Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
The Orthodox Mind or Spirit
by Fr. Anthony Alevizopoulos, PhD. of Theology, PhD. of Philosophy
We can understand the term "freedom" either relatively on in an absolute sense. Absolute freedom places man's "ego" in the centre of the universe. The exercise of absolute freedom distances man from his very own nature, it alienates him, for man, according to the Christian faith, is not an egoistic being but a communion of persons. This idea means that our neighbor is a partaker and sharer of the very same nature in which we partake; he is relevant to us; he is not something separate from us, someone other; this means that he constitutes together with us and all our fellow men the one humanity, the one mankind, the one man with myriads of hypostases, i.e., persons.
The one nature is expressed in the daily life of the Christians through the existence of the one "mind" or accord, the mind of Christ, Who "emptied Himself, taking on the form of servant" and "humbled Himself" becoming obedient unto death..." (Philip. 2:7-8). This is the most extreme limit of humility and sacrifice on behalf of communion and love with apostate man. When one acquires this mind of Christ, he returns once again to living according to his nature, he possesses that "mind" which corresponds to man's true nature.
On the contrary, the man who has as his supreme law the imposition of his will, regardless of what this could mean for others, for human communion or society in general, and for all of creation, follows a path which alienates him from his very own nature. This type of behavior constitutes communion with himself, i.e., hell. This egocentric "mind" can constitute a real threat when man, in the name of freedom, considers it his right to impose his will in any way; in the name of freedom, he becomes destructive.
There is of course freedom "from something", e.g. freedom from oppression; there is also, however, freedom "for something", for a purpose. Absolute freedom from every kind of limitation, as we have said, goes against man's nature and alienates him; it transforms him into a tyrant or a monster. This is why true freedom is sought for in relation with the purpose, which of course is the edification, the building up, and not the destruction of man's personality.
In our time this question is especially contemporary, because many speak of freedom and liberation, negatively evaluating man's personality and aiming at its total abrogation. Others again speak about liberation, underlining that man has within him an unlimited power. Through their techniques they promise to liberate this power and to transform man into a superman, equal with God. And this concept presupposes absolute freedom and the right of autonomous man to impose his will upon the less powerful.
According to the Christian "mind" or way of thinking, true freedom, which is in harmony with man's nature, ministers unto human nature; it does not destroy it. It serves the unity, the harmony, the love of all God's creation. It thus becomes apparent that the question of freedom is directly related to the concept that we have concerning man. Christian anthropology does not lead to impasses or to a concept of freedom catastrophic for man's personality. The Christian's concept of freedom is a blessing for man and for all of creation.
When, therefore, we speak of freedom "for something" we mean the realization of man's nature, i.e., the fulfillment of the meaning of his life. God created man to progress from creation "according to the image" to the achievement of "the likeness"; i.e. to that fullness of communion and love by grace which has its model of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
It's indicative that Christ, speaking about the "limits" of love, which is the love for our enemies, characterizes them as "perfection" and puts forth as a model the love of the heavenly Father: "But I say unto you, love your enemies; bless them that curse you, and persecute you: that you may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven " (St. Matthew 5:44). The "mind" of love which includes one's enemies is the mind "according to the likeness" of the heavenly Father. It is not offered forcibly or out of necessity, but freely.
The idea that to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, and to do good to those who hate us, and indeed with all the strength of our souls, goes against human nature, is a warped and distorted idea. For that which goes against man's true nature is not loving one's enemies, but to hate them. Not to bless, but to curse.
God loves, blesses, does good. This is why the believer who loves God desires to be like Him; this moreover is the meaning of his life. In this way man overcomes his apostasy and returns to the mind of Adam before the Fall. Adam was possessed by the conviction that Eve, the other person, was not something strange, but his very self; "this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh"; in Christ Jesus we are no longer egotistical beings, "a thousand pieces"; we regain the feeling and awareness of the oneness of mankind, of the one man, and we understand the meaning of divine dispensation in Christ; Christ came to gather God's scattered children "into one" and He desires to incorporate all into this unity of "one in Christ." In this sense does the believer understand the words of Holy Scripture:
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (St. Matthew 22:37-38).
Referring to this love, Christ emphasized that on this the fulfillment of the entire law depends; this constitutes the Orthodox Christian "mind." Do not differentiate the other, understand him to be your member, and consider yourself and all others as one body and members of one another.
Dear friends in Christ,
To enter into the fullness of salvation made available in Christ our Lord, the individual Christian follower must place his/her faith in Christ Himself and be willing to struggle to live in conformity to the will of God. Through synergy (cooperation) with the Holy Spirit, the Christian believer is enabled to do those "good works" which are "pleasing to God" (Eph. 2:10, 5:10). The Orthodox Christian, in other words, must practice his faith: he must participate in the devotional, liturgical and sacramental life (mysteriake zoe) of our Holy Church (Romans 12:3-8; I Cor. 11-14; Eph. 1:3-4:16; 1 Timothy 2:1-7); and must be willing to live a morally upright life after the example of Christ Himself (Romans 12:1-15). It is through the practical expression of his/her faith--through good works--that the Orthodox Christian is "sanctified" (or "made holy") through the grace of the Holy Spirit our God. And through the process of sanctification, the Orthodox Christian person is prepared for his final "glorification," when he/she will enter into the divine sonship of Christ and become a participant in the Eternal Life of the Almighty Creator. Sanctification is a progressive and life-long commitment of moral and spiritual development "by which the believer dies more and more to self and sin and lives more and more to Christ and righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24).
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God