What is Love?

What is Love?

For me, it is sheer delight to be with you, even in script. I have so many fond memories of my time with many of you, though some of you I have not met.

What is love, really? We Orthodox always begin at the same place, namely with Christ who is God, who is Love. He is love, He gives love, He gives us the capacity to love. Without Him we cannot love, we would have a loveless life. He is “all in all.” He gives us persons to love us and whom we can love. But, it is easy to forget or override this basic truth.

In our culture we use the word “love” casually and loosely. I know that I do, rather unwittingly. I can say, “I love Haagen Dazs French vanilla ice cream,” or “I love watching videos on the history channel,” or “I love walking in the rain with an umbrella.” So, what does love mean?

Love in its deepest sense means a sharing with another human being the very energy of Christ. Well, doesn’t that sound elusive? Yes, it seems elusive but after some thought, it is not elusive at all. It can be very simple yet very difficult to sustain.

It can be hard to embrace the truth that love is not primarily about feelings. We know that we can love someone and feel distant from them at the same time. We can love someone and be ‘at odds” with them for awhile. A father can be walking in his pajamas, carrying his crying newborn daughter at 2:30 AM. Walking while she is screaming. He is fatigued, grumpy and doing the “loving thing” that he chooses to do. He loves his daughter and he feels nothing of love at that moment. He feels distraught.

Love for College Students

For you, college students, romantic love is not primarily about feelings. Yes, feelings are part of being human but can very easily be deceptive. You know that from your own experience. We all have such experiences in our past. You know others who have been tragically hurt because they let their feelings get the best of them, only to pay a high price later. Of course, we all enjoy feeling “good.” But, we are also looking for something deeper. College students are of an age where they are aware of the desire for a life-partner. They may not put that desire as front-and-center but it is not far off. That is what we are talking about.

Dating is a fine part of life. And, as the old saying goes, “You win some and you lose some.” That is, some dates are nourishing and some dates can be depleting for a host of reasons. OK.

When a relationship seems to become serious what is the criterion for authenticity? What makes a relationship “real,” “of Christ?” The direct answer is “commitment.” Another way to say “commitment” is self-sacrifice. Is this person demonstrably willing to put aside their needs and wants for me? Am I willing to put my needs and my desires aside for this person? The deepest level of self sacrifice is, “Are they willing to die for me?” Sounds lofty but I know persons who can clearly say that, “I know my partner would die for me.”

The converse is clear. In a shaky relationship the couple makes choices for exclusively enjoyable activities, avoiding the “work” of a sustainable human relationship. Yes, real relationships require work and require living with dissonance simply because we are all children of Adam and Eve, like it or not.

Physical and emotional attractiveness are not the essence of a relationship, although such attractiveness is often the beginning of something deeper. Often we are attracted to someone who is attracted to us. We love to be loved. That can be a problem.

Love and Lust

When pondering a romantic relationship we acknowledge the difference between lust and love. Lust and love “feel” the same but have polar opposite consequences. Lust is about self gratification, self pleasure. Love is about self-sacrifice, putting the other above my pleasures. Lust leads to darkness and alienation. Love leads to light and to union. All this is countercultural, going against the many narcissistic messages we are getting. You and I do have narcissistic tendencies that we need to vigilantly surrender to Christ. Our narcissistic tendencies are vulgar. Our surrender means that we say, “Lord have mercy,” arrow prayers, through the day and night as we become aware of our narcissistic thoughts or behaviors.

A wonderful relationship with all its joys and sorrows is life-giving and beautiful, as given to us by Christ,. We move our ego out of the way and we let Christ in, and then He gives us the person He wants us to have. Some in Orthodoxy teach that the life-partner is not only our “soul mate” but also our “sandpaper,” all for our growth in love. Life is paradoxical. As Father Hopko often said, “Orthodoxy is paradoxy.”


In conclusion, love really is a mystery, a mysterion, a gift from Christ for us to give and to have, to embrace with all our being because love is the only way we can thrive on this planet. Love is a sacrament. Only love can make a memory.

Dr. Albert Rossi

Dr. Albert Rossi

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Albert Rossi is a licensed clinical psychologist and Christian educator who has written numerous articles on psychology and religion. He has published two books through Ancient Faith Publications entitled, Becoming a Healing Presence and All is Well. Dr. Rossi was a member of the SCOBA Commission on Contemporary Social and Moral Issues for six years. He hosts the podcast Becoming a Healing Presence on Ancient Faith Radio.

