Love is not concerned about itself, but about the beloved.
Love seeks how to please the others, giving itself for the beloved. If selfishness always wants to receive, love always wants to give. The two main elements of love is to love God and to love the others, and for both love does not seek its own.
Therefore the praise and glorification prayers are the most holy, because they are meditations on God##s attributes and the ego has no place in them. When we say for instance, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord of hosts, heaven and earth are full of Your glory” (Isa 6: 3) we ask nothing for ourselves, but we meditate on God##s attributes, and this is enough. How then we present our requests within the limits of love?
God first, and people next, and the self last of all. In the Lord##s Prayer we ask first for things pertaining to God: ####Hallowed be Your name; Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.#### Then we ask things for ourselves, but also concerning our relationship with God; i.e. God first and second! How beautiful therefore is the commandment of God “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”! (Mt 6: 33) What then about our worldly needs? The Lord continues: “All these things shall be added to you.” He gives us our needs without us asking.
If you truly love God, do not fill your prayer with requests.
Do not ask things for yourself, as St. Basil the Great says: ##Do not begin your prayer with requests, lest it appears that but for the requests you would not pray.## But because the Lord says, “Ask and it will be given to you”, when you pray, ask first for God##s kingdom and righteousness, then for some good for the others, and let yourself be last of all. Such is love! See also the beautiful words of the Psalmist:
Not unto us, O Lord, but to Your name give glory.” (Ps 115: 1)
If you truly love God, do not ask honor for yourself in whatever you do, whether in the ministry or anything else. Give all glory to God, as St. John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3: 30) And whatever good things you do, let them be for the glory of God, “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5: 16)
In their love for God, the fathers and the apostles carried out their mission, not seeking their own selves but rather giving themselves as a price!
For God##s sake the Baptist witnessed to the truth, saying to King Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have her (his brother##s wife).” (Mt 14: 4) He was not seeking his own self but rather suffered because of that, was cast into prison, and was beheaded. All the martyrs and confessors did not seek their own, but in their love for God suffered all kinds of torment even unto death.
The evangelists likewise suffered much for God##s sake. St. Paul the Apostle is an example.
When he was Saul of Tarsus he had the authority and power to enter every house and drag off men and women, committing them to prison (Acts 8: 3). But when he embraced faith he suffered the loss of all things, and counted them as rubbish, that he might gain Christ and be found in Him (Phil 3: 8, 9). In his love for the Lord he did not seek his own, but endured prison and dishonor. He received stripes five times, and three times was beaten with rods. About his and his companions ministry he said, “In all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fasting,” “in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers … in perils in the sea, in perils of false brethren; in weariness and toil … in hunger and thirst … in cold and nakedness …” (2 Cor 6: 4, 5; 11: 24- 26)
St. Paul did not seek his own because his self had died with Christ (2 Cor 4: 11, 12). Therefore he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2: 20)
How deep are these words: “No longer I who live …”!
Such is the love that seeks not its own whether rest or glory! Such is the ministry that gives no sleep to the eyes, nor slumber to the eyelids, until it finds a place for the Lord (Ps 132: 4)! It is the ministry of one who finds pleasure in the labors of the ministry rather than in its glories, in authority, or in showing up. So, the ministers who failed are those who focused on themselves rather than on the kingdom.
The words “No longer I who live” may be applied to one##s spiritualities as well.
Whoever loves God will say, ##Not what I will, but what You will. I do not ask anything for myself, but I deliver myself completely into Your hands and forget it there. I seek none but You, for You say, “If anyone desires to come after, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”## (Mt 16: 24)
The ego is the most harmful for a person.
Nothing can harm a person more than the ego, not even the world, the material, the body, or the devil. The ego becomes harmful when a person gives it whatever may please it, and thus it gets away from God##s love. Therefore the Lord summarizes all our life on the earth in one everlasting phrase: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Mt 10: 39)
Let us remember our fathers the monks and hermits:
Because of their great love for Christ the King they dwelt in the mountains, deserts, dens, and caves of the earth. They never sought their own, but left their property, families, posts, and all worldly pleasures, and lived forgotten without food or rest. God to them was all in all.
