Monday, October 29, 2012

Truth and Freedom

The salvation offered by the Logos, by the Word of God made man, is of its nature a liberation from the slavery of appearance, a return to the truth. But the transition from appearance to the light of truth takes place in the figure of the cross.
To Look on Christ, 81

Reflection – My previous post was about truth as the necessary ground for communion. Without a shared reality, without at least some shared meaning, no communication, and hence no community is possible.
This passage takes up the theme of truth and develops it further. Jesus tells us that the truth will set us free (John 8:32). Truth is liberation – to live in reality is to live in freedom from illusion and artifice. But this truth comes to us, Ratzinger tells us, in the figure of the cross.

Now what does that mean? I don’t have the original passage in context in front of me, but I see two interwoven meanings here. First, when we come into the truth, we see things as they are, as opposed to what we would like them to be. Reality is what it is; our desires are not king of the world. The entire cosmos, in a sense, is like Rhett to our Scarlett saying to us, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn (what you want).’

So of course, to live in truth is to live in humility, and of course this hurts our ego. We must accept that we are just one little person in a very big world, and that our primary call is to accept things as they are, since all our efforts and energies can only make a small difference in the world.

So this hurts, and so truth comes to us in the figure of the cross. But there is a deeper meaning to all this, of course. The cross is not merely a symbol of pain and helplessness, right? Jesus died on the cross, and the cross then becomes not only the symbol but the deep realization of the deepest truth of all.

And this truth is the infinite love and mercy of God poured out, freely given, big enough for every human being to have a full share in it. This is the deepest truth of reality, of the cosmos and what lies beneath and above it. Reality comes to us hard and unyielding, like the wood of the cross, yet it is by lying on that cross that we come to know we are sharing it with our Lord who loves us.

‘The cross is the marriage bed of Christ and humanity.’ To accept the sorrowful mystery of things as they are, and to discover within them the mysterious awesome presence, power, and love of God—this is the truth that liberates us. We have nothing to fear. There is no reality we need to flee from or deny or reject. Even the most horrific and agonizing turns of fate can be and indeed are met by the mercy and love of God coming out to us from the very heart of the world’s anguish.

This is our Christian faith, and from this faith comes the power to love and spend ourselves freely for the life of the world. And that is what we mean by freedom in our religion.

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