St. Maximos, 4th century of love, #26-54

There are these moments in our lives, when we are filled with love for a person or the grandeur of the universe around us; when things seem suffused in light and everything appears possible.  Hatred then can only be aroused by the devil since it deprives us of the peace and harmony that love brings to our soul.

  1. Because today an assault of the devil has aroused some hatred in you, do not judge as base and wicked a brother whom yesterday you regarded as spiritual and virtuous; but with long-suffering love dwell on the goodness you perceived yesterday and expel today’s hatred from your soul.

Hatred, and related emotions of irritability, resentment and envy, can be aroused at any time and about anybody—even those we most love, admire or nurture. The solution is not to allow hatred to obscure your experiences of goodness and love

Do not condemn today as base and wicked the man whom yesterday you praised as good and commended as virtuous, changing from love to hatred, because he has criticized you; but even though you are still full of resentment, commend him as before, and you will soon recover the same saving love.

In the end, St. Maximos exhortations for love are not little aphorisms to memorize or rules to passively obey but a make a case for salvation and spiritual survival.

We are to spare no effort in freeing ourselves from hatred because succumbing to bitterness and resentment will strip us from the joy, peace, hope and love we are meant to inhabit and which will unite us with God.  “The deiform soul,” St. Maximos reminds us, “cannot nurse hatred against a man and yet be at peace with God, the giver of the commandments.”

When overwhelmed by resentment, instead of justifying it and fanning the flames, our goal must be to recover the love we once had for that person and for God.

St. Maximos gives many practical tools for quenching resentments against others by directing our efforts at the recovery of love rather than on nurturing thoughts of insult, jealousy and resentment:

If a brother happens to be tempted and persists in insulting you, do not be driven out of your state of love, even though the same evil demon troubles your mind. You will not be driven out of that state if, when abused, you bless; when slandered, you praise; and when tricked, you maintain your affection. This is the way of Christ’s philosophy: if you do not follow it you do not share His company.

What drives us in periods when we seem to be always angry and irritated with everybody, filled with self-pity and resentment? For Maximos, this happens when the pursuit of fame or recognition, obsessions with material things or an outcome we believe we are entitled to achieve, dominate our thoughts.

“The man who still loves empty fame, or is attached to some material object,” Maximos writes, is naturally vexed with people on account of transitory things, or harbors rancor or hatred against them, or is a slave to shameful thoughts.

And the solution is tough and yet uncomplicated:

Stop pleasing yourself and you will not hate your brother; stop loving yourself and you will love God.

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