The Conferences Of John Cassian by John Cassian
Chapter XIV. On the different grades of love.
It is possible then for all to show that love which is called agape, of which the blessed Apostle says: |While therefore we have time, let us do good unto all men, but specially to them that are of the household of faith.| And this should be shown to all men in general to such an extent that we are actually commanded by our Lord to yield it to our enemies, for He says: |Love your enemies.| But diathesis, i.e., affection is shown to but a few and those who are united to us by kindred dispositions or by a tie of goodness; though indeed affection seems to have many degrees of difference. For in one way we love our parents, in another our wives, in another our brothers, in another our children, and there is a wide difference in regard to the claims of these feelings of affection, nor is the love of parents towards their children always equal. As is shown by the case of the patriarch Jacob, who, though he was the father of twelve sons and loved them all with a father's love, yet loved Joseph with deeper affection, as Scripture clearly shows: |But his brethren envied him, because his father loved him;| evidently not that that good man his father failed in greatly loving the rest of his children, but that in his affection he clung to this one, because he was a type of the Lord, more tenderly and indulgently. This also, we read, was very clearly shown in the case of John the Evangelist, where these words are used of him: |that disciple whom Jesus loved,| though certainly He embraced all the other eleven, whom He had chosen in the same way, with His special love, as this He shows also by the witness of the gospel, where He says: |As I have loved you, so do ye also love one another;| of whom elsewhere also it is said: |Loving His own who were in the world, He loved them even to the end.| But this love of one in particular did not indicate any coldness in love for the rest of the disciples, but only a fuller and more abundant love towards the one, which his prerogative of virginity and the purity of his flesh bestowed upon him. And therefore it is marked by exceptional treatment, as being something more sublime, because no hateful comparison with others, but a richer grace of superabundant love singled it out. Something of this sort too we have in the character of the bride in the Song of Songs, where she says: |Set in order love in me.| For this is true love set in order, which, while it hates no one, yet loves some still more by reason of their deserving it, and which, while it loves all in general, singles out for itself some from those, whom it may embrace with a special affection, and again among those, who are the special and chief objects of its love, singles out some who are preferred to others in affection.