WHAT gain is there, my children, if someone has everything, but does not have love which saves?
For just as if someone were to make a great dinner in order to invite the King and the rulers, and were to prepare everything sumptuously, so that nothing might be lacking, but had no salt, would anyone be able to eat that dinner? Certainly not. But he would have lost everything he had spent and wasted all his hard work, and brought ridicule on himself from those he had invited.
So it is in the present instance. For what advantage is there in toiling against winds, without love? For without it every deed, every action is unclean. Even if someone has attained complete chastity, or fasts, or keeps vigil; whether they pray or give banquets for the poor; even if they think of offering gifts, or first fruits, or offering; whether they build churches, or do anything else, without love all those things will be reckoned as nothing by God. For the Lord is not pleased by them.
Listen to the Apostle when he says, ‘If I speak with the tongues of Angels and of humans; if I have prophecy and know all mysteries, and have complete knowledge, so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I gain nothing’. For one who has enmity against their brother and thinks they offer something to God, will be as though they sacrificed a dog, and their offering will be reckoned as the wages of prostitution.
Therefore never want to do anything without love, because love covers a multitude of sins. What good we despise! Of how many good things, of what joy are we deprived when we have not acquired love!
St Ephrem the Syrian, “Three Short Discourses”, Discourse I. From the Anastasis website.
THEREFORE once for all this short command is given to you: “Love and do what you will.”
If you keep silent, keep silent by love:
if you speak, speak by love;
if you correct, correct by love;
if you pardon, pardon by love;
let love be rooted in you,
and from the root nothing but good can grow.
St Augustine of Hippo (354-430)