When God looks upon us, tears well up in His eyes and His countenance is full of tenderness. There is no gaze so warm, no thought so pure, no heart so loving, as those of Him Who loved us and desired us from all eternity and Who did not hesitate to descend among us to deliver us from the death which we brought upon ourselves. For this reason, when you look upon any person, it is necessary first to see him through the eyes of God, to see him as God sees him, in order to accord him the highest honor, the sincerest attention, the most authentic love. Only in this way do you learn to commune with your neighbor. This is why Saint Anthony the Great says that my neighbor is my life, for salvation comes through my neighbor.
In a world in which we have all possible methods of communication at our fingertips, we observe with heavy heart that true communication itself is absent. The century that brought the fastest developments in technology and standard of living was able to be called, unfortunately rightly so, “the century of loneliness” (by Noreena Hertz, in a reference book). Our dependence on technology, major social changes, and educational model focused on the development of the ego all affected our ability to communicate, making us more isolated than ever. This isolation has given birth to depressive states, unbearable sadness, and the feeling of abandonment by those around us and even by God.
Communication is the natural setting for the expression of our person. If we do not yet express ourselves as authentic persons, it is because we have still not discovered our personal vocation. We express ourselves as individuals, meaning that we conduct ourselves according to the principle of egoism. Only once we surpass our egoism can we communicate authentically, even if this communication does not require many words. Words sometimes wear down or dilute true communication. The first law of communication is to carry the other in your heart, to care about him, to receive him as he is, without any inclination to change him even if you see something unbecoming in him. First, it is necessary to receive him in your heart. Afterwards, if you care about him, you pray for him, even if he does not show any openness towards you: this is the second step. And you should not limit your life only to your relationship with that person, for otherwise depression and sadness will soon come, and you will blame yourself for that person’s lack of openness towards you. On the contrary, it is better to keep him in your prayers, to avoid closing your heart to him, and to attend to your life, your vocation, always seeking to find yourself within God’s will. In this way, you are always offering that person an extended hand, which he can grasp whenever he pleases, whether he is going through a hard time, or he feels alone, or his mind is enlightened and he sees the openness that you have for him. Good will, openness, sincerity, prayer, refusal to judge, refusal to speak ill – these all help to reestablish the process of true communication with those around us. We won’t always find the right people, we won’t always receive what we offer, but we can at least open the door of our heart unto all. It is not easy, for here we are speaking of love. And love is always crucified. Yet it is also triumphant from the perspective of eternity.
Sometimes in our life, however, we do meet people with a true human spirit, i.e., people who know what it means to be human. They know that life is a gift from God for each one of us and they know how to value the life of others, so much so that they rejoice in encountering you even if they are seeing you for the first time ever, or even for the first time in over a year. For their heart has learned to treasure every person in part. It knows how assign the proper value to every person’s life, and this value is measured according to the standards of eternal life. I have personally met such people while bringing joyful tidings to the people in the villages of Bucovina, on both sides of the border that separates the Romanians in Romania from those in Ukraine. On the eves of Nativity and Theophany, I met good-natured people who were overjoyed to show hospitality to someone who would enter their home, especially in these times. People who have no fear except the fear of God and who know to hold onto their traditions as onto an anchor fixed in Heaven. They are the proof that the whole Tradition of our Church is not dead letter, but a medium of communication and communion, a medium in which everyone can meet and grow closer to one another and to God. Among them, I met a sweet grandmother who wished me something so simple yet essential: “My dear, may you have good will!” I was awestruck for a moment, but then this motto became for me a revelation. A revelation of the fact that good communication among people is founded upon the good will of each and every one of us. Good will leads to good understanding. It is the key that opens the door to good understanding.
There is an unwritten code in each tradition upon earth: behave towards the other not according to instinct, but according as is proper and decorous. For each person is worthy of respect and love in his capacity as a person, in his dignity as a human being. Even if some might claim that not all people are worthy of respect, nonetheless it is worth treating them as is meet, respecting their dignity as human beings created in the image of God, so that they might rediscover their own humanity. The honor which we offer such people helps them regain their dignity as human persons. Otherwise, our lack of good will and good decorum would show that, for us, the others have no existence, that we do not value or care for them. It is true that there is a good will or politeness that is formal and cold, but even this is much better than indifference, crudeness, or a superiority complex. Saint John Chrysostom urges us to exert our nature towards virtue until this becomes the natural mode of our existence. When we thus renew our nature, we will feel good will and good decorum as a warm openness towards all, as cordiality and amiability, as warmth of heart and joy of soul.
Protos. Gherasim Soca