Happy Independence Day July 4th!
Aloha Dearest Spiritual Ohana!
As we come to the celebration of Independence Day in these beautiful lands of the United States of America, let us reflect on the word “freedom” as expressed through the mouths of the Holy Fathers. Here are several examples of the truth and wisdom they impart to us:
“Some people by the word freedom understand the ability to do whatever one wants … People who have the more allowed themselves to come into slavery to sins, passions, and defilements more often than others appear as zealots of external freedom, wanting to broaden the laws as much as possible. But such a man uses external freedom only to more severely burden himself with inner slavery. True freedom is the active ability of a man who is not enslaved to sin, who is not pricked by a condemning conscience, to choose the better in the light of God’s truth, and to bring it into actuality with the help of the gracious power of God. This is the freedom of which neither heaven nor earth are restricted.” + St. Philaret of Moscow, Sermon on the Birthday of Emperor Nicholas I, 1851
“The Lord wants us to love one another. Here is freedom: in love for God and neighbor. In this freedom, there is equality. In earthly orders, there may not be equality, but this is not important for the soul. Not everyone can be a king, not everyone a patriarch or a boss. But in any position it is possible to love God and to please Him, and only this is important. And whoever loves God more on earth will be in greater glory in His Kingdom.” +St. Silouan the Athonite
“In truth there is only one freedom – the holy freedom of Christ, whereby He freed us from sin, from evil, from the devil. It binds us to God. All other freedoms are illusory, false, that is to say, they are all, in fact, slavery.” + St. Justin Popovich, Ascetical and Theological Chapters, II.36
“To yield and give way to our passions is the lowest slavery, even as to rule over them is the only liberty.” +St. Justin Martyr, Fragments, Fragment 18
We are truly blessed to live in the United States of America, where we have the freedom and the (Continued on page 2) 2 liberty to live out our lives! However, the words “freedom” and “liberty” are often misunderstood as “doing whatever we want,” which means there are no longer any set boundaries. My children, when they are misbehaving and being defiant, often say, “You can’t tell me what to do! I can do whatever I want!” When they say things like this, it is an ample time to have a dinnertime discussion and a “teaching moment” on precisely the impacts or the consequences their words and actions have. The Holy Fathers’ words of wisdom define what true freedom is, which is only found through Christ Who is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Living in this Country, “the Land of the Free,” we face many spiritual challenges. Though we have the freedom to worship God, many of us may not take the opportunity to do so. After all, when everything seems to be going well, we face the temptation to forget all about God, altogether. Independence from God is not freedom. It is the opposite. We find ourselves in bondage, enslaved and ever-lacking true joy and fulfillment without His Presence. When we try to fill the void in our lives with any substitute for God, we will inevitably be left feeling empty and devastated. I think all the tragedies and atrocities taking place in the world today, are symptoms of a world that has forgotten God, and replaced Him with the pursuit in being self-reliant, self-centered and to be pleasure seeking individuals. There seems to be no boundaries, anymore, between what is right and wrong, and what is true and false. The erroneous trend in the world, today, is to make truth relative.
Healthy and fulfilling freedom and liberty go hand-in-hand with our relationship with God, God being the most important and essential ingredient in our lives. Otherwise, our aspirations are misguided leading not to peace but to chaos.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has so willingly and lovingly taken on our human flesh through His Incarnation to prepare a way toward the fulfilling freedom and liberty we so deeply desire as human beings. He has taught us the heights we can reach through giving us His own example in His Human Nature. The prime example He gives us is His Immeasurable, Self-Emptying Love. Our human pursuit ought to be our imitation of Him, always.
With Love in Christ,