Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet. That’s what it is! You must suffer. You must love and suffer–suffer for the one you love. Love makes effort for the loved one. She runs all through the night; she stays awake; she stains her feet with blood in order to meet her beloved. She makes sacrifices and disregards all impediments, threats, and difficulties for the sake of the loved one. Love towards Christ is something even higher, infinitely higher.
And when we say “love,” we don’t mean the virtues that we will acquire, but the heart that is pervaded by love towards Christ and others. We need to turn everything in this direction. Do we see a mother with her child in her arms and bending to give the child a kiss, her heart overflowing with emotion? Do we notice how her face lights up as she holds her little angel? These things do not escape a person with love of God. He sees them and is impressed by them and he says, “If only I had those emotions towards my God, towards my Holy Lady and our saints!” Look, that’s how we must love Christ our God. You desire it, you want it, and with the grace of God you acquire it.
St. Porphyrios (d. 1991), in Wounded by Love
One day, I was in an airport, at the luggage carousel waiting for my bags to come out.
While waiting, I noticed a young woman, maybe in her early twenties. It was obvious that she was waiting for someone who meant a lot to her. She was shifting on her tip-toes, with her head stretched up as far as it would go, looking for this person. She dodged her head left and right as the crowd moved in front of her, to catch the first possible glimpse.
And then, the moment.
Her eyes widened, and her mouth instantly formed a broad and open smile, seeming to silently shout ‘My love!’ As if with one motion, she briefly clapped her hands and bounced in excitement, and without hesitation started toward this person. Her strides were determined, and oblivious to the crowd around her as she made her way through.
As I lost sight of her, then glanced again to the carousel, which was moving now, the thought occurred to me, “I really hope that is what Christ’s second coming will be like for us.”
What a beautiful and terrible thought. We all know that our initial reaction to a circumstance, especially if it is a surprise, gives away our true thoughts or feelings, the inner state of the soul. When Christ arrives, what will our reaction be? Beaming, uncontainable joy, like the young woman in the airport? Or will it be dread and horror, in that moment when we realize all those things we decided not to take seriously were true after all, or we realize it’s too late to act on those matters of faith we thought we could worry about at a later time? As we hear from Christ’s own words in the gospel account of St. Matthew, “Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
It only seems right that we Christians would be the kind of people who live life in such a way that we are in constant anticipation of the arrival of our Love – that is, Christ — so that on that dreadful day of Judgment, we will only be ecstatic to see Him. Jesus’ words here should not induce panic or move us to live life in fear. On the contrary, they are an invitation to live life to its fullest, in love and in the path of God’s will, which ultimately leads to joy and eternal life.
The truth about a life led in this type of anticipation for Christ – like that of young lady in the airport waiting for her special someone – is that it makes Christ present in our lives all the time. It also makes Him present in the lives of others, through our witness. A life lived in the love of Christ makes Him present to us constantly; love in the Spirit does not wane on account of physical distance and separation. Rather, when Jesus comes on that fateful day, the ineffable joy that we will have will be for the longed-for beginning of our eternal life with God, finally putting off the weaknesses and sorrows of earthly life, participating in God’s eternity by His grace.
May the love of Christ pierce our hearts, and may our spirits ever be in eager anticipation of his arrival.