Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
I Corinthians 12: 27—31; 13:1-8 (Epistle from Feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian)
November 1 is the Feast of Sts. Cosmas and Damian. Today, we will reflect on the Epistle lesson and tomorrow, we will have an extra reflection on the Gospel of this feast.
Saints Cosmas and Damian were twin brothers who lived in Asia Minor during the late third and early fourth centuries. They were doctors who went from place to place healing people and never took any money for their services. The Epistle lesson for their feastday is St. Paul’s “treatise” on love, from I Corinthians 13. Because to love means to serve others. To love is to take from oneself and give to another expecting nothing in return. Perfect love is to give completely, expecting nothing in return. Saints Cosmas and Damian were giving completely of all they had, in service to others.
The Epistle reading of November 1 picks up the end of I Corinthians 12. In the last five verses of chapter 12, individual Christians are compared to parts of the human body. When all the parts come together, you have a working human body. When the parts remain as individuals rather than as a whole, the body is weakened. When the parts some together, the body is strong and effective.
Just like each part of the body has a certain function—for instance the hands have a different function than the brain—each member of the body of the Christ has a different function. In the words of Saint Paul, some are apostles, some are prophets, some are teachers, healers, helpers, administrators, etc. Each job is important. Each job advances the message of the Gospel. Saint Paul doesn’t say that one job is more important than another. All are important for the body of Christ to function properly. Just like we don’t say that the hand is more important than the eye, or the foot more important than the hand. All of these parts are needed for our bodies to function at their best.
The passage continues with the treatise on love. Whatever role you play in the church—apostle, prophet, teacher, etc.—is to be done with love, otherwise it accomplishes nothing. Likewise, whatever role you play in life—spouse, parent, career, volunteer, church member—is to be done with love, otherwise it accomplishes nothing. After all, we can have faith to move mountains but without love, it is accounted as nothing.
Saint Paul then reminds us of the qualities love has—first, it is patient. Second it is kind. It is not jealous or boastful, arrogant or rude, irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in what is right. Nowhere does St. Paul say that love is easy, or even that it’s fun.
The first quality of love is patience. In some English translations, the word is long-suffering, or “love suffers long.” In Greek, the word is “makrotheme” which means “long suffering” or “forbearance”. In fact, this is the word we use during the reading of the 12 Gospels on Holy Thursday when we recount Christ’s Passion, we glorify His “makrothemia”, His long-suffering for us.
Love is both the greatest gift as well as the greatest challenge in life. It is a challenge to love those who dislike us or who annoy us. It is a challenge to empty oneself of our own interests in order to serve someone else. It is a joy to receive unconditional love from someone. And it is a joy to express unconditional love for someone, for unconditional love is Christ-like love and any time Christ-like love is either given or received, it is a joy.
One other important thing to remember about love is that love is not a feeling; it is a choice. We can choose to love someone even when we feel angry with them. Thus, when the Epistle passage by saying “love endures all things” and “love never ends,” these are true statements when we recognize that love is a choice. We can choose to love—our spouses, our children, our friends and most important, our Lord—through all things. Because the choice to love at all times ensures that love never ends.
The message of today is fill your roles in life, whatever they may be, with love. And this is what will please God. God does not reward us according to our roles, but how well we show love in those roles we play.
Holy Unmercenaries and Wonder-workers, visit our infirmities. Freely you received; freely give to us. (Apolytkion of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Trans. By Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Do your work with love today!