Avenues of Freedom Experienced


THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT

THEME FOR THE YEAR – 2004

 

AVENUES OF FREEDOM EXPERIENCED

Yuhanon Mor Meletius

President, Orthodox Christian Youth Movement of the East

 

Introduction

“Freedom is what we have – Christ has set us free.  Stand then as free people and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again” declared St. Paul (Gal. 5:1).  We Christians are supposed to be the free people.  It has been more than half a century that we, the citizens of India, are politically free.  Yet the question is, are we really free in fuller sense, as we claim to be?  Are we acquainted with all the dimensions of the experience of freedom?  What constitutes freedom?  What are its content and relevance?  All these questions are serious enough to be analyzed meaningfully and in detailed.

 

1. Slavery is comfort

Slavery, as far as many are concerned, is more pleasing and is preferred than freedom.  It has often been seen that prolonged slavery conditions one’s mind to misconceive it as freedom.  For instance, the Israelites, in their pilgrimage to Promised Land of Freedom from the slavery of Egypt, repeatedly asked Moses: “Why have you brought us out in to this wilderness that we should die here?” (Numb. 20:4; 21:5ff.). Besides, it is often heard that in our land it is women themselves who block their own path of freedom.  Such behaviour is an offspring of their prolonged slavery.  Bondages do not demand independent thinking or free decisions.  As a result, one is not forced to suffer that pangs of birth or the hard realities of executing such decisions. For many, such a life of confinement, though it is bondage, is pleasing and so they prefer it.

 

It must be recognised that bondages of any kind are denial of one’s true self or individuality.  This thwarts one’s understanding of psyche and visions of life.  Slavery leads to discrimination in relationships.  For instance, it was the slavery to the serpent and its words that created a breach in the equal status of man and woman (Genesis).  Thus it is evident that freedom is highly essential to safeguard the inherent position of God’s creations and to maintain healthy relationship among them.

 

Our inclination to injustice is one of the pillars of slavery. The blacksmith who designs duplicate keys for a thief is a constant threat to the latter.  The contemporary society chained itself in the fetters of ‘advanced patterns of life’.  The ceaseless anxiety and mounting ambitions of parents on the future of their children put dim shadows of hell in to their lives.  Human is enslaved by heated hopes of luxury and illusions of life.  The implication of such a slavery is seen in the fatal fall of Eve, who wished to taste the forbidden fruit which she thought good to taste – though she was without former experience. 


Today the mind human is moulded by the rainbow of market culture.  All these attractions, in a way, steal the freedom from him.  Such human who fails to anchor the intoxicated dreams loses all his/ her innocence, and garlands him/ herself with the fetters of illusion. 

 

Indeed, even spirituality has lost its basic principles and true sense all over the world. Now it aims at making human a slave to it by exploiting his emotional weakness.  Many are enslaved in the fast growing ‘Retreat Centres’.  Besides, he is suffocated among the handcuffs of advanced standards of life sponsored by scientific and technological progress. Human who is in the pursuit of making life easier and comfortable with the aid of machines stand upset and immobile at the failure of the same.  The unwise use of finite natural resources has turned life in to a mess. 

 

2. Misunderstanding Freedom: The Concept of self-Sufficiency

The concept of self sufficiency is unrealistic and yet another facet of slavery. We claim that we have been in the noble pursuit of constructing a self sufficient India.  But in the endeavour to fulfil this dream of the architects of our nation, we have brought ourselves at an alarming state of imported culture.  The fall of Babel, built by those who came from the East, which stood as the symbol of freedom and unity of community indicates the ultimate failure of self-dominant attempts of human to find ‘name and fame’ for him/ herself.  It is the ignorance about the basic nature of God’s creation and its existence that forces human to strive for self-sufficiency.  The vague concepts of divine call and mission too may intensify the craze.  It is pertinent in this view to recall that Abraham was called in to the glory of God to become ‘a source of blessing for all’.  Christians must not monopolise Christ – the way for all humanity – and his promised salvation for selfish ambitions.  It must also be noted that self sufficiency is relative in its true sense.

 

The concept of self sufficiency is one of the meanest feelings of a narrow mind.  Human’s apprehensions on external influences accelerate his contraction into the self.  Semitic religions generally promote the grave misconception that interpersonal relationships make human a heretic, wicked and anti-faithful.  They evaluate all external environments as evil and immoral.  The fast growing religious fundamentalism and terrorism in India testify that even Hinduism, contrary to its essential nature, has become exclusive and fundamentalistic.  But among the monotheistic Semitic religions Jesus had.  Propagated a religion of universal love.  The sad fact is that slowly his disciples fell in to the trap of exclusivist self sufficient community craze.  Caste system and social stratification crept in to Indian Christianity too.

 

The inclination to achieve self sufficiency brings our unjust amassment of wealth.  The old concept that “end justifies the means” is still live in the minds of human who strives to become richer by any wicked means.  The consequences of such deeds are evident in the society as growing injustice, Hawalas, bribery and corruption.  No doubt even the institutions of the Church have proved themselves to be the fertile soil for such unholy practices and mis-governance. 

