We exalt and reverence freedom, we inhale and exhale freedom, and we attempt to share this precious freedom with many others so that they the whole world may enjoy the wonderful gift of freedom. This is our pride and boast especially in America and rightly so, for freedom is precious! This was also mentioned in the rallying cry of the French Revolution, Freedom (Liberty), Equality and Brotherhood.
However, there is a serious flaw in our idea of freedom that is rarely mentioned and unfortunately this flaw includes many pitfalls and dangers to our happiness, rendering this freedom either harmful or even useless. For there are two types of freedom, one is that of the body and the other that of the soul or person; let us consider them. Freedom of the body needs no explanation, and because the soul inhabits the body, it is believed by many people that the soul or person are also imprisoned when the body is enslaved. Thus any form of physical slavery is evil in their eyes. This is not necessarily true, and has been proven to be inaccurate throughout the ages, for while the body is imprisoned the soul can remain completely free. On the other hand, when the soul is enslaved by sins and passions and the body remains free, how good is that freedom? Without moral law and restraints, the person who is free in body can fall into thousands of traps that enslave the soul. While no one desires enslavement of the body, enslavement of the soul is a much more important matter and is the source of most evils.
Our Lord spoke about this freedom of the soul as the only important type of freedom. When the Jews told Jesus that they were not in bondage but were free, He spoke to them saying: "Amen; amen; I say to you: Whoever commits sin is the slave of sin." At another place, Jesus said: "If the Son of man sets you free, then you will truly free."
A faithful Orthodox Christian who, due to circumstances, may be enslaved in body, knows full well that hid soul remains free, for his soul can never be imprisoned or enslaved except by the tyranny of sins and passions, or anything else. As a believer in the Lord, having the Lord dwelling in him, he enjoys blessed freedom of spirit, and nothing can enslave him, nor can any prison hold his soul, for he contually enjoys genuine freedom. Christians who suffered under tyrants, or under the recent Communism while imprisoned and even tortured always remained completely free. Singing praises to the Lord who set their souls free! There is no freedom like the freedom offered by Christ, for He came into the world to free us from our passions and sin and the tyranny of the Devil.
Pride, anger, unbelief, illicit carnal desires, drunkenness, adultery, gluttony, smoking, drugs, sexual deviation, are but a few things that the body does in freedom, But the poor soul is imprisoned. Sins and passions are traps which not only imprison the soul but inflict harm on the body, and the whole man suffers. When the soul is enslaved, the condtition of the man is much worse than the imprisonment of the body. A person suffering from the diseases of pride, also becomes arrogant, boastful, haughty, unchaste, and his life becomes insecure, especially if his bubble of pride and self importance bursts. But blessed humility frees every man from the prison of pride, while it is shameful to be puffed up and proud, there is no shame in humility. Think of these words from the most humble Virgin Theotokos: "He has seen the humility of His handmaiden, and from this time on, all generations shall call me blessed." She is incessantly glorified by God , the Angelic Powers and the entire world! Wonderful is the virtue of humility! Our Lord, being the Logos of God, who created us, humbled himself even to death on the Cross! Through His humility He overthrew the tyranny of the Devil. Meekness releases man from anger and wrath; faith uproots the sin of unbelief and continence prevents much suffering .Virtue adorns a person with the most noble beauty!
Liberality and doing whatever one desires opens the Pandora’s box of sadness and unhappiness, and inflicts misery on others as well. Every sin is a trap which our enemy sets, by sugar-coating sins with the false promise that happiness is to be found only in pleasure. Then when we sin, we become another trap to snare others! Thus pleasure lovers such as the ancient Epicureans cried out: eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die! They spread this foolish doctrine everywhere to justify their irrational behavior, bringing others into the trap. This is a form of the Evil one’s many traps which inflict great harm on man. For the Epicureans by their doctrine, effectively assert that there is no God and no judgment, and no life after this life. When you are dead you are dead. But this is disproved by the fact that until this day, when sin is fulfilled, the mirage of happiness evaporates almost instantly, and wretchedness enslaves the soul. For this reason, sin is a mortal wound, by which one may feel momentary pleasure, but it is unable to produce joy and happiness in our hearts.
Let us examine how the enslavement of a man’s soul takes place, and how sin adversely affects so many others. A man married with children, for some reason ends up in the embrace of another woman. Sometimes he loses work and even his job because of his frequent trysts, and this is often followed by lies and deception. Suspicions by his spouse cause questions and more sins are committed in the form of more lies and denials, false claims, anger, cursing, and eventually that sin can lead to destruction of the family by divorce, followed by additional lies, slander, bitterness and wretchedness. Children are sorely damaged, and at times one parent turns the child against the other parent inflicting even more damage; so many terrible things take place, all stemming from one sin of infidelity. That one sin becomes a consuming and raging fire, burning many often permanently. Children that experience these things are wounded badly causing some to think, I’ll never get married, and often are trapped by the sin of fornication. Sleeping together, living together does not bring happiness, also it creates much insecurity, especially for the woman. Few people know that genuine marriage comes only from God, for He married Adam and Eve in the beginning. Marriage blessed by God reflects the blessedness of Paradise. St. Paul exalts marriage, and the relationship of husband and wife, saying that it is like Christ and the Church. In the Orthodox Church alone, the couple to be yoked together are married by God through the Priest, and in that marriage the Spirit of God sanctifies the marriage and bless it with peace and love and offspring..
