Friday, March 11, 2011

Father Alexander Schmemann on Christian Love

"Christian love is sometimes the opposite of 'social activism' with which one so often identifies Christianity today.  To a 'social activist' the object of love is not 'person' but man, an abstract unit of a not less abstract 'humanity.'  But for Christianity, man is 'lovable' because he is person.  There person is reduced to man; here man is seen only as person.  The 'social activist' has no interest for the personal, and easily sacrifices it to the 'common interest.'  Christianity may seem to be, and in some ways actually is, rather sceptical about that abstract 'humanity,' but it commits a mortal sin against itself each time it gives up its concern and love for the person.  Social activism is always futuristic in its approach; it always acts in the name of justice, order, happiness to come, to be achieved.  Christianity cares little about that problematic future but puts the whole emphasis on the now -- the only decisive time for love.  The two attitudes are not mutually exclusive, but they must not be confused.  Christians, to be sure, have responsibilities toward 'this world' and they must fulfill them.  This is the area of 'social activism' which belongs entirely to 'this world.'  Christian love, however, aims beyond 'this world.'  It is itself a ray, a manifestation of the Kingdom of God; it transcends and overcomes all limitations, all 'conditions' of this world because its motivation as well as its goals and consummation is in God.  And we know that even in this world, which 'lies in evil,' the only lasting and transforming victories are those of love.  To remind man of this personal love and vocation to fill the sinful world with this love -- this is the true mission of the Church."

-- from "Great Lent:  Journey to Pascha"

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