Love for enemies is not a moral injunction, it is the fundamental criterion for the Christian way of life. This is Salvation. Yea, this is theosis.
I am afraid I must cool down the enthusiasms of the good doctor, but the fundamental criterion for the Christian way of life is LOVE FOR GOD and LOVE FOR THE NEIGHBOR! About the identity of your neighbor, the Lord explains it very clearly (hint: it’s NOT the enemy).
I would also like to ask for an answer from the good doctor about a couple of quotes from his essay:
By others, Salvation is often understood simply in terms of “deliverance from sin and its consequences and admission to heaven,” in terms of escaping damnation, that is, and reaching a safe place where we can no longer be tormented by the enemy. According to the Fathers of the Church, however, Salvation is not so prosaic a matter, for it involves the “theosis” (the deification or divinization) of the entire human person in Christ; it involves, that is, becoming like unto Christ to the point of identity with Him;
In other words, it proves to us that the example of Christ is also realizable, also attainable, by us human persons, and that theosis to the point of divine perfection, far from being optional, is in fact an obligation.
My questions are very simple. What does the good doctor think about the lot of all the Christians (99%, himself included; as for me, I’m not even sure to belong in the number of Christians, still not being able to force myself to the Liturgy every week) who have departed and will depart this life failing to reach “theosis”? Will they just be discarded, because not adequate to the height of the Divine Love? Did the Divine Love incarnate and suffer to the point of death, even the death of the Cross, to justify our weakness, just to deliver us to damnation because of our weakness? Is really God subject to the perfection of His Love? Must He really bow to His Love as a Necessity? I would humbly suggest that this is just very pompous blasphemy.
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
I would also suggest, even more humbly, to read the whole chapter 23 of St. Matthew’s Gospel. It’s very profitable, above all to understand correctly what it means the love for the enemies in the Christianity. The Love of the Lord for the enemies was never meant to justify them, apart from their repentance and turning to His redeeming Love!
If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.
He that hateth me hateth my Father also.
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.
The love for the enemy is an unceasing offer to them to repent and escape a terrifying lot, an entreaty till their last breath to come to their senses and return to God. It’s taking pity for unfortunate creatures of God busily preparing their destruction and offering prayers for them, even from the Cross or under their stones, so that they could amend their ways (as St. Paul did) by the Grace of God. We love sinners, never their sins. If they stay in their sins, they are aliens to us because they are aliens to God, deaf to His calling.
The love for the enemies is this unceasing calling, remembering that everybody was an enemy before the Incarnation and before his Repentance. That’s all! Nothing else, least of all a “fundamental criterion for the Christian way of life”.
It’s an unremitting call to repentance, in imitation of our Lord and God. It’s not salvation, even less “theosis to the point of divine perfection“. In that sense, theosis is an obligation only as a desire, a goal in the strenuous and sincere efforts of those who struggle daily to love God more than themselves and their neighbor as themselves (<= the fundamental criterion for the Christian way of life), but only the Mercy of God will grant that to most of them at last. Unless you are willing to claim that only the saints (and not even all of them) will be saved……
Let us lift up the eyes of our understanding to the Word who now sits, with His body, above the vaults of heaven. And He who sits in divine splendor on the right hand of majesty, utters these words to us as if from afar, “If anyone wants to stand in the presence of this glory, let him imitate Me as far as he can, and follow the way and the manner of life I taught on earth”.
St. Gregory Palamas
It would be a very strange love, indeed, that which cherishes the enemies and damn the faithful.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
Here! Nothing is more profitable than (re)turning to their word.
If ye love me, keep my word!
To love God is to live by His Word as a faithful member of His Body (the Church), conscious of our own weakness but even more conscious of His unfathomable Mercy. Salvation is always by His Grace, even for the greatest of His saints. Salvation is always a gracious concession by God. For sure, it’s not a matter of technical expertise. The Lord justified the publican and saved the thief on the cross. The only obligation is repentance (remembering that you cannot deceive God), and repentance is a perpetual. irreconcilable and uncompromising struggle against evil, AGAINST THE ENEMY and his offspring.
To love God is to live Christ, not to philosophize about Him, even less to philosophize about a few quotes from St. Silouan or Archimandrite Sophrony (a monk who, according to Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), wanted his monastery to be open to the spirit of the world, a monastery where monks and nuns live together…..).
Beware that false Christian love which exceeds love for Christ and is prepared to make any compromise with all forms of evil!
It’s St. Silouan himself who gives the path:
Keep your head in Hell and DESPAIR NOT!
This sentence, delivered directly by the Lord, is powerful and crystal clear, as only the Logos can be. It does not need any commentary or explanation, and even less it needs rapturous flights of fantasy out of misconceived love, a love which is indeed full of pride.
Theosis must be depurated from all these inanities and presented to the faithful, to us little ones, for what it is: the irresistible love for God which compels man to a violent and perpetual struggle against the fashionable nooses of this world to grow ever more in His likeness.
In Christianity yes is yes and no is no! If you do not follow this rule, you end up chattering about theosis, outlining it like some sublime ecstatic state reserved to a few selected ones, technically able to achieve it, and identifying exclusively that state with salvation; in short, you end up subduing God to His own perfection, to His own perfect Love, and delivering to desperation whoever takes you seriously. You can surely do better than blaspheming the Most Holy Trinity, God Almighty!
Do not I hate them that who hate You, O Lord? And do I not loathe them that rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
PSALM 139, 21