Pope: Saying 'Yes' to God Brings True Freedom
In his catechesis on St. Maximus the Confessor, the Holy Father emphasized that understanding the Saints' teaching on the exercise of True Freedom opens the path to human fulfillment.
Continuing his catechesis on the Fathers of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI turned to Maximus the Confessor whose insistence that Jesus had a human will not only led to his martyrdom but secured a fundamental truth of the Incarnation and the Christian vocation. The Pope emphasized that the humanity of Jesus and His "Yes" to the Father shows us the path to true freedom.
This is the lesson inspired by the example of Saint Maximus, one of the great Fathers of the Eastern Church, whose figure Benedict XVI presented today.
He was named the Confessor for the courage with which he bore witnessed and “confessed” his faith, said the Pope. Wearing a wide-brimmed red hat, the Holy Father spoke to a crowd of 30,000 faithful who gathered in St Peter’s Square despite the hot sun and sweltering heat, with multicolour hats and umbrellas protecting them from the sun’s rays.
Born in Palestine in 580 AD Maximus began a life of monasticism and scriptural studies. From Jerusalem he moved to Constantinople then Africa where he distinguished himself by his steadfast defence of orthodoxy and Jesus’ humanity against those who claimed that in Him there was only divine will.
“A man without will is not true man” and “without a human will” Jesus Christ ‘would not have been a true man” and “could not have experienced the tragedy of being human.” There is no dualism in Jesus when it comes to divine as opposed to human will; instead “there is unity in the person of Christ” so that “the man must not be amputated to explain the Incarnation.”
For Saint Maximus such notions were not ‘philosophical speculation, but reality in Christ’s life,” especially evinced in the “tragedy of Gethsemane” where Jesus said “still, not my will but yours be done.”
Adam, who stands in for humanity, “thought that No was the top of freedom; only someone who says No is truly free, and so says No to God.”
“This tendency carries within Christ’s human nature as well, but goes beyond it because it does not see the maximum of freedom in saying No, but rather in saying Yes and conforming to God’s Will,” where “one’s will is unified with God’s.”
Adam wanted to be like God, but we cannot achieve it by saying No. Instead it is by being able to “go beyond oneself” that one can become truly free, by transferring man’s will to God’s will. “The issue of our life and being human become real in this.”
Discussing the life of Maximus the Confessor Benedict XVI said that he was called to Rome by Pope Martin I who had convened a Council at the Lateran Basilica to defend Christ’s will. For that reason he was sentenced to death by the emperor. Still Maximus kept arguing that it was not possible to claim that there was only one will in Jesus.
In the end though and despite his age—he was 82-years-old—the imperial tribunal sentenced him to have his tongue cut out and his right hand chopped off. He died, in exile, in 662 AD.
The life and thoughts of Maximus “remain enlightened by an extreme courage, without shortcuts or compromises” and thus ‘appears to us as we should live in response to our vocation, living united with God.”
Christ’s Yes shows us where we should rightly place all other values like those that “are correctly defended”, values like tolerance “which if it does not know how to distinguish between good and evil becomes chaotic and self-destructive” or freedom “which if it does not respect the freedom of others and does not find common measure with our liberties becomes anarchy and destroys authority” or dialogue “which if it does not know what it can discuss becomes empty chat.”
“Every value needs a point of reference which is God” so that “we can know where to place all other values in ways that we get their right meaning.”
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