From the editor: May 29, 2015
Do You Love Your Self?
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The late Orthodox priest Fr. Thomas Hopko is remembered by Ralph C. Wood, a Baptist, in the July/August issue of Touchstone (subscribe here to get it).
In an interview in the journal In Communion (Spring 2015) Hopko recalled a TV program in which he and other clergy discussed religion. "Part of what I said was that the only way we can find ourselves is to deny ourselves. That's Christ's teaching. If you cling to yourself, you lose yourself."
A teacher of "the psychology of religion" at a seminary objected: "What you are saying is the source of the neuroses of Western society. What we need is healthy self-love and self-esteem... You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself."
Hopko: "I said that of course if we are made in the image of God it's quite self-affirming and self-hatred is an evil. But my main point was that there is no self to be be defended except the one that comes into existence by the act of love and self-emptying."
Hopko said after the program that an old rabbi called them over. "That line, you know, comes from the Torah, from Leviticus," he said, "and it cannot possibly be translated 'love your neighbor as you love yourself.' It says, 'You shall love your neighbor as being your own self.'" Hopko: "Your neighbor is your true self. You have no self in yourself." Further, after reading the Church Fathers in this light, "that's what they all say—"Your brother is your life."
But let's take this one step further. I am drawing from Donald Sheehan's introduction to his The Psalms of David: Translated from the Septuagint Greek. He cites St. Paul's "astonishing sentence": "We have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:16). "St. Paul's point ... is that we possess in ourselves the mind of Christ solely because God has given us this mind in order that we may know—in St. Paul's words—"the things freely given us by God." (2:12) "Itself a gift, the mind of Christ in us is thus the mode wherein we know God's gifts."
Sheehan writes this to introduce the Psalms of David. "My experience in praying the Psalms for over two decades has given me a tiny, fleeting glimpse of a vast and very great subject. I can put the subject this way: the Psalms disclose the mind of David in the process of becoming the mind of Christ."
We find our true self by receiving the mind of Christ, which is a gift. And "the relation of Christ to David is, in the Psalms, a kenotic relationship, for just beyond the Psalms is the cross of Christ." Jesus dies on the cross with the first line of Psalm 21 (22) on His lips: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" To enter into the Psalms by prayer is to encounter the mind of Christ, reflected in the mind of David. These Psalms are God-breathed; to pray them is to be inspired and to know the mind of Christ. If you want to see your true self, look in the Mirror—of Scripture, especially the Psalms (James 1:22-25).
And Paul astonishes us once more: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." It is not, "We love him because we first loved ourselves," but, "We love him because he first loved us." We see by the Light, who is Christ.
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James