On July Fourth, the monastery & seminary community were once again treated to our abbot's now-famous fireworks. It is hard to believe, but they were bigger and better than ever! With freedom in the air, it was an opportune time to reflect on its meaning.
Most of us desire freedom above all else, and rightly so. Freedom is that attribute of human nature that divides us from the animal world. A fish or a bird is guided by extinct alone, whereas a human being is guided by choice. This grants us the freedom to love or not to love. But, the proud man can never love, nor can he be free.
Saint Sophrony (July 11th) reminds us,
Relations between God and man are based on the principles of freedom: our final self-determination with reference to God depends on our own discretion. When in our liberty we opt for sin, we then sever the ties of love, and withdraw from Him. The possibility of negative self-determination in connection with our Heavenly Father constitutes the tragic aspect of liberty. (We Shall See Him As He Is, 110)
Sin—predominately pride—makes us slaves to desire and fear. Thoughts shackle our mind, anxiety paralyzes our limbs, making us un-human. How are we to regain our freedom?
Saint Silouan provides the answer in a paradox: "To become free, one must first of all "bind" oneself. . . . One must pinion the passions in oneself, so that they don't get possession of you" (Saint Silouan the Athonite, 65). We can find true freedom only in clinging to God, casting all else aside. If in losing our life we find it, then we may also say that in sacrificing our freedom we regain it.
If we seek to be genuinely free, to be truly human, we should bind ourselves to the love of God and neighbor and have only this fear: the fear of sin.