“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Theme of Love in The Brothers Karamazov: Alyosha's Moment

There is a beautiful scene where Alyosha returns to the monastery the night after his elder dies. Father Paissy is standing over the body of Father Zossima, reading the story of Cana of Galilee. Jesus' first miracle, recalls Alyosha, brought joy to men, for love desires the gladness of the beloved. Alyosha imagines himself at Cana, where he finds Father Zossima rejoicing and beckoning to him to join him in drinking the new wine, Christ's gift of gladness. As Alyosha walks outside under the night sky,

"The silence of earth seemed to melt into the silence of the heavens. The mystery of earth was one with the mystery of the stars...Alyosha stood, gazed, and suddenly threw himself down on the earth. He did not know why he embraced it. He could not have told why he longed so irresistibly to kiss it, to kiss it all. But he kissed it weeping, sobbing, and watering it with his tears, and vowed passionately to love it, to love it for ever and ever. "Water the earth with the tears of your joy and love those tears," echoed in his soul...There seemed to be threads from all those innumerable worlds of God, linking his soul to them, and it was trembling all over "in contact with other worlds." He longed to forgive everyone and for everything, and to beg forgiveness. Oh, not for himself, but for all men, for all and for everything. "And others are praying for me too," echoed again in his soul...He had fallen on the earth a weak boy, but he rose up a resolute champion, and he knew and felt it suddenly at the very moment of his ecstasy. And never, never, his life long, could Alyosha forget that minute." (book 7, ch. 4)
Through loving the world - through giving his love and forgiveness to the whole of humanity and to each person, and receiving from them - Alyosha finds that he can almost touch other worlds. This too is the nature of love - it is all-encompassing and brings all things together. Through love, everything is connected to everything, and diversity is enriched with a greater unity. "Each one personally" is responsible "for all mankind and every individual man." "All is like an ocean," writes Dostoevsky, "all is flowing and blending; a touch in one place sets up movement at the other end of the earth."

Alyosha's falling to and rising from the earth also calls to mind a verse quoted by Father Zossima multiple times: "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). Father Zossima himself falls to the earth like a seed in the moment of his death:
"Though suffering, he still looked at them with a smile, sank slowly from his chair on to his knees, then bowed his face to the ground, stretched out his arms and as though in joyful ecstasy, praying and kissing the ground, quietly and joyfully gave up his soul to God." (book 6, ch. 2)
In his death, Father Zossima embodies his own teaching. He gives himself unto death, loving the world in his final moment, and although he dies, his death is blessed. Because he fell to the earth like a grain of wheat, he will rise again in the last day, and indeed, he has already born much fruit.

No comments:

Post a Comment