St John the Evangelist and Theologian: God is love

BELOVED, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

1 John 4:11-16. This is the a reading for the Translation (Falling Asleep) of the Apostle, Evangelist and Theologian St John, which falls today (September 26).

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LOOK now at the relationship between fatherly affection and filial love. We can bring forward as an example the ideal family. How does the father feel disposed towards his children, to whom he has given a good upbringing, and how in turn do they feel disposed towards him? You can take a faint image from this. If you never saw this personally, any one of you, you have seen it close up, or you have heard it. Love exists there like a bond, the fragrance of Grace, which flows from the all-consuming love of God.

For God is not someone who has or is the source of love. He is very love itself. John, the great key-bearer of the deepest of mysteries, declares and thunders “God is Love” (1 Jn 4:8).

He does not say, God is called love, he has love, he is a source of love, but “God is Love”. He is absolute Love in itself, and “he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16).

So if we begin from this position, our relationships are clearly those of love. We submit to God not because we are afraid of him, but because we love him. We respond to his love, because he first “loved us”.

Διδαχές από τον Άθωνα, by Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi. Original here. For a video in which Elder Joseph makes a similar point, see here.

Elder Joseph speaks of John “thundering” because together with his brother James, John was one of the two “sons of thunder”. The word recurs frequently throughout today’s liturgy. You can find today’s services in English at Anastasis.

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O APOSTLE beloved of Christ our God, haste thee to deliver this people, for we have no excuse; for he accepteth thee falling down before him now, who accepted thee leaning upon his bosom. Plead with him, O Theologian, to scatter the persistent cloud of the nations, asking for peace upon us, and great mercy.

Apolytikion (Tone 2) for the Feast.

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