(This is Neil) Father John Breck’s column is always worth reading, but perhaps never so much as when he provides excerpts from Archimandrite Lev Gillet’s Amour Sans Limites, originally published in 1971 under the name of “A Monk of the Eastern Church.” I’ve provided excerpts of his earlier excerpts – here are links to parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight.
As before, here is an excerpt from an article in Jacob’s Well by Fr Michael Plekon about Lev Gillet (the article doesn’t seem to be online any longer, so the link is to a cached copy):
Thoroughly a Westerner, a Frenchman, and formed in the Roman Catholic Church, though he became fluent in Russian, completely assimilated in Orthodox theology and liturgy and something of a cultural cosmopolitan, he really could not be taken as “one of our own” by any of the jurisdictions to which he was attached, whether that of the Lviv diocese and Uniov monastery of Metropolitan Andrei Szeptyky, the Western European Exarchate of Metropolitan Evlogy, the patriarchates of Moscow and Constantinople to which he was later connected. He was never formally excommunicated by Metropolitan Andrei and was never asked to formally renounce anything when received into the Orthodox church by concelebrating the liturgy and during it confessing the Creed.
Perhaps despite all the small details of his personality and disappointments of his ecclesiastical activity, Fr. Lev is nevertheless a kind of sign of both the schism and its healing. There is a well-known statement, attributed both to Metropolitan Platon of Kiev and Metropolitan Filaret of Moscow, cited by none other than Fr Lev’s own bishop, Metropolitan Evlogy of Paris:
Men like St. Seraphim of Sarov and St. Francis of Assisi and many others have in their lives accomplished the union of the churches. Are they not citizens of the same holy and universal Church? At the level of their spiritual life they have gone beyond the walls which divide us, but which, in the fine expression of Metropolitan Platon of Kiev, do not reach up to heaven.
Here, then, is part of Fr Breck’s excerpt of Lev Gillet’s Amour Sans Limites:
“With what love, then, are you loved?” God asks. “I did not say, ‘You were loved.’ Nor did I say ‘You will be loved.’ I did not just love you yesterday or the day before. Nor is it simply tomorrow or the day after tomorrow that I will love you. You are loved today, at this very moment.
“So it is with every one of my human creatures. You express surprise, my child, and you question me, asking: ‘Really? Am I loved without exception?’ Yes, without exception. Yet you reply: ‘Lord, how can that possibly be? Can someone who sins against you be loved by you at the very same time?’ Yes, my child. If I did not continue to love a sinful person, would I let that person go on living? My Love is seated like a beggar before the door of someone who does not love. It waits. It will continue to wait. The length of time that I shall wait is beyond human comprehension. I wait. And who will be able to separate me from my beloved sinner?
“You see, then, my child, with what great a Love you are loved! I do not say you are ‘deeply’ loved or ‘greatly’ loved,’ or loved more or less than someone else. You have heard it said that I love some and despise others, that I love to very different degrees. This is because I have had to speak to human beings in human ways and in human language, in a pedagogical style, with poor human words that cannot possibly express divine realities. Nevertheless, in my indivisible Love there is neither ‘more’ nor ‘less.’ My Love is pure quality, containing nothing quantitative, nothing measurable. In its infinite fullness it is offered to all people equally. I can only love in a divine way. That is, entirely, giving myself totally in and through it. It is my human creatures who open themselves more or less – or else close themselves entirely – to my Love.
“Let me use an image. Divine Love is like atmospheric pressure that surrounds and weighs upon every creature. It besieges everyone, desires to conquer everyone. It seeks to force an opening, to find a pathway leading to the heart, in order to fill the person entirely. The difference between the sinner and the saint is that the sinner closes his heart to Love, whereas the saint opens it to that Love. Yet it is the very same Love, offered to both, that attempts to fulfill both. The one rejects it, the other accepts it. There is no acceptance, though, without grace, and that grace is immeasurable.”
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