Don’t Be Lukewarm

Don’t Be Lukewarm

I know your works, that are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of My mouth. Revelation 3:15-17

In my four years at school, I have come across hundreds of Orthodox college students. From being staff at Camp Saint Paul and Ionian Village to College Conference East and several other regional and district OCF retreats; from my position on the OCF Student Leadership Board to my internship at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; and finally, from being president of my local OCF chapter at Fordham University, I have met all types and kinds of Orthodox college students. One thing I want to warn against that I’ve seen and experienced is being “lukewarm.”

At Fordham I played club soccer all four years. I played growing up, and captained my high school team as well. If you were standing next to me and asked me right now if I were a soccer player, I would say “yes, of course.” I don’t have to be physically on the field playing, to consider myself a soccer player. The same goes for being an Orthodox Christian. I am not a Christian simply when I am in church. I am a Christian when I am on the soccer field. I am a Christian in my science classes. I am also a Christian when I am at a college party.

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Alex on Real Break 2016

We all know college is a time when our faith is tested. I do not need to explain the struggles of drinking, drugs, and hookup culture. What does need to be examined, however, is the apathy that many students have towards the faith. I am no exception. My freshman year I was probably going to church once a month, max. Now, I find myself going regularly. My sophomore and junior years I did several internships in various marketing positions. Now I find myself wrapping up an internship at the Archdiocese in New York.

A huge problem many students have, especially at Fordham, is they get caught up not only in socializing, but also in their studies. The pressures students put on themselves to get the top internships and ace finals are horrifying. At the final judgment God isn’t going to ask you what you got on your accounting final, he is going to ask you if you followed his commandments. Think of the context of the 4th commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God” (Ex 20:8-10). Many college students can’t find the time to go to church, let alone a one-hour OCF meeting. If you call yourself a Christian, then you are accepting the belief that this world is not permanent and that the real point of our creation is to follow Christ now, so that we can be engulfed by His love after death. This not only starts with the Liturgy, but also carries over into our everyday lives. Whether it is in our office at work, in our class at school, or at a bar off campus, we are always called to be loving, practicing Christians.

A priest at once gave me this valuable advice that I always carry with me

No one said being Orthodox was easy, no one said it would always be fun. But the reward of a life in Christ is to join Him in heaven. God should be at the tip of your tongue in everything you say, and at the tip of your fingers in everything you do.

We aren’t all called to work for the Church, but we are all called to love God, and love others because they, too, are created in the image and likeness of Him. We become successful accountants, lawyers, marketers, and historians so that we can use our living to benefit others, starting with our family and branching out to the poor and needy. We work as scientists to discover more hidden wonders in this world created for us by God. While in the office we express love and kindness to our coworkers. We go to the local watering hole with the intention of having a fun night out with our friends, not to get blackout drunk and make irresponsible and irreversible decisions.

Too many students compartmentalize their faith, and put it into a box (one usually too small). But in reality, what we are is, “a Christian who likes soccer,” or “a Christian who is a bio major,” or “a Christian who is interning.” We are first and foremost Christians; that is our most important full-time job. And if we dare to call ourselves Christians, then why would we not be focusing on our faith as much as we can? That means attending Liturgy, that means connecting with students in a loving way, both in OCF and not. That means helping the community around us. That means having and active prayer life.

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Fordham OCF

Do not be lukewarm, or you will be spat out. Do not be the student that only goes to church on holidays when home. Do not be the student that is too busy studying to make it to OCF or a volunteering event once in a while. Do not be the student that is too lazy to pray daily. Remember that we must take ownership and responsibility of our faith. We are not only Christians on Sunday. At every moment, and in every action we are representing our Christian faith to others. It is expected that we struggle, and with struggle comes sin. But in the wake of sin must come repentance. If we are truly Orthodox Christians, we aren’t ever passive. We believe in constant salvation, and an ongoing attempt to join Christ in the afterlife. So as a graduating senior, my advice to college students is to own your faith, and own it now. I didn’t make many true friends in my OCF until later on in college. Now, I never go to church alone. Find those who take the faith seriously, and stick by them. Your fellowship and steadfast nature will draw others to you.

Slack for iOS Upload (1)Alex Kuvshinoff has been a Regional Leader on the OCF Student Leadership board for the last two years. He is a recent graduate of Fordham University, with a B.S. in Business Administration and Minor in History. He is set of be on staff at Ionian Village this summer, and will be starting work in NYC this September.