Our final look at Anthusa / Chrysostom's On Ideal Friendship (late 4th century) begins with the letter-writer's question: How long shall we confine our love just to one or two people?
Love is such a productive thing! It turns an individual into a thousand. Why do we not take possession of this strength? It is better than all power and virtue, more than health, more than the light of day.
By way of a quotation from the Apocrypha [Ecclesiasticus 20:16, "A fool will say: I have no friend"], the writer turns the coin over and considers the lot of the friendless. Even among animals, the most savage and intractable are those which do not herd together. The friendless person is most pitiable. He may live in abundance and luxury, but without friends he is destitute and naked. Such a one also lacks protection. Not even the Emperor's bodyguards are as careful as one's true friends, for the former guard through fear of discipline, but the latter guard through love.
Answering an imaginary questioner, attention turns to monks and hermits. Surely, if they live in caves or on mountains, they haven't got friends? Chrysostom writes that these do indeed have friends. Admittedly, they have fled the tumult of the marketplace, but the friends whom they do have are true heart-friends, bound closely to them in Christ. For, just as zeal in business leads to many disputes, [monks and hermits] have left the world in order to cultivate godly love with greater strictness. They prove the strength of love in their fervent prayers.
The letter concludes - a trifle hurriedly, I thought - with the maxim: If we apply ourselves with due care to these precepts, we shall administer present things well and inherit the kingdom of God.
The full text of the Anthusa / Chrysostom letter can be found here.