 

The concept of self sufficiency endows human with an unrealistic feeling of security which lacks spirituality.  Jesus Himself has proclaimed that true spirituality is the essence of healthy relationship between human and human.  Even Christians who consider the universality of Jesus Christ as good news (Gospel) is not free from this self sufficiency attitude.  Even the Old Testament community who boasted that they had Abraham as their father and that it was Jacob their ancestor who gave them that well were not broad-minded enough to accept the faith of Abraham or his attitude of respecting Malchizedech, the priest of another race.  The followers of Christ who declared that Christ is the only way fail to perceive the various dimensions of it because he confines Christ in to his own narrow intellectual scenario.  So he turns a blind eye to the varying and complex realms of Christ’s mission in the world to control and mould the face of history. Thus Christ is conceived not as the creator and redeemer of all ‘the seen and unseen’, but as the wonder worker and miracle merchant who heals, enriches and predicts the fortunes.  It is not the fulfilment of the personal concerns that one should seek in Christ.  The perspective of freedom is to experience consolation in the wellbeing of others. The avenue of freedom is to build up a pure and healthy bond of inter-dependence after discarding prejudices and misconceptions yet by maintaining one’s own self-hood.  This constitutes spirituality in its purest form.

 

3. Freedom experienced in Worship

A Christian should seek the essence of freedom in worship. God commands Pharaoh to set his people free to worship in the desert.  Here the aim and objective of worship are interpreted as social and political liberation. It is in worship that one recognises one’s own true self, the position in the society and the intensity of one’s mission in the living context.  It is this assignment that Prophet Isaiah receives at the divine vision (cf. Is. 6).  Jesus Christ addressed his disciples who shared his mission to set people free, as ‘friends’ instead of ‘slaves’.  It was an index of their state of freedom attained in the Son of God (John 15:15).  This is more evident in the epistle of Peter (1Pet. 1:2-9).

 

Worship is held in the presence of God.  It begins with the exhortation to ‘raise our hearts and thoughts and minds up to Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand side of God the Father’.  Thus worship turns to be an experience of freedom to call the Almighty God Father and because of that to call all created ones fellow beings and brethren.  It is an experience of freedom at the communion of the whole creation and the celebration of unity.  Since God is the God of all, the whole creation arrives at the presence of God. So worship is impossible without the unity of catholicity of the creation being recognized.  In other words, “we glorify the God who has been glorified by all the elements in the cosmos viz. the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, the ocean etc.”  The dwelling place of His Father must be the temple of worship for all.  The unclear and incomplete perception of personal assignments of divine calling too may lead us in to a search for self sufficiency. One should not seek the presence of God for the material prosperity and personal salvation.

 

Worship enables us to survive the bondages and break the boundaries.  Freedom to cross over all the human made barriers on the basis of race, colour, gender, social ranks and age is an inevitable outcome of worship.  How can a person who enjoys the fetters of social barriers proclaim that his help comes from God, ‘the creator of heaven and earth?’  It was the mercy of Jesus that transformed the crippled woman, the tax collector, the leaper and the prostitute in to the status of being the offspring of Abraham.  Yet the community to which they belonged turned their back against them.

 

Worship removes communication barriers. Sense – perception was alien to the selfish community in the Babel, but the freedom of mutual understanding was endowed upon those who were assembled at the house of the Pentecost.  A new community, united on the rocky foundation of sharing and caring was evolved there.  Here a new way of life which addressed one another freely and shared the spirit of fellow pilgrims was evolved.  This dream had been nurtured by Prophet Isaiah as the land in which the ‘sheep abide with the pack of wolves and the cheetah dwells in the company of goats’. Worship in the spirit of fellowship and unity makes life free and meaningful. It boosts vitality and creative faculty of human which sprouts fresh from the free mind. Why does the cruel forest-king turn blind eyes to the mystery of the green vegetation which feeds the whole creation? 

 

If creativity is illumined by healthy communion of interdependence, the result of it will be the ministry of reconciliation.  The mission of the worshiping community should aim at renewing the fellowship feeling by the breaking of the bondages. Such an endeavour would become an act of freedom. Attempts to found peace and to maintain it are the indices of the worshiping community.  Simeon, who had been faithfully waiting for Jesus Christ was seeking the rise of salvation for the Israelites, not the eradication of his own personal grievances.  No doubt, Virgin Mary showed great concern over the issues of others as it is evident at turn of events at the wedding house in Canaa.

 

Conclusion

We are entrusted with the mission of Christ to propagate the Gospel of peace up to the frontiers of the earth.  But today it brings about divisions, rivalry, separations, discrimination, bondage, injustice and injury to others.  The freedom experienced in worship is the symbol of experiencing freedom in the kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ’s parables on the kingdom of God are enriched with the expressions of unity and growth of freedom.  Let us have a new perspective of the freedom of creation to shoulder the responsibilities entrusted by it. 

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