The Gospel reading set for Morning Prayer today, Mark 12:28-34, picks up where the Gospel reading set for Holy Communion yesterday left off, pondering greatness.
Here, the context really is one of dispute, or argument (suzéteó) as opposed to debate (dialogizomai). And the argument is brought to an end by a consideration of what is the ‘first’ and ‘greatest’ commandment—the one from which all instruction flows, which all instruction follows; the one with the widest, all-encompassing, scope.
Jesus responds that the first commandment is this, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and will all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ With the unity of being the God in whose likeness we are created possesses.
But Jesus continues, ‘The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’
Second. deuteros: that which is in second place, which follows the first in procession; and also, for a second time—a re-telling of the first, as Deuteronomy is a re-telling of the Law given in Exodus.
In other words, loving our neighbour as ourselves is both evidence that we are loving God harmoniously, and a re-iteration of the commandment from which all others flow. Not something secondary, but the omega that completes what the alpha initiates. The first and last word.