FREEDOM vs. A TYRRANY OF THE PAST
(Tuesday, September 19)
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Gal 5:1)
Today’s Epistle-reading, only one verse of which I quote above, is all about freedom. (It’s Gal 4:28-5:10, if you want to read the whole thing.) Here St. Paul makes me think about our human tendency, in our personal, political, and church-lives, to become tired of the messy responsibilities that come with freedom, and to crawl back into being “entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” While St. Paul was talking about the Galatians slipping back into following the “old” law of Moses, I think his words are relevant to our tendency to slip into other “old” patterns of thinking and being.
This means, in our personal lives, avoiding discernment or difficult decisions, by putting them off or asking someone else what to think and do; escapism in the forms of various addictions, to news-sources that report what we want to hear, or to other mind-altering things like internet porn, alcohol and other substances. In our political and church-lives, this means idealizing the imagined “good old days” or “traditional values” of authoritarian regimes past and present; relying entirely on decisions made in the distant past, by “the Fathers” and past generations of faithful; and engaging in what Fr. George Florovsky called “a theology of repetition,” rather than taking up the cross of theologizing and living Tradition in our own time and place. All this adds up to subjecting ourselves to a “tyranny of the past,” as one author put it, and as St. Paul says – becoming “entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
God, grant us the humility, wisdom, and courage today, to walk responsibly through our challenges, as individuals and as church, trampling death “by death”; by accepting ourselves and our contemporary reality as we are, rather than seeking escape into the reality of other times and places. And thank You, Lord, for the dignifying challenges of our day, which You entrust to Your church, in Your undying faith in us.