Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Human Nature and Love of God

"Love of God is not something that can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same --perhaps even more so--with our love for God."
--St. Basil the Great

"Love of God does not come to us simply or automatically, but through many sufferings and great concern in cooperation with Christ."
--St. Gregory of Nyssa

Here, the two great brothers get at the heart of the human dilemma. Love for God is natural, but because of sin, it is difficult. Put another way, human beings must work diligently to become what they by nature are. This is the case for nothing else in creation. A cat is born fully a cat, and its perfection comes as a simple course of nature. "Everything is perfect. Everything except man is sinless [taught the Elder Zosima in The Brothers Karamazov]." Man must struggle for perfection. It is a greater perfection than what can be achieved by the natural world, because, to paraphrase Pascal, we can be aware of our perfection. But if we do not take up this struggle, it is not unfair to say that we are worse than the animals.

We should recognize with Basil that this struggle is in fact pleasurable if we have the eyes of faith to see it. By coming to know Christ, we come to have a continual inward rejoicing, such as we have naturally when we step outside on a sunny day. This is the glory of God alive in us, the Spirit dwelling in us.

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Origen of Alexandria
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