Come let us celebrate a true feast. Come let us dine together. Let us commune with the One who invites us to His table. Let us rejoice at this great feast. Let us share in His cup of life. Come let our souls be attuned together producing sounds of healing and restoration. Come let us celebrate our victory in Him. Let us come together in Him who calls us friends.
On the night He was to be betrayed, He gathered the ones whom He called friends and dined with them. They gathered around the same table and He taught them Love. He taught them friendship. He girded His waist and sat in the midst of our darkness.
He calls us friends but sadly we have the lost the art of friendship. We no longer celebrate friendship or know of gift that our Father has given us in friendship.
Yet our heart hungers for such a relationship as it battles through life trying to fulfill the voice that calls out for friendship. Our response becomes consumeristic as we turn to many objects and activities that we call ‘love.’
At the dawn of creation, man was made in the Image of a relational Being. And in the Image was man to be only but a manifestation of the relational image. The Incarnation was the revelation of the purpose of man, the existence of why man was made. It tells the story of what is means to be human, to be known and to be loved. We were made to live outside of ourselves, beyond our own ambitions and plans.
Christ the prototype of Personhood illustrates to us the most beautiful love that man can become; friendship, philia love.
C. S. Lewis wrote about philia love with utmost honour:
“To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it,”
The most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue.
Christ evidently demonstrates this when He lays down His life for His friends following up with what He taught, ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.’ (John 15:13)
Greater love is to give yourself for a friend.
“If anyone were to ask me, ‘What is the best thing in life?,’ I would answer, Friends” says St. Gregory the Theologian
Philia love is the giving of self, the offering of our being to the other. In friendship we honour who the person is because we see their true authentic self. We deeply love and desire their company which enriches and nourishes our own soul. There is a mysterious love in which we love them. We become devoted and wholly committed to our friend.
Despite the lack of expression of friendship in our modern culture, the most popular literature and movies are the ones that illustrate the story of true friendship rather than two lovers. This reflects the Trinitarian image that was imprinted on us as we shout and celebrate these inspiring stories.
This kind of love, this kind of friendship, is an intertwining of souls. Only through Christ can I lay down my life for the other, can I sit in the depth of another’s hell, can I rejoice with the other.
The friendship between St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory the Theologian is one to contemplate and ponder on in our Church history.
“…a single soul, as it were, bound together in two distinct bodies. But above all it was God, of course, and a mutual desire for higher things, that drew us to each other. As a result, we reached such a pitch of confidence that we revealed the depths of our hearts, becoming ever more united in our yearning. There is no such solid bond of union as thinking the same thoughts.”
Aristotle calls this type of friendship, virtue friendship. It is a friendship that transcends the physical realm and enters into an endless journey of communion. In that sense friendship is an icon of the Trinity, a taste of the world we were made for.
“Preserve, my sons, that friendship which you have begun with your brother; for nothing in the world is more beautiful than that. It is indeed a comfort in this life to have someone to whom you can open your heart, with whom you can share confidences and to whom you can entrust the secrets of your heart. It is a comfort to have someone trustworthy with your troubles and encourage you in persecution.” St. Ambrose
True friendship evolves when both persons unite through a common purpose; the pursuit of God. Augustine understood that love and friendship can only be realized by God and through God. He claims that friendship is a great wonder as the Source is Love Himself. He writes, “there can be no true friendship unless God cements the bond between two people by means of the love poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which he has granted us.”
The truth that only true friendship can be lived through the bond of the Holy Spirit is echoed in Scripture by David and Jonathan’s relationship. “The Lord be between you and me forever.” This communion of souls partakes in a world beyond itself as “a great leap in spiritual progress can be regarded as being made, for from that moment they can feel Christ between them, and loving each other they prove that they are truly disciples of the one who laid down his life for his friends.” (Paulinus of Nola)
Therefore, the true and authentic seeker of Christ begets real and true friendship. A fruit of the Spirit. A friendship so profound that one enters into the experience of the other and the great verse of communion comes to fruition, “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
This is part of Agora’s Trinitarian Love theme for the Symposium in 2020. Please join us in continuing this conversation on February 14 & 15.
Feast of Friendship by Paul D. O’Callaghan