This will be short... I left the house for the first time in 10 days this weekend, and I'm worn out! So, here's the (brief) scoop:
At the annual women’s retreat hosted by the Women of St. John Orthodox Church in midtown Memphis this weekend, Fr. Paul O’Callahan gave several talks based somewhat on his book, The Feast of Friendship. He also divided us into “breakout groups” where we answered some thought-provoking questions, discussed them together, and touched on some important elements of friendship.
Hopefully we also enjoyed being together, as friends. I especially loved having my friend, Julia, from Little Rock, and her daughter, Anne Katherine, stay with us for the weekend. Here’s Julia, signing my cast. (The one that will be cut off tomorrow, when I get the stitches out. Yea! But then I get a new cast for a couple of more weeks.)
Anyway, I think we touched on some important things. And in a day and a half retreat, that’s a good start. But I also think we only skimmed the surface of a deep ocean of important truths about the feast that friendship can be. And if we want to dive deeper, we’ve got to be willing to risk being honest about some things that we struggle with. Loneliness. Feeling unappreciated and misunderstood. Loving people who are different from us, without wanting to change them. Creating an atmosphere where our friends can rest in the comfort of our unconditional love.
Today I re-read a few more parts of Fr. Paul’s book, and found a quote that kind of sums it up for me. He’s talking about “philia” (brotherly love) and “agape” (spiritual, Godly love):
We find that we share various values, perceptions and interests with a friend. This experience of mutuality causes us to be committed to the friend himself, and not just the things we share in common with him. Because of our commitment, we are devoted to the well-being of our friend in everything. We are ready to sacrifice of ourselves for the sake of our friend. At this point in our relationship, philia has embraced agape. The love of friendship is complete.
This type of friendship may be harder to develop because of the tendency to gravitate towards people who are like us. Who share our political views or child-raising techniques. Who see the world through the same prism. But isn’t it what we want most? To be loved, well, just because we are people?
I hope I can be this kind of friend to others. To see them, not as Christian or non-Christian, liberal or conservative, rich or poor, Orthodox or non-Orthodox, saint or sinner, but as my brother or sister pilgrim on this earth, made in God’s image.