One of the most famous poems in the English Language is “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” by John Donne. This masterpiece works through a series of images that try to depict a couple’s love. The final image is that of a compass. I have sometimes wondered if Donne’s image was inspired by this passage from St. Dorotheos’s discourse, “On Refusal to Judge Our Neighbor.”
And now I give you an example from the Fathers. Suppose we were to take a compass and insert the point and draw the 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 suppose 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 degree 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 in fact 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 are 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 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.
More from St. Dorotheos
These stories are from St. Dorotheos’s discourse, “On Refusal to Judge Our Neighbor.” If you want to read more by St. Dorotheos, you’ll find it in Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. While you wait for your copy, you can read the rest of the discourse:
- St. Dorotheos of Gaza Explains What God Hates Most
- Isaac of Thebes and the Judgment, and the Tale of Two Slavegirls
- The Wisdom of Fishermen, and Abba Ammon and the Woman in a Barrel
The Uncondemning Monk: We know so little about this saint. Only that, in his life, he was the worst of all monks. But he never in all his life judged anyone.
In this family, we don’t judge: When judging others seems to be an insurmountable temptation, we have examples from the lives of the saints to help.
Justinian and Theodora: A Love Story: St. Theodora, the wife and co-ruler with St. Justinian the Great, is one of my very favorite saints.