March 2011



Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ λόγῳ παραστῆσαι τὸν ἔρωτα οὐκ ἰσχύει, περιέρχεται ζητῶν ὑπόδειγμα, ἵνα κἂν οὕτω τὸ φίλτρον ἡμῖν ἐνδείξηται, καὶ κοινωνοὺς ποιήσῃ τοῦ ἔρωτος. Πειθώμεθα τοίνυν αὐτῷ, καὶ μάθωμεν οὕτως ἐρᾷν. Καὶ μή μοι λεγέτω τις· Καὶ πῶς δύναμαι φιλεῖν τὸν Θεὸν ὃν οὐ βλέπω; Καὶ γὰρ πολλοὺς οὐχ ὁρῶντες φιλοῦμεν, οἷον τοὺς ἐν ἀποδημίᾳ φίλους ὄντας ἡμῖν, ἢ παῖδας καὶ πατέρας, ἢ συγγενεῖς καὶ οἰκείους· καὶ οὐδὲν γίνεται κώλυμα ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὁρᾷν, ἀλλ’ αὐτὸ δὴ τοῦτο μάλιστα ἐκκαίει τὸ φίλτρον, αὔξει τὸν πόθον.

For since he (the psalmist) could not represent this desire in words, he became for us an example in his seeking, so that whenever this love-charm is shown to us, we too may share in his desire. Therefore, let us be convinced by him, and learn to desire as he did. But let no one say to me, “And how do I love this God, whom I don’t see?” For there are many whom we love, even when not seeing, like those who are abroad and friends to us, or children and parents, or family and relatives. And not seeing does not become a hindrance, but this is instead the perfect time to light the love-charm, to increase your passion. (PG 55.158)

I have translated ερως, often translated as love, as desire. It commonly has sexual connotations, but I don’t see any of that here. This is desire that is felt between friends and family, and is not limited to husband and wife. I don’t really like the translation of φιλτρον as “love-charm,” but it means something like that, a song designed to kindle up desire for someone close. Here, Psalm 40 is a φιλτρον, “As the deer desires the springs of the waters, so my should desires you, O God.” I also struggled to find good English for κοινωνοὺς ποιήσῃ τοῦ ἔρωτος, which I think is a marvelous turn-of-phrase. Literally it’s, “he makes us partakers of this love/desire.” I switched the sentence and around and made “we” the subject. “Light the love-charm” sounds quite odd to my ear, but I’ll let it stand for now.

η χαρις του κυριου μετα υμων,
Alex

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John’s homily on Psalm 41 (LXX) is full of excerpts I like. Here’s another I read today:

Ἐπεὶ οὐ τοσοῦτον φιλεῖ ἡμᾶς μόνον, ὅσον παιδία μήτηρ φιλόστοργος, ἀλλὰ πολλῷ πλέον, ἄκουσον τί φησιν· Εἰ γὰρ καὶ ἐπιλάθοιτο, φησὶ, γυνὴ τῶν ἐκγόνων αὐτῆς, ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ οὐκ ἐπιλήσομαί σου. Τοῦτο δὲ ἔλεγε δεικνὺς, ὅτι πάσης φιλοστοργίας θερμότερος ὁ περὶ ἡμᾶς αὐτοῦ πόθος ἐστίν.


So he does not love us in this manner only, as a loving mother with her children, but much more so! Listen to what was said, “For even if a women forgets her children, I will not forget you.” Thus it is clear, then, that his love for us is far greater than any parental love. (PG 55.161).

Even in my budding Greek skills, I’m starting to appreciate why he is called the “Golden-mouthed” and the “Heavenly-trumpet.” If only I could do it justice in translation!

Alex