually. Yes, that’s exactly what spiritual death means: lovelessness. To be spiritually dead does not mean we cannot, with divine assistance, come to believe or that we cannot repent. It simply means love in us is inoperative. That’s another way of saying our spiritual life, life in and with the Spirit of God, doesn’t (yet) exist. “God is love, and he who lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”

And it (lovelessness) also affects us bodily, distorting our perceptions, darkening our reason, deforming our emotions, motivating our sins, making us miserable. In fact, the lovelessness (spiritual death) in us is the ultimate cause of the physical death to come.

Perhaps this explains why the saints often seem to us to be so profound and even clairvoyant. The love they have cultivated inside themselves, the life of Christ in them, cleanses the perceptions, the reason, the emotions, the motivations. They see and understand a lot more than the rest of us can. They are more aware than we are, are more alive than we are, who go about like sleepwalkers.

This also explains why “good works” (somehow a very wrong term) are something we Orthodox insist are necessary for salvation, and not merely symptoms of it. What we mean is, we must work hard at learning to love, at removing the obstacles within us and the many resistances to love. We must cease what Olivier Clement calls “the daily murder of love” in us. Because the more we grow in love, the more Christ’s life, which is eternal life, grows in us. The more awake and alive we become, the more conscious, the less crippled, the more whole, the healthier, the freer, the more full of joy and peace. The more able to live and rejoice in the glorious, divine Life hereafter, as well as here and now. The “more saved”.