St Augustine's tractates on St John
|The twin commandments of love|
|Blessed be His holy name|
The Lord himself came, the Teacher of love, full of love, shortening the word upon the earth, as it was foretold that he would do. He showed that from the two precepts of love depend the whole of the Law and the prophets.
What are these two commandments? Join me, my brethren, in recollecting them. They ought to be thoroughly familiar to you and not just come into your mind when we recite them: they ought never to be blotted out from your hearts. Always and everywhere, bear in mind that you must love God and your neighbour, love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as you would love yourself.
We must always ponder these words, meditate them, hold them in our minds, practise them and bring them to fruition. As far as teaching is concerned, the love of God comes first; but as far as doing is concerned, the love of our neighbour comes first. Whoever sets out to teach you these two commandments of love must not commend your neighbour to you first, and then God, but God first and then your neighbour. You, on the other hand, do not yet see God, but loving your neighbour will bring you that sight. By loving your neighbour you purify your eyes so that they are ready to see God, as John clearly says: If you do not love your brother, whom you see, how can you love God, whom you do not see?
You are told “Love God”. If you say to me “Show me whom I should love”, what can I say except what John says? No man has ever seen God. But you must not think yourself wholly unsuited to seeing God: God is love, says John, and whoever dwells in love dwells in God. So love whoever is nearest to you and look inside you to see where that love is coming from: thus, as far as you are capable, you will see God.
So start to love your neighbour. Share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless pauper into your house. Clothe the naked, and do not despise the servants of your kin.
What will you get from doing all this? Your light will break forth like the dawn. Your light is your God, your dawn, because he will come to you to end the night of this world — he who, himself, neither rises nor sets but is eternal.
By loving your neighbour, by having care for your neighbour, you are travelling on a journey. Where are you journeying, except to the Lord God, whom we must love with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind? We have not yet reached the Lord, but our neighbour is with us already. So support your neighbour, who is travelling with you, so that you may reach him with whom you long to dwell.