The freedom to be yourself

p24_john-of-pergamon1Taken from Communion and Otherness, Metropolitan John Zizioulas

Personhood

Theology and Church life involve a certain conception of the human being: personhood. This term, sanctified through its use in connection with the very being of God and of Christ, is rich in its implications.

The Person is otherness in communion and communion in othernes. The Person is an identity that emerges through relationship (schesis, in the terminology of the Fathers): it is an “I” that can exist only as long as it relates to a “Thou” which affirms its existence and its otherness. If we isolate the “I” from the “Thou”, we lose not only its otherness but also its very being; it simply cannot be without the other. This is what distinguishes the person from the individual.

The Orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity is the only way to arrive at this concept of Personhood: the Father cannot be conceived for a moment without the Son and the Spirit, and the same applies to the other two Persons in their relation with the Father and with each other. At the same time each of these Persons is so unique that their hypostatic or personal properties are totally incommunicable from one Person to the Other.

Personhood is inconceivable without freedom; it is the freedom of being other. I hesitate to say “different” instead of “other” because “different” can be understood in the sense of qualities (clever, beautiful, holy, etc.), which is not what the person is about. In God all such qualities are common to the each three Persons. Person implies not simply the freedom to have different qualities but mainly the freedom simply to be yourself. This means that a person is not subject to norms and stereotypes and cannot be classified in any way; its uniqueness is absolute. This means that only a person is free in the true sense.

And yet one person is no person; freedom is not freedom from the other but freedom for the other. Freedom becomes identical with love. God is love because He is Trinity. We can love only if we are persons, allowing the other to be truly other and yet be in communion with us. If we love the other not in spite of his or her being different but because they are different from us, or rather other than ourselves, we live in freedom as love and love as freedom.

Giving up our selves

patriarchholycrossH/T: The Way of the Cross, Ray C. Stedman (here)

…Peter denied that he had any connection with Jesus, said he did not know him, and affirmed his disavowal with oaths and curses. Thus he denied his Lord. This is exactly the word Jesus chooses when he tells us that, if we are going to come after him, we must first deny ourselves.

It is important also to understand that he does not mean what we usually mean by “self-denial.” By this we usually mean that we are giving up something. Many people feel it is only right to deny themselves something during Lent, to give up various bad habits, like wearing overshoes in bed. But Jesus is not talking about this kind of “self-denial.” He is never concerned about what we do so much as with what we are. Therefore he is not talking about giving up luxuries, or even necessities, but about denying self, which is entirely different.

Denying self means that we repudiate our natural feelings about ourselves, i.e., our right to ourselves, our right to run our own lives. We are to deny that we own ourselves. We do not have the final right to decide what we are going to do, or where we are going to go. When it is stated in those terms, people sense immediately that Jesus is saying something very fundamental. It strikes right at the heart of our very existence, because the one thing that we, as human beings, value and covet and protect above anything else is the right to make ultimate decisions for ourselves. We refuse to be under anything or anybody, but reserve the right to make the final decisions of our lives. This is what Jesus is talking about. He is not talking about giving up this or that, but about giving up our selves…

Memory Eternal, Metropolitan Philip

metropolitanphilipmemorial_1

H/T: Antiochian Archdiocese (here)

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, with great sadness, announces the passing unto life eternal of His Eminence the Most Reverend Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America. May his memory be eternal! Details are forthcoming.

Palamism Explained

Again and Again

From Dr. Clark Carlton’s Faith and Philosophy Ancient Faith Radio page, the transcript version of the broadcast which you can listen to here:

Hello, and welcome once again to Faith and Philosophy. Today’s topic is Palamism Explained In Twelve Minutes Or Less.

A few days ago, a friend of mine sent me a blog entry from some armchair theologian who thought he had refuted the teachings of St. Gregory Palamas, by posting a quotation from St. Basil the Great that had been taken completely out of context. You know, there is a reason why the internet is called the world’s biggest vanity press.

Well, with the commemoration of St. Gregory coming up, I thought this would be a good time to take a look at St. Gregory’s theology. The first thing we must understand about Palamism, is that there is absolutely no such thing. Palamism is the invention of…

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Understanding Evil

altarfresco (535x800)

Remember that, as I said, the right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands more clearly the evil  that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good; a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.

C.S. LewisMere Christianity

The Old Testament without the New

“The reason we cannot understand the Old Testament without the New Testament is this. We believe our father, the father of mankind, is Adam, the first-made man. This is only partly true. Adam is the ontological beginning of our corruptible nature. Our corruptible nature, however, is not our true nature. Mankind’s true Adam, its true root, is not the first Adam but the second, the Lord Jesus Christ. Without Christ an understanding of man is not possible. He is the true Man in whose image man was made. Without Him there is no understanding of creation, because He is the end and purpose of all things that were made.

From the first Adam we have our old nature, our biological existence; we have the “coats of skin” made for us by God to protect us from the consequences of the fall. As St. Gregory of Nyssa said, we have the “second creation by God”, in other words, we have our natural properties that God’s providence supplied so we may survive the destructive consequences of our departure from Him.”

The Six Dawns
Alexandre Kalomiros