Monday, March 9, 2015

Met Georges Khodr: God is Love

Arabic original here.

God is Love

I have a little office in my village from which I look down at Beirut. I used to take pleasure in it when I was a student in the early 1940s. Achrafiyeh, where I did my university studies, felt small to us as we walked from home to the university. In front of me is an office that does not hold all my books and there are more books behind me. Pens and paper. Why didn't I play in school and out of school? It seems that play was essential for you to have friends. Everything happened to much such as though I had books instead of friends. It was after school that I learned friendship.

Many of those whom I have loved have been called back by their Lord over the decades. I do not arrange life. I submit to the One who has arranged it. There is sorrow in this, but there are also consolations, until your Lord brings us back to the faces that we have loved. Why did he choose this one or that from among my comrades? That is His affair and we remain with those whom He has left for us.

A person is a face toward you. People are in what they face, if God is in them. Everything apart from Him is flesh and blood. If someone does not come to you from God, then you do not have a profound encounter with him. Life is not you, but rather you and the other. You can exercise thinking, but this doesn't change those who are always around you.

I do not know anyone who does not want to be loved. When John the Beloved said, "God is love", he did not mean that it is one of His attributes. He meant that He is love. The Apostle John did not say that God loves. He said that He is love, as though he meant that there is nothing in Him but that. If love is God or God is love, where do you go from there? Is anything possible after that?

What does Beirut know of God? Before old age approached, I came to understand that God is a stranger to many people. They use Him. They want Him for themselves. Who says in himself, "I belong to God alone"? If you say this, you by necessity mean that you belong to all people. If Beirut does not know God alone, higher than all existence, then what does it really know about existence?

We do not have a definition of God. Reason knows that He exists and does not know anything more. Faith knows that He is love. Apart from that are feelings. They are an approach. You are in God and He is in you. This is an experience. The most profound knowledge that you have of Him is that you love Him starting from the knowledge that He loves you. If you say anything else, you are bringing in words from reason alone. Reason is limited in its humanness and knows nothing more than that God exists. As for God's profundity, you may only know it through grace-- that is, if you become divine, resembling God. It is then that it is right for me to say that there is a kinship between God and me.

If you say that between you and God there is a kinship, that you are of His nature, I have no objection to this because in love He has made you of His nature, since He has adopted you. We obediently reciprocate this love from God and it is Christian dogma that we love Him because He loved us first. He is the initiator. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." The spiritual life is a journey from Him and to Him. Along the way, we come across the saints, but they are not the end.

When John the Beloved says, "God is love," he means that He is all love and that there is no love except in Him. In it, you do not only convey your feeling. You convey God through grace. In the Eastern Christian understanding, grace is uncreated. That is, you cannot separate it from God. When we say that a person loves, if we intend a divine source for this love, we mean that this person subsists in God and moves by God. To put it directly, we mean that the God who dwells within you is the one who is loving. The sense is thus made complete: if you love, then God is in you and He is the one who is loving.

So if we say, "God is love," and we mean that He is love, then love is everything and the rest of the virtues are its fruits. This becomes true for you in your experiencing divine love, if it is poured out upon you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for translating the words of this wonderful theologian of our times. I can tell that it wasn't easy doing that, as the Arabic original is quite difficult in itself.