The implicit goal of all modernity’s struggles for freedom is to be at last like a god who depends on nothing and no none, and whose own freedom is not restricted by that of another. Once we glimpse this hidden theological core of the radical will to freedom, we can also discern the fundamental error which still spreads its influence wherever such radical conclusions are not directly willed or are even rejected.
“Truth and Freedom,” Communio 23 (Spring, 1996), 28
Reflection – We had a major blizzard here last night, along with (apparently) a significant swath of
North America, which of course knocked power out and generally wrought chaos of
various winter-themed varieties. In consequence, this post will be a bit on the
short side—we are all a bit boulversé at the moment.
Here, though, we see another Christmas-themed reflection from Ratzinger. Eh? What’s that, you say? You don’t quite get the connection with this abstract philosophical statement about freedom and modernity and the baby Jesus? Haven’t you been paying attention here?
The whole thing is our human idea, not just modern, but human, that freedom means being unbound by any restriction, unfettered, uncontrolled, unconstrained whatsoever. This is our great grand idea of what it means to be free.
We don’t know what we’re talking about. God shows us what true freedom is, and he shows us that by being bound in swaddling bands, being carried around by Mary like a package (a beloved, cherished package, but still!), being nailed to a cross and immobilized, lying dead in the tomb, and even now in his risen ascended flesh handing himself to us in the Sacred Host, placing himself at our disposal.
Not a lot of ‘unfetteredness’ there, eh? Fetters as far as the eye can see. And this is God, and this is the perfect man.
Freedom means being unfettered in one thing and one thing only, and that is the unbound freedom to love and to pour oneself out in a constant gift of love, in truth and in justice. Every other freedom—all the freedoms we rightly cherish and wish to preserve as members of a free society—are only fully good, only fully realized if they are at the service of love and of truth.
This, by the way, is why we are such dire straits in our society today. Some value our ‘freedoms’ more, some less, but few indeed understand that true freedom and true human life only is secured by the gift of love and a passion for justice which is truth. Because there is precious little of this happening in the modern world, society is falling apart, and this is why there is so much violence, killing, madness, evil. Sorry to be so blunt and plain spoken, but there it is. The blizzard made me do it.
The baby Jesus has a deep secret, a deep truth to tell us about all these matters. What is it to be free, what is it to be human, what is it to have a good life, what is it to fulfill our destiny? Look at the little one lying on the straw, the baby at the breast, the man on the cross, the host in the tabernacle. The answer lies there, and until we find that answer and make it our own, we will lurch from one abortive effort at freedom to another which truly make us less and less free all the time.