The Lord speaks about sin in general, which imprisons the soul. He assures us that we will pay for every unforgiven sin: "The wages of sin is death," this death is not physical death, but is the second fearsome torment of the soul which leads to torment in the future life. Thus the freedom of the soul is much more important than the freedom of the body!
REPENTANCE LEADS TO PERMANENT FREEDOM
Our Lord and Creator came into the world, bearing the good news of salvation; He sent His Forerunner John the Baptist, to preach this news. Thge Forerunner's first words were: "Repent for the kingdom of heaven has arrived!" When the Lord began to preach, His first words were: "Repent for the kingdom of heaven has arrived!" But what is this repentance and its meaning? The word in the Greek Holy Scripture is metanoia which means "change of mind". Effectively this is the firm commitment to abandon sin and evil engaging in the struggle to live as the Lord commands, with the goal of becoming free of sin and performing only good works, and although we are saved by faith, we will be judged by our works. This is not possible without the true Christ and the true Church. Even the knowledge herein is found only in the tradition of the Orthodox church and the Church's written tradition, Holy Scripture.
In the Mystery of Holy Baptism, the Epistle of St Paul is read in Church. It teaches that Christ, having died once will never die again, and that we too must walk in the newness of life. This newness of life opens the door for our entrance into the brilliant and wonderful life of true peace and freedom with the delicious taste of everlasting life. How is this accomplished? It begins in Baptism! For in baptism we die in Christ by being plunged under water, and in coming up from the water, we rise with Christ, so we are baptized into His death. This is true freedom, for all of our sins are washed away, and the Priest announces, You are washed; you are clean to the joy of the newlybaptized. Baptism makes a person completely new and offers a new start in a much better life. Thie immersion is done three times as Christ commanded. We are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Then we receive the seal of the gift of Holy Spirit in the Mystery of Chrismation followed by Holy Communion. This prepares us to enter into the battle against evil, both defensive and offensive. It enables us to spread this glorious freedom to anyone interested and desirous of beautiful and everlasting life with joy and happiness. When a person partakes of this life it is impossible to remain silent, but with great joy he will spread knowledge of this freedom and hope of eternal life which is ultimate joy.
FORGIVENESS IS NECESSARY
FOUND IN THE TRUE CHURCH
The true Christ and His words are sometimes distorted by men, so it is necessary to clarify what Christ taught the human race. Repentance is not a one time event, but is a way of life, for we sin daily in many ways, even in our thoughts. Christ instructs us in these words: "Go, and sin no longer." For Christ came into the world not only to save man, but to sanctify man and make him holy, even as He is holy, for He said: "Be holy for I am holy. Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect." The sanctification process goes on until our passing from this life, and from day to day and year to years we must progress in virtue, holiness and truth. Let freedom ring!
The true Church founded by Christ, which today is the Orthodox Christian Church is the only place where sinners are able to receive forgiveness and begin the newness of life. For the true Christ and true Church are inseparable, just as our heads are inseparable from our bodies. In the Church dwells the fulness of the Holy Spirit of God, and through the Spirit man can be sanctified and rendered holy. This demand of refraining from sin may seem harsh and difficult to some, and it certainly is. However the Church makes it possible, providing all the strength necessary to follow the path prescribed by Christ. Remember that it is our personal choice, and the stakes are high – eternal life or eternal torment. The Church has everything necessary for total happiness and everlasting life. From it flow countless blessings and every gift necessary. In the Church is contained the continuous fulfilment of the Lord’s command: "Take eat, this is my body . . . and drink this all of you for this is my blood . . ." Food is necessary for any work, this is the food which enables us to perform the work demanded by Christ which leads to everlasting life. This cannot be obtained without our desire, consent and effort. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from sin, for He is the bread that came down from heaven, and says: "My flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink." He instituted the mystery of sanctified bread and wine which mysteriously becomes His own flesh and blood. Those who partake properly are extremely thankful at all times for this great gift, and the Church called it, the Eucharist, which is from the Greek meaning , giving thanks or thanksgiving.
ST PETER: HOW CAN WE ESCAPE
IF WE NEGLECT SO GREAT A SALVATION?
Not to follow this path, is a great loss for the soul, and leaves a person vulnerable to every sorrow and evil and eventual to eternal torment, which everyone deserves who scorns the saving Passion of our Lord.. Christ is kind and merciful, forbearing and forgiving to the repentant, but is a fearful Judge to those who refuse to repent and reject so great a salvation. Those who do not turn to Christ will be judged by God’s firm justice. Those who love and obey Christ, will be visited with consolation and everlasting life out of His great mercy. Woe to those who live only for the satisfaction of the pleasures of this life and do not live for eternal life, where there is no pain, no suffering, no sorrow but life everlasting. This is freely offered by the Lord who approaches us only with persuasion but never compulsion, for He is good and the Lover of man, and He will never take away the blessed freedom which He has bestowed upon us!