The above quotation is from 1st Corinthians, chapter 13, the beautiful chapter on agape love. The last two days of June and the first day of July, we commemorate in order, Sts. Peter and Paul, the Holy Apostles and the healing unmercenary saints, Cosmas and Damian. These saints are amongst the greatest examples in Christianity, for all times, of love. Two of my personal favorite saints are Sts. Cosmas and Damian. There were two and maybe three sets of saints who were brothers with the names Cosmas and Damian, all of whom were physicians from wealthy families, who healed, receiving no pay. The main reason that they are amongst my favorite saints is because they are the Patron Saints of the Athenagoras National Retreat Center near Cheyenne, Wyoming. The Center is presently in the process of closing. However, when it opened in the summer of 1978, I was a camp counselor in the first summer camp. Fr. Dean Talagan and others began the Center that year and he ran the first camp, only weeks after Presbytera Marsha and I were married. I had just completed my first year at seminary and Marsha worked as the church secretary in Cheyenne that summer. We had nearly 100 campers from throughout the Diocese and the country that year. Our arts and crafts project was to make an icon of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, which I still have.
The epistle reading on their feast days (July 1 and November 1) is from 1st Corinthians chapter 12 and 13, focusing on agape or unconditional love. Do you realize that there are four words for love in Greek? They are: ‘eros”; “storgefilia”; and “agape”. Now, the English word, ‘love’, can be applied to almost anything. In English, one can ‘love’ a house, a car, a hairstyle, a good juicy steak, a piece of cheesecake or baklava, and one’s spouse. The same word can be used for all. It is not so, however with the language of the New Testament. In fact, one would not use any of the four Greek words for love for anything inanimate. They are words of interpersonal relationship appropriate for God, human relationships and perhaps, our pets. ‘Eros’ is often associated with a sexual attraction love. It is a love whereby one’s loved one becomes the object of focus. ‘Storge’ is a natural love, say between a parent and their child. ‘Filia” is a friendship love where the sharing of common interests and focuses bring people together. ‘Agape’ is an unconditional love, where one gives freely without expecting anything in return. It is referred to by the famous English author of blessed memory, C.S. Lewis as the ‘Queen of loves’, a divine gift love. It is divine as it is from God and concerned with giving rather than with receiving. This is the love of 1st Corinthians and the main love focused upon throughout the New Testament. This is the love expressed by the incarnation, as, in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, God becomes a man. This is the love of the Trinity, at once interpersonal amongst the three Persons of the Godhead, and between Creator and creature. This is the love of the greatest of commandments: “… You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (MT 22:37-40).
As we remember the great saints, Peter and Paul, the Holy Apostles and Cosmas and Damian, let us honor them by loving our Lord and one another with the agape love of our Lord Jesus. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (JN 3:16).
With our Lord’s blessings,