Love Establishes The Harmony We Need

Love Establishes The Harmony We Need October 12, 2022

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Base of an Altar Cross with Reading Angels Sitting on Dragons and Standing Church Fathers / Wikimedia Commons

“Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited” (Rom. 12:16 RSV). We are to give to everyone, especially those society looks down upon, love and respect. We must support human dignity. Those whom others would like to ignore, must not ignored; their inherent dignity must be made clear so that they can find their proper place in society.  Everyone should lovingly engage everyone else; we should all try to treat everyone as we would like to be treated. This is how society can establish the harmony it needs in order to sustain itself into the future.

While we must make sure everyone’s needs are met, we can and should do more than that. We should make sure everyone is free to seek after and attain the good they desire so long as if they receive it, no one, not them, nor anyone else, is needlessly hurt. We should not focus on basic needs, and think that is enough; we must find a way to make sure everyone is able to grow, and gain more and more of the good, transcending just their basic needs, in order to have a satisfying life. This way, if everyone gains more of what is good, and help develop the good in the world, the world itself is to gain. The balance and harmony which we are necessary for a society to flourish, therefore, will help provide for such goods, as Abba Zeno was discovered:

It was said of Abba Zeno , that from the outset he never wished to receive anything from anyone at all. Those who brought him something came away hurt that he had not accepted anything. Others came to him, wanting to receive some token from a great old man and he had nothing to give them so they too came away hurt. The old man said, ‘What shall I do, since those who bring things are hurt just as much as those who wish to receive something? I know what seems right to me: when someone brings me something, I will accept it and I will give it to anyone who asks me for something.’ So he did that and he was at peace and satisfied everyone. [1]

Some people had things they wanted to give to Abba Zeno, knowing in doing so, they were doing a good, and doing such good would help not only Zeno, but themselves as they would grow in the kind of charity they should have. Others wanted to be blessed by Zeno, to be given something from him, which they could take with them, something which could be a source of blessing for them for years to come. Zeno learned that the two different types of visitors, when considered as a whole, balanced each other out; those who gave him something were helping him have something to offer those who wanted some token of their visit with him. This is the kind of balance which society is to have, where those who have something to share should be encouraged to share it; then those who are in need, or want, can receive from those who have such a surplus, and as a result, harmony will develop. When such harmony is realized, based, as it is in charity and love, then grace can and will come in and make things even greater for all.

Not only is this what happens when we live in harmony, and find a way to be at peace with each other, but it is also true when we find inner harmony, when we find peace within by following a path between various extreme, often contradictory, wants and desires we have in our lives. What each of us needs to do to produce such internal harmony will differ, because we find ourselves coming from different contexts, dealing with different situations, and so having different impulses and desires to balance out. This is why it is important for us to come to know ourselves, to see all the different directions we find ourselves being pulled into, so we can discern, through them, how we are to bring them to a harmonious balance. It is also important understand that the best way to establish that harmony, is through love. For love, when embraced, can and should become the cornerstone of our work; it will lead us to receive the grace we need, making sure we do not do all things ourselves, while also making sure we do our part, as we act in and do all things through such love.

Paul said, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14 RSV). It is not just any kind of harmony, but perfect harmony which we should seek, the kind which promotes and engages that which is truly good.  Establishing it will help us find peace, not just within, but with others, achieving the balance which will make sure everyone benefits from our actions. Thus, the author of the Book of Hebrews implored:

Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled;  that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears (Heb. 12:14- 17 RSV).

We should not sell ourselves short, nor should we sell anyone else short. Love embraces everyone, and seeks to bring everyone together as one, so that as one, we can all be improved and made better. This is because we are, despite the way some of us think otherwise, interdependent, needing each other, as we help support each other in the world. This also means, however, the more we hinder someone from attaining what is good and true, the more we will all suffer, because where one of us is hurt, we all become hurt.

The more we embrace each other in love, the more the harmony we establish, the more we will attain the grace which we need, and with that grace, we will find our lives are getting better. We should never be jealous of others for the spiritual gifts they have received. We should understand that their gifts are meant to be shared. We can and will experience the blessings which come from them when we are united with them with love, even as they will experience and gain from our spiritual gifts and the blessings which come from them. Our gifts, indeed, can help bring us together, even as they can become even greater as we come together in harmony and love.

We need each other. Some, like Zeno, will become gifted in discerning how this balance is to be had, while others will have the gifts which are needed, or will be on the receiving end of such gifts. What is important is that everyone comes together, sharing and receiving from each other, so that through such mutual self-giving, bonds of love can form. Then, in what is revealed in that unity, we should realize we are at are best, not when we separate ourselves from others, but when we come together as one.

[1] The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. trans. Benedicta Ward (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1984), 65-6 [Saying of Abba Zeno 2]


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