The church pray over the monks the Prayer for the Departed, because they have died to the world and all that is in it, no more seeking anything in it. Can we say that those monks have lost their life, or rather found it?! The same applies to those who had experienced the life of luxury but forsook everything for God##s love.
Moses the Prophet did not seek his own life, but it seemed that he lost it.
He was a prince and a leader: “the son of Pharaoh##s daughter”, with all the treasures of Pharaoh available to him, but he preferred rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Heb 11: 24, 25). He considered it a sin to enjoy life in a palace while his people are in servitude! So he left everything: the palace, the grandiosity, and the money, and sought nothing for himself. So God lifted him up and made him a lord to Pharaoh.
Another example is Abraham the father of the fathers.
The Lord said to him, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father##s house, to a land that I will show you,” and Abraham did not seek his own family and country but in obedience submitted totally to the Lord##s will. Again the Lord said to him, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love … and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Gen 12: 1; 22: 2) Abraham did not seek his only son, but went to offer him. He was satisfied with God##s love.
How shall we apply the commandment “Love does not seek its own” to our social and family life?
A family will be happy if the husband does not seek his own comfort, whether obedience or domination, but the happiness of his wife and children, considering this his mission in life. A wife likewise should consider it her duty to please her husband and children rather than her own comfort, whether money, luxury, or freedom. The children also in love for their parents should not exhaust them with their requests, which may be over the ability of the parents, nor be disobedient to them.
In the social life, a person who does not seek his own will give preference to the others in honor (Rom 12: 10), and in love take the lowest place, leaving the higher to the others (Lk 14: 10) and feeling happy to see the others honored. With such love a person will not compete with the others or dispute with them for a worldly matter, seeking to take their place, but rather giving them the chance to receive honors.
Even in the field of charity, love should not seek its own.
When a person pays the tithes and the firstlings, it is not only to obey God##s commandment, but also for the sake of love for the poor. He will prefer them to himself, and in spite of his need for money he pays more, out of his needs, like that widow who gave the two small coins out of her needs, all that she had. She deserved blessing from the Lord and to be mentioned in the Gospel (Mk12: 42- 44).
Another example is the widow at Zariphath of Sidon who did not seek her own at the time of famine. She gave all the oil and flour she had to Elijah the Prophet (1 Kgs 17), and she deserved to be blessed by the Lord she and her goods all the time of the famine. One ought therefore to give all that which one had notwithstanding one##s own needs, and to give from one##s time and health. See how the Lord Christ sought not His own comfort, but, for His love for mankind, He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant (Phil 2: 7), forsook all worldly glory and had no place to lay His head (Lk 9: 58), did not care about Himself, but bent down and washed the feet of the disciples (Jn 13), gave His back for scourging, and ascended on the cross. He did not defend Himself, but gave His life in His righteousness for the sinners. He demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5: 8).
Love that does not seek its own can endure and forgive.
One who loves can forsake one##s rights, endure, and forgive. One who loves does not seek one##s own, and who does not seek one##s own can love. If you do not seek your own, you will labor for God and for people through prayers, fasting, watching, and ministry. You will not be concerned about your own rest and health, but rather focus on God and His kingdom, on the welfare and salvation of the others. You will love God and people and be loved by God and by people. You will not care about yourself and your comfort, but about God##s kingdom, church, and people, and about communion with God.
In conclusion we say: Whoever seeks his own will lose himself.
The foolish rich man said to himself, “I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ##Soul, you have many goods laid down for many years.##” Actually he lost his life, for the divine voice said to him, “This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Lk 12: 18- 20)
When David the Prophet sought to please himself he lost it, and but for God##s mercy which led him to repentance after a severe punishment, he would have perished (2 Sam 11: 12).
Let us stop here and will meet again in the next week – God willing.