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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Joy of Liberation

Continuing with the previous theme, the story of our sins is also the story of God's forgiveness and mercy.  We should never want to entirely escape our pasts, and while our pasts have shaped us, they do not necessarily define us.

My past took me through the 'dark night of the soul,' when I despaired in my misery without any hope.  Existence hurt.  Even death did not seem to be an escape.  I don't know if that makes sense to anyone, but that was how I felt, even though no one else saw it but me.  I was good at keeping my private world to myself, but all that did was create a spiritual pressure cooker.

This inner suffering led me to both sin and to seek God.  When I found Him, it was a great joy, but that joy was also joined with my sins.  The ugly thoughts and deeds were wrapped up with God because He is my liberator.

In the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, which the Orthodox Church sings this week, God is portrayed as a judge, but also as a liberator.  He frees people... and the hymns demonstrate the various examples from the Old Testament.  When we are forgiven, we are freed.  This is a constant theme in the OT.  Read it for yourself.

Recovery is not the utter erasure of sins, but liberation from their death.  Sure, we still deal with the consequences... the scars, the impediments, the wounds that heal slowly... but they do not kill us.  In fact, the wounds of sins are directly connected to the healing of Christ.  If you are not wounded, then you cannot be healed.

The canon reminds us of this truth: God heals and liberates all mankind from the death of despair.  Yes, death is despair.  One who is despondent cannot really live, since he sees nothing but bleakness and torment.  In order to act, and by this I mean to move towards one's joy, one must have the hope that there is an attainable joy.

We are meant for joy, but joy is not found within us until God comes within us.  Despondency is utter self-concern, and so there is no joy in it.  God liberates us from hopelessness by emancipating us from sin by delivering us from our self-obsession.  Once we get out of 'self' we can receive forgiveness and be free.

The Canon reminds us of this liberation so that we can apply it to our own lives and derive hope.  Addicts more than anything need hope, which is why step groups need older members in recovery to teach the newer ones about this hope's attainment and to demonstrate how it looks.  Slaves don't know how to be free.

For us in the Church, the saints are our examples of freedom.  They show us what it like to be liberated from death and despair.

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