Our Capacity for Love

thegirls.jpg

Our first child was born over 26 years ago. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by the event – staggered at the seriousness of what had happened in my life. Evey aspect of her coming into our life was new – and I felt completely unprepared. On her first night home from the hospital, I slept on the floor next to the crib fearing that I would not hear her if she woke (I got over that real fast).

 Two years later our second child was born. Again, it was overwhelming, but in a new way. Like many young parents I wondered secretly, “Will we be able to love two children like we have loved one? It was a silly question.

By the time our third was born I was beginning to understand. There is something about the human heart that allows it to expand. Love is not something you run out of. The more you love the more you love.

Fr. Sophrony Sakharov, in his writings about St. Silouan of Mt. Athos and the spiritual life, notes that “man as persona becomes infinite, despite his ‘creaturehood’.” (In I Love Therefore I Am, page 80)

Fr. Sophrony understands that, created in the image of God, the human person has a capacity for infinity, an ability to love, to be in relationship that is without limit. In such a sense, it truly becomes possible to pray for the whole world.

None of this is possible, of course, except for the healing grace of God at work in us, completing us and bringing us to the fullness of life for which we were created.

It seems to me important somehow that my vision for what is possible be stretched by such an understanding, just as my reality was stretched with the adding of children. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

5 comments:

  1. I must confess that my spiritual reading has not yet included Fr Sophrony. What would you recommend as a good starting point?

    And I’m really impressed that all three of your girls were facing the camera with big smiles! With our three, every picture features at least one with her tongue out and another with her eyes closed…

  2. There are several places to start, Mark. I think one of the best is his small book, The Monk of Mt. Athos, on the life of St. Silouan. If you’re theologically trained, Fr. Nicholas Sakharov’s I Love Therefore I Am, (SVS Press), is an excellent overview of Fr. Sophrony’s thought that also looks at him in the context of Russian theology of the time. Fr. Nicholas is Fr. Sophrony’s great nephew and is himself a monk at the Monastery of St. John the Baptist in Essex, England. His book is a publishing of what I understand to have been his doctoral thesis at Oxford. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with him this summer. Having started as a Doctoral Thesis, it necessarily gets a little technical at times – but, truth told, it’s worth the effort.

    The elder (Sophrony) represents a very important voice from the end of the 20th century, and a strong link to St. Silouan, whom many regarded as truly a saint for our time. I can testify that the legacy of the monastery of St. John in Essex, founded by the Elder Sophrony, is a living witness to the depth of his life and the importance of his spiritual labors.

  3. Another wonderful resource regarding Fr. Sophrony is a recorded series of lectures by his spiritual child, Archimandrite Zacharias. These are available through Orthodox Christian Recorded Books, and cover a great deal of ground. Even without his wonderful insights into both Elder Sophrony and St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, the lectures are a treat, simply to hear the love in the Archimandrite’s voice.

    All of that aside, what I really wanted to say is that I am very happy to have found this blog. My own has languished, largely because I perceived that I was straying from discussions of what is truly important into unfocused meanderings of a more profane sort. While I work on getting my bearings, it is very gratifying to find your thoughts on line.

  4. Seraphim,

    This is indeed a wonderful resource. It is a recording of his talks to the clergy retreat sponsored by the Antiochian Archdiocese (or one of their dioceses). I listened to it – Fr. Zacharias stories, as well as his teachings are exquisite.

  5. Mark,

    I should have said that (hopefully not embarrassing to my daughters) this is a delightful photograph from maybe 9 or 10 years back. The two oldest girls are now married to Orthodox priests and the youngest is a high-school sophomore. All three continue to smile frequently, and, even more frequently, to bring smiles to the face of their father.

    I have a son (not to slight him in the least) only he did not get the same special pajamas for Christmas that the girls did that year (for which he is grateful). He smiles a lot, too, and is always a smile in my heart.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *