St Clement of Rome: Are You Faultless in Love?

Forefeast of the Transfiguration and Feast of St Eusignius the Martyr of Antioch

Clement_Square_2.jpgBECAUSE OF our recent series of unexpected misfortunes and set-backs, my dear friends, we feel there has been some delay in turning our attention to the causes of dispute in your community. We refer particularly to the odious and unholy breach of unity among you, which is quite incompatible with God’s chosen people, and which a few hot-headed and unruly individuals have inflamed to such a pitch that your venerable and illustrious name, so richly deserving of everyone’s affection, has been brought into serious dispute. [. . .]

There must be no time lost in putting an end to this state of affairs. We must fall on our knees before the Master and implore Him with tears graciously to pardon us, and bring us back again into the honorable and virtuous way of brothers who love one another. For that is the gateway of righteousness, the open gate to life; as it is written, “Open me the gate of righteousness, that I may go in and praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall come in by it.” There are many gates standing open, but the gate of righteousness is the gate of Christ, where blessings are in store for every income who pursues the path of godliness and uprightness, and goes about his duties without seeking to create trouble. By all means let a man be a true believer, let him be capable of expounding the secrets of revelation, and a judicious assessor of what he hears, and a pattern of virtue in all his doings. But the higher his reputation stands, so much the more humble-minded he ought to be; and furthermore, his eyes should be fixed on the good of the whole community rather than on his own personal advantage.

If there is true Christian love in a man, let him carry out the precepts of Christ. Who can describe the constraining power of a love for God? Its majesty and its beauty who can adequately express? No tongue can tell the heights to which love can uplift us. Love binds us fast to God. Love casts a veil over sins innumerable. There are no limits to love’s endurance, no end to its patience. Love is without servility, as it is without arrogance. Love knows no divisions, promotes no discord; all the works of love are done in perfect fellowship. It was in love that all God’s chosen saints were made perfect; for without love nothing is pleasing to Him. It was in love that the Lord drew us to Himself; because of the love He bore us, our Lord Jesus Christ, at the will of God, gave His blood for us—His flesh for our flesh, His life for our lives.

See then, dear friends, what a great and wondrous thing love is. Its perfection is beyond all words. Who is fit to be called its possessor, but those whom God deems worthy? Let us beg and implore of His mercy that we may be purged of all earthly preferences for this man or that, and be found faultless in love. Though every generation from Adam to the present day has passed from the earth, yet such of them as by God’s grace were perfected in love have their place now in the courts of the godly, and at the visitation of Christ’s kingdom they will be openly revealed. For it is written, “Go into your secret chambers for a very little while, till my rage and my fury pass away; and then I will remember a day of gladness, and raise you out of your graves.” My friends, if we keep God’s commandments in a true loving comradeship together, so that our sins may be forgiven for that love’s sake, we are blessed indeed. It is written, “blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and over whose sins a veil is drawn; blessed is the man of whose sins the Lord takes no account, and on whose lips there is no deceit.” And this blessing was theirs who were chosen by God through Jesus Christ our Lord. To Him be glory for ever and ever, amen.

—St Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians

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