Freedom Must be Learnt

As we Americans celebrate our Independence Day holiday, we are also called upon to contemplate the nature of freedom.  Freedom doesn’t consist in choosing between any fast food place one wants to eat, or what sport team one will root for, or in deciding how much time one will spend on the Internet.   These forms of freedoms are just choosing between choices offered to us.  As Bishop Kallistos Ware says, we have to learn how to be free.

“‘Learn to be free’:  freedom cannot simply be assumed; it has to be learnt.  Suppose that you ask me, ‘Can you play the violin?’  and I reply, ‘I don’t know, I’ve never tried.’  You might feel that there was something odd about my answer.  Unless I have learnt to play the violin through the exacting discipline of a musical training, I am not free to play Beethoven’s violin sonatas.  And so it is with every form of freedom.  Freedom has to be learnt through ascesis, the ascetic discipline, of precise observation and imaginative thinking; and then it needs to be defended with courage and self-sacrifice.  As Nicolas Berdyaev observed, ‘Freedom gives birth to suffering, while the refusal to be free diminishes suffering.  Freedom is not easy, as its enemies and slanderers allege: freedom is hard; it is a heavy burden.  Men, as Dostoevsky has shown with such amazing power, often renounce freedom to ease their lot.’  Yet if we renounce freedom, we become less than truly human; and if we deny others their freedom, we dehumanize them.”   (Bishop Kallistos Ware, THE INNER KINGDOM, p 73)

A Prayer for our Nation

O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, the God of all mercies and compassion, whose mercy cannot be measured and whose love for mankind is unfathomably deep:  We Your unprofitable servants bow down with fear and trembling before Your majesty.  We now humbly offer thanksgiving to Your deep compassion for the benefits You bestowed upon our land.  We glorify, praise, hymn and magnify You as Lord, Master and Benefactor of us all.  Bowing down in thanksgiving for Your immeasurable and ineffable loving-kindness, humbly we pray:  As You have now counted us Your servants worthy and so received our supplications and fulfilled them, now  too in the time to come, as we flourish in sincere love for You and grow in every virtue, grant all Your faithful to be blessed by your gracious benefits. Deliver our land and our civil leaders from every evil circumstance, and grant us all peace and tranquility.  Count us always worthy to offer thanksgiving to You, to witness to Your most gracious benefits, and to sing praise to You, together with your Father who is everlasting and Your Most Holy, good and consubstantial Spirit.  God worshiped in one essence.  Amen.