Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dorotheos and the Wheel of Love

Dorotheos of Gaza (d. 620) is one of my favorite teachers from the early church. I have blogged a bit about him before. Here is the ending of a sermon Dorotheos preached On Refusal to Judge our Neighbor:

Each one according to his means should take care to be at one with everyone else, for the more one is united to his neighbor the more he is united to God.

And now I give you an example from the Fathers. Suppose we were to take a compass and insert the point and draw an outline of a circle. The centre point is the same distance from any point on the circumference. Now concentrate your minds on what is to be said! Let us consider that this circle is the world and that God himself is the centre; the straight lines drawn from the circumference to the centre are the lives of men. To the extent that the saints enter into the things of the spirit, they desire to come near to God; and in proportion to their progress in the things of the spirit, they do indeed come close to God and to their neighbor. The closer they are to God, the closer they become to one another; and the closer they are to one another the closer they become to God.

Now consider in the same context the question of separation; for when they stand away from God and turn to external things, it is clear that the more they recede and become distant from God, the more they become distant from one another. See! This is the very nature of love. The more we are turned away from and do not love God, the greater the distance that separates us from our neighbor. If we were to love God more, we should be closer to God, and through love of him we should be more united in love to our neighbor; and the more we are united to our neighbor the more we are united to God.

May God make us worthy to listen to what is fitting for us and do it. For in the measure that we pay attention and take care to carry out what we hear, God will always enlighten us and make us understand his will.

Discourses & Syaings, Desert Humor & Humility, p. 138-139

I recommend the whole book which is full of wisdom, encouragement, and challenge. I have found Dorotheos’ image of the wheel to be particularly fruitful and inspiring. It helps me understand Jesus’ Summary of the Law –"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it: You shall love you neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Mathew 22:37-40). It helps me understand the church as the school of that twofold love.

I wonder if one way to measure our faithfulness – our prayer, our worship, our thoughts, our speech, our actions, etc. – might be to assess whether they move us further along the line toward the centre of that wheel. If what we are about does not move us closer to God/neighbor and neighbor/God maybe we should be about something else.

Other related posts:

Basil the Great on Whose Feet Will You Wash?

Seraphim of Sarov and the Burden of One Another


Anonymous said...

And isn't the Trinity a wheel of Love?

Matt Gunter said...


Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Though "wheel of love" sounds a little to impersonal to me, you are onto something. One of the classical technical theological terms used to attempt to make sense of the Trinity is "perichoresis" which means something like "circle dance" or "dance around together". In my own attempt to say something about the Trinity, I have suggested that God might be understood as a friendship dance of love:

Grace and peace,