My beloved spiritual children 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 Lord a Fortress in Adversity
In You, O LORD, I put my trust; let me never be ashamed; deliver me in Your righteousness. Bow down Your ear to me, deliver me speedily; be my rock of refuge, a fortress of defense to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for You name's sake, lead me and guide me. Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. I have hated those who regard useless idols; but I trust in the Lord. I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, for You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in wide place.
Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eyes wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. I am a reproach among all my enemies, but especially among my neighbors, and am repulsive to my acquaintances; those who see me outside flee from me. I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. For I hear the slander of many; fear is on every side; while they take counsel together against me, they scheme to take away my life.
But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, "You are my God." My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me. Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me for Your mercies' sake..."
[Psalm 31(30) According to St. Luke (Luke 23:46), v.5 represents the last words of Christ on the Cross. This is a psalm of confidence in God, used as a song in Great Compline (Apodeipnos) during the season of Lent. Psalm 31 has often been compared to Psalm 22, the Passion Psalm, because it expresses the cry of all who seek help and deliverance from the Lord in the midst of terrible suffering and pain. David sang this psalm when he repented from his sin, imploring God to deliver him from it. He gives thanks to God, because He accepted his repentance.]
Please note: To those of you that wish to strengthen your prayer life, I would strongly urge you; turn to the Psalms and use them day and night. You will find that you have much in common with King David who wrote them.
THE MORALITY OF FREEDOM AND FREEDOM OF MORALITY
By His Eminence Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS (Source: The Person in the Orthodox Tradition)
In our time systems are often arising and appearing which express men's leanings towards freedom. The bitter taste of servitude has led many people to thirst for freedom. They seek it on all the levels of life, religious, political, social and national.
However, there are two great dangers in this seeking. The first danger is that people are looking for complete liberation, which ends in anarchy. This anarchy is ravaging contemporary societies. The second danger is that in the name of freedom a new form of slavery is appearing. Contemporary man can use all the ways and means to dominate. Thus anarchy and dictatorship are two dangers which are ravaging the people of today.
It is necessary, then, to have a true definition of freedom and to describe the conditions for it. This will be taken up in the present chapter. Of course I now clearly see that this great subject will not be exhausted in what is to be said here. Just a few points will be underlined and a few hints will be made for further elaboration. We shall deal mostly with the theological aspect and interpretation of freedom. This is essential because, while a great deal is being said about freedom of the senses, reason and morality, nothing is being said about the morality and quality of freedom.
The Theology of Freedom
We can confront the topic of freedom from many angles. The first angle is the moral one, from which man's freedom is to act without being hindered by various duties. The second angle is the psychological one, from which his freedom consists in being able to make decisions without being subjected to various influences. A third angle is the philosophical one, from which freedom is the inalienable right of man, as a rational being, to think and to act. It is also possible for all the other freedoms, social, personal, national, economic, and so forth, to be put into this framework.
Those aspects of freedom will not concern us, but we are going to examine freedom from one angle, that of theology. For we shall discover that it differs greatly from the other angles in that it is more integrated.
It must be said from the start that independence, or freedom, is an essential constituent of man. When God created man, He gave him free will, which not even He Himself violates.
In Holy Scripture it says that man was created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). The Holy Fathers have given various definitions as to just what this image is. Sometimes they refer it to man's sovereign dignity, to his superiority and his lordship over the terrestrial world, sometimes to his soul and body, sometimes to the whole man, sometimes to the ruling part of his soul, which is the nous, sometimes to his independence. All these definitions show that the Holy Fathers avoid specifying one particular point which is the image, but they rather describe all the functions which express the image. In any case it is a fact that one interpretation of the image also refers to independence, which interests us here.
Saint John of Damaskos' interpretation concerning the image is characteristic. He says that God formed the body from the earth and "by His own inbreathing gave him a rational and noetic soul, which last we say is the divine image". Extending this interpretation he says: "for 'in His image' means such likeness in virtue as is possible". Thus 'in the image' refers chiefly to the noetic and independent. In what is to be said below we shall mostly interpret independence, freedom, because there are many misinterpretations on this subject. We shall emphasize some essential points.
The Relativity of Human Freedom
Man as a creature, as created by God, has absolute freedom within its relativity. With his freedom he can even turn against his Creator, but this freedom is relative. This is because man is not uncreated, but created, which means that he was created by God and therefore has a beginning.
Archimandrite Sophrony observes: "Absolute freedom means being able to determine one's being on all levels, independently, without constraint or limit in any form. This is the freedom of God--man does not have it", for he has not the authority to create "out of nought".
The ultimate temptation for the freedom of man (and in general of subsistent spirits) "is to fashion his own being, determine himself in all things, become a god himself, and not just take what is given, because that would entail a feeling of dependence".
Thus man does not have absolute freedom by his biological birth. But he can acquire absolute by his rebirth and experiencing Christ's life, as we shall explain in the next section.
The Challenge of Freedom
The preceding also leads us to another parallel conclusion, that what is given to man by his existence is a challenge for freedom. True freedom is not just the choice of an event, but the possibility of a self-determined existence.
It has been observed very correctly that: "The ultimate challenge to the freedom of the person is the 'necessity' of existence. The moral sense of freedom, to which Western philosophy has accustomed us, is satisfied with the simple power of choice: a man is free who is able to choose one of the possibilities set before him. But this 'freedom' is already bound by the 'necessity' of these possibilities, and the ultimate and most binding of these 'necessities' for man is his existence itself: How can a man be considered absolutely free when he cannot do other than accept his existence?" Therefore man "as a created being cannot escape the 'necessity' of his existence".
In this light we can interpret an agonizing existential question of many contemporary young people: "Why did my parents give birth to me without asking me? Why should I come into existence without being asked?" To be sure, before someone came into existence there was no one to be asked, but in any case this is a question which shows that the greatest challenge for freedom is the fact of existence and the fact that therefore man has to do something in order to be given the possibility of determining a new birth for himself.
Freedom and Fall
The freedom of man before the fall somehow worked differently from that which works today. Freedom as we know it in the period after the fall, after the victory of sin and the passions, after the illness which came into the whole human race as a consequence of Adam's sin, after the decay of communities and institutions, is receiving dreadful effects and it requires great pains in order to express it in a positive way. In the life before the fall there was the possibility of positive or negative response to the will of God, but that was different from freedom as we live it today. In other words, today we suffer terrible pressures and effects, and therefore it is with great labor and struggle that we make decisions about doing something, which in man's original life this labor and struggle did not exist.
We should further point out that man's freedom even to sin and to withdraw from his Creator was a sign not of perfection but of imperfection. For this vacillation about what to do, instead of being stimulated by love and freedom towards the purpose of creation, the lack of impetus in man towards his archetype, shows a weakness and imperfection. Man should naturally be led towards the good. Saint Maximos the Confessor, interpreting the request of Christ's prayer "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" says that he who impels his rational power towards God and worships Him mystically becomes a participant in the Angels' worship of God. In this case the words of the Apostle Paul apply: "For our citizenship is in heaven". Among these men desire does not sap their powers through sensual pleasure, "but there is only the intelligence naturally leading intelligent beings towards the source of intelligence, the Logos (Word) Himself". The perfection of man's freedom lies in his turning naturally towards his archetype.
(To be continued. Next: Natural Will and Will Based on Opinion)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God