Friendship is your relatedness to another in a specific way and it is reciprocal in honesty and abundant in intimacy, without [pursuing] any benefit in this world. [Friendship] is a mystery, since you do not know how it befalls, and in French literature we read, “This is my friend, since he is he and I am I.” The two sides [of friendship] are recipient of divine love. [Friendship] has no condition other than the continuous virtue of the two friends and it is [founded] on truthfulness alone, while itself has the power of its own endurance. In this sense, though it might look like a dual relationship, yet God, whether you name God or no, is in its midst. God strengthens and nourishes it, so that both sides might reach at complete transparency.

[Friendship] exists among people, since none of us can live in isolation. Everyone needs integrity and a supportive communion in order that he/[she] might perceive his/[her] existence, not only in his/[her] own characteristics, but also in the Other’s, which support him/[her]. It is a communion of life and collaboration. You are in need of someone who takes care of you and supports you, someone who purifies you and raises you from spiritual death, whenever it strikes you. Thus, it is a resurrective power because of the joy it brings and because of the one you receive. Joy comes from the paschal essence inherent in every human being.

There is disclosedness in being truthful, since you are looking for help, and [you desire] to free yourself and rise. There is no such breaking of the commitment [that you have made] to give [to one another], so that you might not become confined and return to your desert, falling into despair. Aristotle had said, “O my friends, there is no friend.” No, there are truthful people, who desire to become more virtuous and they choose the noble ones to raise them up. No doubt, not all friends enjoy equal friendliness, however there would be a friend whom you need, similar to your need of a spouse. Friendliness has levels, and those who are abundant in both friendliness and purity are rare, since virtues are rare and arduous. And whenever they become deficient in the person, then, the relationship vanishes and your choice become wrong.

However, when friendship lasts it means that it has descended from heaven and thus, it is not a passing intimacy. And here we must refer to love [in its divine sense], which does not carry the sense of specification, rather it brings all together. Its goal is any human being, whether he/[she] gave you [something] or no, whether he/[she] returned your service back or didn’t. It is absolutely free, i.e., it is not based on any reciprocity or exchange. You love someone since he/[she] needs you, or more accurately, since he/[she] needs divine giving present in you. You might serve him/[her] and leave, and you might not return to him/[her] unless you know that he/[she] is in need of you and you of him/[her]. He/[she] is a mere human being, who cries, suffers, or is isolated and you become his/[her] savior, since God has delegated you for a saving act at an appropriate time, and then God might delegate you to save another. You walk in the desert of existence to come to the aid of an abandoned person, and you become indigent of him/[her] whenever you give. You might become completely, or almost completely, indigent in materialistic sense, since existence belongs to the Other, who is with you, and through giving him/[her] you are giving (or lending) God, as the Bible maintains [See: Proverbs 19: 17]. This is the perfect giving, since you were wiped out to ascend the Other in order that he/[she] might not be wiped out by the hardness of the hearts.

Thus, it does not matter for you whether he/[she] follows the same religion as yours, or a different religion, or whether he/[she] is embellished by divine glory or the devil’s ugliness, since you have decided to see God in him/[her]. Doctrines are different and love is one for all people, since through that you became the friend of God.

In the gospels, there are many references to generous [free] giving. We cite from Luke this saying: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” (Luke 6: 35) And here we have a theological point that free giving raises you from the rank of slaves to the rank of children. And the subsequent point is that the wicked ones are also children, since in God’s view all people are equal in value and their rank as children is freely given.

This reading of mine is founded on his saying after the previous words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. … A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” When you give, God gives you abundantly. God deals with you in a way better than the way you deal with others. The Gospel passes over calculation.

Therefore, he could say, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good”. (Luke 6: 45) Thus, you do not look [to the Other] through human wisdom, which tells you to look at your treasure and give whatever you could in order that something is left for you. Rather, divine wisdom that is within you tells you to look through your loving heart and give whatever your heart orders you to give, so that your heart might pour forth. And if you were not bound to one penny, you hand that penny over to the Other and give in order to save your heart from death, of which parsimony is one side. Parsimony is to defend that whatever you have is essential for you. However, nothing in world is essential unless you devote it to the Other, and God will recompense love by love. And in case you were not essentially set aside for divine love, whenever you give, God will endow you with personal love since you are a son/[daughter] as all children and God is free with God’s friends. In this sense, God is not the beloved of those prestigious ones; rather God is their lover. The lover of God might reach a point where God does not perceive him/[her] as merely a lover, rather as the essence of love [in the sense of eros], as St. Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 117) had said about Christ, “Christ, my Eros, has been crucified”.

The Holy Bible has borrowed both terms: compassion and compassionate [in Arabic: raḥma; raḥīm] from the womb [raḥm] of the woman. The root of the words [in Arabic] is one, thus, the rational meaning is taken out of the sensible. The compassion of the heart involves the amplitude, which gives birth for many children, and if we were all the children of God, after we were set free from the slavery of sin, we receive compassion through God’s nature, without measuring, distinction or judgment. That is why our ascetic Fathers, who fought the good fight, [who were exposed to] non-stopping hardships, have all said that you do not enter heaven by your own strive, rather by the compassion of God, i.e., God is who accepts you with mercy, since, through belovedness that you have received, you became from the family of the Father.

Hence, God does not count your sins; rather you count them in order to repent to God, feel owe and restrain. Then, you would not remain merely an earthly human being. The Lord knows that you are made out of the earth; however, God would not look at your earthly nature, rather to what has emanated from God to you, i.e., the inherent light in you. God sees whatever God wants to see, and God’s eyes are God’s. A day will come on the way of your salvation, when you will say, “in thy light do we see light.” (Psalm 36: 9)

What mystery is all this about? The gospels have told about compassion, divine kindness, humility and meekness of Jesus of Nazareth, who is the face of God for us. One person, and that is John the Evangelist, had said, “God is Love”. At a first reading, he sounds saying that love brings together, or summarizes, all God’s attributes. At a final, refined reading, I have to say that God in God’s essence is love and not only in God’s attributes. God is love in Godself and in God’s work. All the love you have for others, far and near, pours forth within you into this love and then you will be deified or deific.

Before that, nothing is required from you here other than to love. Through the one Divine Love, you embrace both your enemy and your friend. You call upon [God] your Lord, and God responds to you, since God has nothing other than that which is in God’s essence. And in your heart remains no distinction between heaven and earth, or more accurately, whatever from the earth you have in your heart you make it a heaven, thus the Kingdom of heaven would have entered within you. Whenever you admit that [God] the Creator reigns over you, God confers upon you the Kingdom and brings you into God’s grace, sitting on God’s right side upon the throne, since Christ has sit on the Father’s right side in order that you might sit with Him.

This requires obedience from you and compassion from the Father, a calling from compassion to obedience and from obedience to compassion.

Translated by Sylvie Avakian-Maamarbashi

Original Text: “بين الصداقة والمحبة” –An Nahar- 26-01-2008