Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The notion of freedom

By Sr. Teresa Forcades (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Un Manament Nou
12/30/2011


NOTE: These current columns by Sr. Teresa, which we will be gradually translating into English, are extracts from her most recent book, published in Catalan in 2011 by the Abadía de Montserrat, Ser persona, avui: estudi del concepte de ‘persona’ en la teologia trinitària clàssica i de la seva relació amb la noció moderna de llibertat ["Being a person today: a study in the concept of 'person' in classic Trinitarian theology and its relationship to the modern notion of freedom"].

I do not want to end this study of St. Basil's treatment of the Holy Spirit without recalling what is said about the concept of freedom:

"They maintain that the Holy Spirit is neither slave nor master, but free. Oh the terrible insensibility, the pitiable audacity, of them that maintain this! Shall I rather lament in them their ignorance or their blasphemy?" (20:51)

In contrast to the modern ideal, the old world concept of being is always relational. 'To be', 'to exist', means to be part of something larger than oneself and honor the obligations arising from this membership that gives me identity, this membership without which I would not exist. What is crucial is not to avoid all servitude (this is the modern notion of autonomy), but rather to serve the legitimate Lord, that is, Him from whom we receive the benefits that allow us to live. Jewish and Christian radicalness does not lie in the rejection of slavery, but the proclamation of Yahveh or God the Father-Son-Spirit as the only Lord of life itself:

"A life not lived under the oversight of the Lord is most pitiable. This is the case of the rebellious powers, which, in standing against God Almighty, are recalcitrant to slavery, not because they are of worse nature, but because they have rejected their creator. Whom then do you call free? Him who has no King? Him who has neither power to rule another nor willingness to be ruled? Among all existent beings no such nature is to be found. To entertain such a conception of the Spirit is obvious blasphemy." (20:51)

In this sense, 'to be free' would mean 'to be isolated', 'not being able to relate one's life to anyone else', while 'to rule' or 'to be ruled' indicates the experience of relationality:

"Therefore, if the Spirit is created, it is clearly a servant like everything else since, according to the psalm, 'all things are your servants' (Ps 119:91). But if it really is above created things, then it is part of the royalty [i.e. it is Lord, as the Father and the Son are Lord] (20:51)."

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