He who loves, ought so to love, that if he were asked even for his soul or life, and it
were possible, he would not refuse it. I do not say, 'if he were asked,' but so that he
would even run to present him with the gift. For nothing, nothing can be sweeter than
such love; nothing will fall out there that is grievous. Truly 'a faithful friend is the
medicine of life' (Ecclus. 6:16). Truly 'a faithful friend is a strong defense' (Ibid. 14).
For what will not a genuine friend perform? What pleasure will he not afford, what
benefit, what security? Though you should name infinite treasures, none of them is
comparable to a genuine friend...
A friend rejoices at seeing his friend and expands with joy. He is knit to him with a
union of soul that affords unspeakable pleasure. And if he only calls him to
remembrance, he is roused in mind, and transported. I speak of genuine friends, men
of one soul, who would even die for each other, who love fervently. Do not, thinking
of those who barely love, who are table-companions, mere nominal friends, suppose
that my discourse is refuted. If anyone has a friend such as I speak of, he will
acknowledge the truth of my words. He though he sees his friend every day, is not
For him he prays for the same things as for himself ...so dear a thing is a good friend,
that times and places are loved on his account. For as bodies that are luminous
spread their radiance to the neighboring places, so also friends leave a grace of their
own in the places to which they have come. And oftentimes in the absence of friends,
as we have stood in those places, we have wept, and remembering the days which
we passed together, have sighed...
From a friend we may both ask a favor, and receive one without Suspicion. When they
enjoin anything upon us, then we feel indebted to Them, but when they are slow to
do this, then we are sorrowful. We have nothing which is not theirs. Often despising
all things here, on their account we are not willing to depart from here; and they are
more longed for By us than the light... And do not wonder: for it would be better for
us were the sun to be extinguished, than that we should be deprived of friends,
better to live in darkness, than to be without friends...
I speak of spiritual friends, who prefer nothing to friendship. Such was Paul, who
would willingly have given his soul, even though not asked; more, he would have
plunged into hell for them. With so ardent a disposition ought we to love ...
But consider, in the time of the Apostles, I do not speak of the chief men, but of the
believers themselves generally, 'all,' he says, 'were of one heart and soul: and
neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own ...and they
distributed to each, as anyone had need' (Acts 4:32,35). There were then no such
words as 'mine' and 'yours.' This is friendship, that a man should not consider his
goods his own, but his neighbor's, that his possessions belong to another; that he
should be as careful of his friend's soul, as of his own, and the friend likewise. And
where is it possible, somebody says, that such a one should be found? Because we
have not the will, for it is possible. If it were not possible, neither would Christ have
commanded it; he would not have discoursed so much concerning love. A great thing
is friendship, and how great, no one can learn, and no discourse represent, but
He who loves does not wish to command, nor to rule, but is rather obliged when he is
ruled and commanded. He wishes rather to bestow a favor than to receive one, for he
loves, and is so affected, as not having satisfied his desire. He is not so much
gratified when good is done to him, as when he is doing good. For he wishes to
oblige, rather than to be indebted to him; or rather he wishes both to be beholden to
him, and to have him his debtor. And he wishes both to bestow favors, and not to
seem to bestow them, but himself to be the debtor ...This God also has done in the
case of men. He purposed to give His own Son for us; but so He might not seem to
bestow a favor, but to be indebted to us, He commanded Abraham to offer his son...
And these things indeed are so here. But from God the reward of friendship is so
great, that it cannot be expressed.
From: St. John Chrysostom. Homily 11 on I Thessalonians I. B#57, pp. 329-332. The
Bible and the Holy Fathers, pp.481-482
|St. John Chrysostom