Day 13: daily lent practice: How? Love your enemy

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your
neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love
your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those
who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you
and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father
in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the
good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you
love those who love you, what reward have you?”
(Matt 5:43-46)

“The purer the heart is, the larger it is, and the more able it
is to find room within it for a greater number of beloved ones;
whilst the more sinful it is, the more contracted it becomes,
and the less number of beloved can it find room for, because
it is limited by self-love, and that love is a false one; we love
ourselves in objects unworthy of the immortal soul — in silver
and gold, in adultery, in drunkenness, and such like.

We stand before the altar of love in the presence of
Incarnate Love Itself, but we have no love to each other. How
strange it is! And we do not even care about this. But love will
not come of itself without our zeal, efforts and activity.

Up till now you have not learned to love your neighbour.
You answer men’s dislike towards you by dislike on your
part. But do the contrary; answer others’ dislike by heartfelt
goodwill and love; the more dislike you see towards you, the
more you should love. Dislike is a malady, and a sick person
should be more pitied, should be shown greater care and
greater love, exactly because he is ill. Do you not know that
the bodiless enemy uses his craftiness against all, infects
all with the poison of his hatred? And you, too, are not
exempt from his craftiness. Do not serve him, then, the spirit
of enmity, but serve the God of love with the utmost zeal.
Remember that God the Word died for your brethren.

Love your enemy, and you will be wise. O, if only you knew
what a triumph, what blessedness it is to love your enemy,
and to do good to him! So did the Son of God, so did God in
the Holy Trinity, triumph, and still triumphs, through His love,
over the ungrateful and evil-natured human race; so also did
God’s saints triumph over their enemies, by loving them and
doing good to them.

Our love for God or for our neighbour will especially show
itself, and its purity, strength, and constancy will be revealed
when there is a contrary power (of the Devil) struggling and
acting like fire in our hearts, and endeavouring to implant
aversion, antagonism, contempt, hatred, and enmity in our
hearts. Love is strengthened within us when the opposing
forces endeavour, so to say, to uproot it, whilst we struggle
in every way against these opposing forces, and by our
struggle with the enemy purify, raise, and strengthen our
love. It is in reward for this constant battle out of love for
God and our neighbour, for this firmness, for this fiery,
stubborn, constant, invisible war against the sub-celestial
spirits of evil, that God weaves the shining heavenly crowns
for the wrestlers of love for God and their neighbour.”

St John of Kronstadt


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