A Harsh and Dreadful Love: Part 5, Dorothy Day

The elder Zosima's advice to engage in "active love" as a remedy for doubt is what causes the lady of "little faith" to share that she loves people in her dreams, but fears loving people in reality, especially if they respond with ingratitude or become too demanding.

The point is that "active love" is a difficult road. As the elder Zosima shares, "love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams." The elder continues:
Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. [Observation: Virtue signalling on social media!]...Whereas active love is labor and perseverance, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science. 
This description of love as a "harsh and dreadful thing" was a favorite of Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. In fact, William Miller used this quote--A Harsh and Dreadful Love--as the title of his history of the Catholic Worker. As Jim Forest observes about the influence of Zosima upon Day:
I doubt any figure in literature had more importance to Dorothy Day than Father Zosima. How often I heard her repeat the words, “Love in practice is a hard and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.” It was partly through Dostoevsky that she formed her understanding of Christianity, seeing it not simply as an institutional structure but as a way of life in which nothing was more important than seeing Christ in others. 
You get a sense of why Dorothy Day would describe love as "harsh and dreadful" in her response once to a social worker. The Catholic Worker extended hospitality to any and everyone--the poor, the insane, the drunk. Assuming Day was working some sort of social "program" for these people, the social worker asked how long these people were allowed to stay at the Worker house. Day responded:
“We let them stay forever. They live with us, they die with us, and we give them a Christian burial. We pray for them after they are dead. Once they are taken in, they become members of the family. Or rather they always were members of the family. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
I expect a lot of people, when they read the last post, thought to themselves: "I have active love, yet I still have doubts." My only response would be, as you look at the witness of someone like Dorothy Day, is to ask: "Do you really have active love?" I know I sure don't. I'm still mostly loving people in my dreams.

But I'm on the journey. I'm learning that love is labor and perseverance.  

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