Armodoxy for Today: Love Defined
The statement made by Christ is John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son” has been referred to as the “Gospel in brief.” It is recited and re-recited by the young and old so frequently that many would be pressed to explain its meaning.
God sending His Son is the reason given as a demonstration of His love for the world. The statement presupposes that we know how the story is going to pan out, namely that Jesus will be Crucified. It is the Crucifixion that gives meaning to the statement, “God so loved the world that He gave his only Son.” The fact that God gives up and sacrifices His Son is the qualifier for His love. In other words, we understand that God must love us so much that He sacrifices His very best. Without this sacrificial act, the statement is empty.
In Armenian Orthodoxy the symbol of love is the cross. Quite different from the Western symbol of the red-heart made popular by Hallmark and candy companies vying for your dollars on Valentine’s Day, the Cross is true romance because in the symbol there is pain and suffering that is voluntarily given out of love.
Reflect on your own circumstance, on your own life… Who are the people that sacrificed for you? If you can think of a person then you are also thinking of the person who loves you. Love is painful because sacrifice hurts. Love is beautiful because sacrificing is the ultimate expression of beauty. The Cross is set apart as a symbol of magnificence because in it we understand, albeit only partially but still enough, that God’s love for us is the ultimate expression of caring, compassion and affection for us, because He gave His very best.
The Greeks use many words to describe Love, but three of them have been popularized in the Christianity, namely eros, philia and agape. Eros is the physical or sexual love. Think of the word erotic. Philia is the love between siblings, between friends. Think of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Agape is the God-love. It is unconditional. It is sacrificial and therefore, sacrificial love, as in “God so love the world…” is unconditional.
Armodoxy goes one step further. In the Armenian language, there is only one word for love, “սէր” (pronounced sehr) In this one word, the erotic, brotherly, and unconditional elements of love all come together, remarkably, but not surprisingly. Join me tomorrow as we continue with Armodoxy for today.
Let us pray, the prayer of St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, All the greatest pains become sweet for whoever looks at Jesus Christ on the Cross. Amen.