Orthodox America

Called to Liberty  

    In the science of physics, as also in philosophy, it is generally recognized that the principal feature of a material or physical genesis is the !aw of cause and effect. Its essence lies in the fact that each action is related to some cause outside itself: i.e., if a stone flies through the air, it does not fly of its own accord; someone must have thrown it.

    Each day the sun rises, day gives way to night and night to day. Each day is filled with its own concerns, one leading to another. Everything proceeds along the coursing flux of causality, which often brings people to say: "What can I do? I would go to church more often, but there' s simply no time; I would pray more regularly, but again--no time." And so it is with those people who have become locked into this physical law.

    We have become so accustomed to this law that we often run to it even when there is no need. A bad example was first shown to us by our forefather Adam who sinned and broke the law of God. When the Lord confronted him, thereby giving him the chance to repent, Adam did not admit that the fault lay within, but immediately sought refuge in the law of causality; i.e. he began to seek for a cause outside himself: "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." And here we often imitate Adam; instead of admitting the fault to be ours, we look for it outside ourselves: this happened to me because of this or that, as though we couldn't help but sin, as though we had no choice but to give way to sin.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  (Gal. 5:1)

     But man is made not only of flesh; he has a soul whose substance is spiritual. And the characteristic nature of spirit is freedom. To this spiritual freedom we are called by Apostle Paul "Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty" (Gal, 5:13). For this reason, we must be above this natural law of causality and even oppose it.

     This is not to say that we can change the course of the sun; nor can we forbid the rain or snow to fall. But this is unnecessary, for these laws of nature are neutral in relation to evil. There is, however, another chain of causality, and this is that which leads us to sin. Linked to this chain are our passions which pull us into this irresistible physical current. To achieve spiritual freedom is possible only if man resists his dependency, his enslavement to the chain of cause and effect. And only in this spiritual freedom can he experience the full measure of God's graciousness to man and the blessedness which comes from true communion with Him.

     Miracles are the sovereign manifestations of the spirit's conquest over the physical law of causality. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us many examples of this: He walked upon water, healed the sick, and raised the dead.

     "Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty." Let us, therefore, struggle to free ourselves from the sinful chain of causality which binds us, breaking it asunder by means of repentance, and through works of faith may we attain that spiritual liberty which is our proper nature. Then the grace of God will work in us that supreme miracle--the salvation of bur souls.

Bishop Alypy
of Chicago and Detroit

     Our Lord Jesus Christ has indeed granted us the law of liberty. But this is ours to enjoy only if, as Bishop Alypy writes, we struggle to overcome that other law warring in our members, warring against the law of our mind s, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin (Rom. 7:23). It requires less effort, of course, simply to resign ourselves to the bondage of our passions. In the excerpts below the 4th century Egyptian desert father St. Macarius the Great urges us:

Do Not Submit!

    If you say that the opposing power is too strong, and that evil has complete sovereignty over man, you make God unrighteous when He condemns mankind for submitting to Satan, because Satan is so strong, and wields a power which compels submission. "Thou makest Satan greater and stronger than the soul, and then commandest me, 'Do not submit.' It is as though a young man should wrestle with a little child, and the child, when he is worsted, is condemned for getting worsted. This is a great injustice." I tell you then that the human mind is a good match for the enemy and evenly balanced against him; and a soul of that kind, when it seeks, finds help and succor, and redemption is vouchsafed to it. The contest and struggle is not an unequal one..

     If it seems to us hard and impossible to be converted from such a multitude of sins because we are in their possession--a thought which, as I said, is a device of wickedness and a hindrance to our salvation--let us remember and consider how our Lord, when in His goodness He sojourned here, made the blind to recover their sight, healed the palsied, cured all manner of disease, raised the dead when they were already in decay and disintegration, gave back hearing to the deaf, cast out a legion of devils from a single man, and restored him to his senses, though he was so far gone in madness . How much rather will He not convert a soul which returns to Him, seeking mercy from Him, and in need of His succor, and bring it into a happy release from passions, and the settled state of all virtue, and renewal of the mind, and change it to health and mental sight and thoughts of peace from the blindness and deafness and deadness of unbelief and ignorance and unconcern, bringing it to the sobriety of virtue and to purity of heart?

from the Homilies of St. Macarius the Great

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