The Lenten season onus on self-denial and dying to oneself is really an exercise in finding the path to real freedom, something that can only be found in God. When the mind recognizes this, the heart finally discovers what it pines for all this time. This is what our Christian tradition calls “metanoia”. When this happens, the world may not immediately be less fraught with hardship and danger, yet it will no longer be miserable. For once again, hope sustains and the symbols of faith regain their meaning, and every step taken is a liberation.
This short reflection is prompted when I recently (belatedly yet ever so timely) came across the German theologian and WWII martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s meditation “Stations on the Way to Freedom”.
If you set out to seek freedom, you must learn before all things mastery over sense and soul, lest your wayward desirings, lest your undisciplined members lead you not this way, now that way. Chaste be your mind and your body, and subject to you and obedient, serving solely to seek their appointed goal and objective.
Do and dare what is right, not swayed by the whim of the moment. Bravely take hold of the real, not dallying now with what might be. Not in the flight of ideas but only in action is freedom. Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of living. God’s command is enough and your faith in him to sustain you. Then at last freedom will welcome your spirit amid great rejoicing.
See what a transformation! These hands so active and powerful now are tied, and alone and fainting, you see where your work ends. Yet you are confident still, and gladly commit what is rightful into a stronger hand, and say that you are contented. You were from from a moment of bliss, then you yielded your freedom into the hand of God, that he might perfect it in glory.
Come now, highest of feasts on the way to freedom eternal, death, strike off the fetters, break down the walls that oppress us, our bedazzled soul and our ephemeral body, that we may see at last the sight which here was not vouchsafed us. Freedom, we sought you long in discipline, action, suffering. Now as we die we see you and know you at last, face to face.