“To live the Decalogue means to live the divinity of man, which is the very definition of freedom: the fusion of our being with the divine being and the resulting harmony of all with all.”
“Truth and Freedom,” in Communio 23 (Spring, 1996)
Reflection: To obey the law, to live by the rules, to keep the commandments—all of this, to the typical modern or post-modern person, sounds like signing up for a restrictive, narrow way of life. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, and you certainly can’t do this, that, and that… and don’t even think of doing such and such (you nasty person)! Ugh – what a horrible way to live! How undignified! How childish!
Ratzinger counters this with a truly stunning alternative vision. To live the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) is to live the divinity of man. Why is this? Because the Decalogue is truth, and God is Truth. Because only living in truth empowers us to actually move in freedom.
If I, declaring my freedom from all rules and laws, decide to go and do gymnastics on the ridge-line of the roof of MH, I am free to do that… for a very short time. Then I will be free to lie in bed with a dozen broken bones, or worse. Freedom exercised in violation of the law is freedom that quickly destroys itself. The moral law is no different than the laws of gravity – if we choose to violate truth, charity, chastity, etc., then we are choosing to limit our freedom, to limit our being and our ability to live a truly human life.
But this passage goes even further than that. The moral law leads us to live a divine life – this is because the commandments are ultimately from the mind and heart of God. So our entering into the life of the commandments bears us into God’s mind and heart. It’s analogous to the Trinity – the Son is Son because He receives everything from the Father. The Spirit is Spirit because He has no Being except what proceeds from the Father and the Son. And we are drawn into this mysterious life of God by receiving from Him everything—truth, goodness, beauty. And we express this in our human mode of being… by obedience, by accepting the universe as He made it, not as we would have it, and conforming our actions to His perfect will, which is expressed first of all in the Commandments. And this is the path of true freedom, the freedom to live and love as God does.