It is said by some that God has no boundaries regarding us, that He is God and may do with us (and to us) whatever He wills. This, of course, is true in an abstract sense. However, it is not true of God as He has made Himself known in Christ. Christ is a God who “asks.” He is the God who allows a freedom so great that it can kill Him.
-Fr. Stephen Freeman in “Love and Freedom.”
I had just returned from a talk on the Holy Trinity when I read Fr. Stephen’s article quoted above. Our lecturer told us that the Cappadocian fathers of the 4th century, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. Gregory of Nyssa, developed the Trinitarian theology of the church from their answers to questions raised by their knowledge of Greek and Hebrew ideas of God. One idea, from the Greeks, was that God is forced by overflowing love to create man, and they did not believe that God is forced to do anything.
So why did He? Because He wanted to give humans the opportunity, the freedom to respond to His love, and by communion with the Holy Spirit to be transformed into true persons .
In another article Fr. Stephen wrote: The knowledge that comes through communion is not a fact to be considered, rather, it is a knowledge that in the very act of knowing becomes part of you. The knower and the known share some manner of common existence.
A last snippet from Love and Freedom: When I have written that Pascha is at the heart of everything (and I believe this faithfully represents the teaching of the Church) this weakness born of love is its consequence. It is the love of God that surrounds us and calls us to be His friends. It seeks us, face to face, even searching for us when we hide. But it is a love that stands weakly at the border of our freedom, and waits for our invitation.
Since my husband’s death three years ago I’ve had three long-term housemates. Two of them have moved on, so that Susan and I are the only ones here, just two of us using the cupboards and large freezer space. This situation dovetails with my own less-burdened mind, which now is able to grasp:
Yes! The obvious thing is to clean out the larder, use up the food, and start planning and cooking interesting meals with all the bits of this and that squirreled away. Facing up to what is unusable is part of the process; the soup that got lost in the back of the freezer for too long is one of the hidden costs associated with huge life changes, and is not a cause for guilt.
Chesterton’s wisdom on creativity always helps me: Thrift is the really romantic thing; economy is more romantic than extravagance… economy, properly understood, is the more poetic. Thrift is poetic because it is creative; waste is unpoetic because it is waste. It is prosaic to throw money away, because it is prosaic to throw anything away; it is negative; it is a confession of indifference, that is, it is a confession of failure.
The most prosaic thing about the house is the dustbin, and the one great objection to the new fastidious and aesthetic homestead is simply that in such a moral menage the dustbin must be bigger than the house. If a man could undertake to make use of all things in his dustbin he would be a broader genius than Shakespeare.
Another development since I returned from India is that I can’t go back to the weird eating habits I had fallen into as soon as I no longer had anyone to cook for routinely. Eating normally and very tastily for eight weeks cured me forever, I think, of my go-to frozen chopped spinach that I had been eating as the main part of every meal. Yesterday I used the last of it with a little container of likewise defrosted meaty red sauce and a (fresh) egg, to make a perfect breakfast:
These limitations I have placed on myself made me remember other things Chesterton said about art and painting and limits, and that led me on an interesting path through fields of quotes on the topic. Talk about limits and people will argue that they only exist in your mind, and must be “dropped,” if you are “to go beyond them into the impossible.” Even Winston Churchill is reported to have said, “The vistas of possibility are only limited by the shortness of life.” But he wasn’t trying to get dinner on the table in an hour.
Modern man seems especially prone to this delusion, but there are many sage exceptions, like Robert Browning: “So free we seem, so fettered fast we are!”
In matters of food and cooking, even if you had unlimited money you have limited time, and limits on whom you might find to prepare the ingredients, the choice of which is always limited to some degree, and on and on. I know you all know these things; this is my philosophical rambling you’re reading.
I am not advocating for an unhealthy fear of trying something new, but actually the opposite. As George Braque said, “It is the limitation of means that determines style, gives rise to new forms and makes creativity possible.”
And though Richard Diebenkorn was talking about painting, this word from him is empowering when considered at the beginning of any creative work: “My freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful, the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles.”
Yesterday I found several very ripe bananas in the freezer, and I did not want to waste them, even if their monetary value at purchase was minimal. You can imagine what they looked like after being there for a while; I’m sure I couldn’t have found a neighbor who wanted them. Anyway, part of my “style” is to stay home. I avoid going shopping, and knocking on doors for any reason. If only I had got my hoped-for worm bins set up, I would have given them to the worms!
But various baking supplies were sitting in the refrigerator begging to be used, so I put everything together into an unusual banana bread. It started from a “paleo” recipe with almond flour, but when I substituted egg replacer for the eggs I created a Grain-Free Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.
I remember something my grandmother told me when I was a child. She was talking to me about the Greek war of independence against Turkey…and she told the case of a soldier who, after the battle, in the dark night, called his lieutenant and cried: ‘Lieutenant, Lieutenant, I have taken a prisoner!’ — ‘Bring him here,’ answered the lieutenant.– ‘I can’t, he is holding me so tight,’ replied the soldier.
This seems absurd…and yet I have the impression that very often it is the situation in which we find ourselves with respect to the world when we who are prisoners of this world in a thousand ways — not so much outwardly as inwardly — think that we can transform it….
The announcement by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would bear the Christ, the Son of God, is one of the twelve Great Feasts of the church year in Orthodoxy, and is celebrated exactly nine months before the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, on March 25th. The words above are from a hymn that we sing on this feast.
That last clause piqued my interest, too! I’ve been wanting to take the time to read the booklet again and write a real review about the truths that Fr. Schmemann helps to clarify, but that time is not now. However, the present moment and celebration does seem to be right for at least posting a quote from the book, as we contemplate her who is “blessed among women.” (I have underlined the words that were in italics in the original.)
It is clear that an abstract and impersonal study of man posits a self-evident conclusion: man as total dependence. An equally abstract exaltation of man posits its a priori premise: man as total freedom. But both are revealed in the unique personal experience of Mary, an experience given to the Church and made into her experience, as one and the same truth about man.
In Mary, the very notions of “dependence” and “freedom” cease to be opposed to one another as mutually exclusive. We are inclined to think that where there is dependence there can be no freedom, where there is freedom there can be no dependence. Mary, however, accepts, she obeys, she humbles herself before the living Truth itself, a Presence, a Beauty, a Life, a Call so overwhelmingly evident that it makes the notion of “dependence” an empty one — or rather identical and coextensive with that of freedom. For as long as freedom is nothing but the other side of dependence — a protest, a rebellion against dependence — as long as freedom itself depends on dependence for its meaning, it is also an empty notion. Each time freedom chooses and accepts, it ceases to be freedom. Here, however, in the unique experience of Mary, freedom becomes the very content of dependence, the one eternally fulfilling itself in the other as life, joy, knowledge, communion, and fulness.
Admittedly these are poor, inadequate, and clumsy human words about an experience, a vision, a reality which transcends all human words. But, having read them, look again at that woman who eternally stands at the very heart of the Church filling our hearts with a mysterious yet ineffable joy, making us repeat eternally that same salutation which she heard in the depth of her heart on the day of Annunciation: Rejoice!