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Paradox (of Suffering and Freedom)

“…the most paradoxical thing that lies in the fact of freedom is that man cannot “free himself” from it—if he wanted to do so—unless he extinguishes himself completely. This makes Sartre’s “man is condemned to be free,” sound quite true. For the alternative which freedom poses for man’s existence lies between accepting existence as a whole as something of which man freely partakes, or making existence something which man controls himself.” (Metropolitan John Zizioulas)

“…philosophy since Socrates had in effect chosen to cast its lot with the serpent rather than with a personal God, by accepting that “the knowledge of Good and Evil” is man’s best destiny and would make us the equivalent of gods. The knowledge of Good and Evil, no matter how systematically or thoroughly consumed, will by no means make us gods. Rather, modern ethics, modern psychotherapy, and modern political ideologies all tend to produce not superhumans but pitiable slaves to the rationalizations generated by our distorted human desires. In order to gain control over the world, we have been too willing to renounce essential aspects of our own freedom.” (Timothy G. Patitsas)

“Fearing immorality (or something similar), or seeking conformity at any cost, it is easy to reduce a person’s freedom, substituting a false obedience, that results in the creation of a “false self.”…“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The paradox of our relationship to God is that obedience in our relationship to Him does not enslave us – but sets us free…It’s paradox is that this life within revealed limits is the only true freedom. Freedom is not the ability to do anything, to have no limits, but the ability to truly be who and what you are, which can only be known through the revelation of limits.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Self-denial gets a bad rap because denying ourselves doesn’t come natural due to the infection of sin in us which causes us to associate it with drudgery and unpleasantness. It’s counter-cultural too. The reality is that self-denial is really about gain and freedom not loss and confinement. We gain who we really are and become “set free” when we deny ourselves out of love for Christ, and with this comes peace, freedom, and contentment in our soul that no amount of self-indulgence can compete with. However, the paradox is that if we do this with the idea of gaining something as opposed to someone, we lesson the virtue of self-denial. We need to get to the place through prayer and practice where our love for Christ is what compels us and where we deny anything that keeps us from our union with Him.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“According to Christian teaching, freedom doesn’t lie in the untrammeled capacity to satisfy one’s personal desires. Such freedom is merely allowing our distorted selfishness to run riot. Which means it’s radically opposed to the Christian notion of freedom. Real freedom is part and parcel of the transcendence of our selfishness. This is the only way in which one person’s freedom doesn’t impinge on that of others. Real freedom has its source in God and is experienced as communion with him and with other people. The acquisition of such freedom requires complete self-denial on our part, and the observation of God’s commandments…With the acceptance of mortification, which is the culmination of the paradoxicality of the Christian life, human nature isn’t undermined, but, on the contrary, is brought to its perfection.” (George Mantzarides)

“Within the tragedy of a loss or crisis there is a real possibility to move away from the limited God we have created, and a life we may be merely existing within, to an experience of God and life that can be real and transforming in nature. Still, admitting this and believing it at such a deep level that one can boldly act upon it are two completely different things! A life of true covenant is simple… but not easy. How do you reconcile an all-loving God with the tragedy and suffering that seem so pervasive in our lives and our world?” (Robert J. Wicks)

“Paul said, “For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13)… it reveals his [Paul’s] deep conviction that Christ’s suffering and death constituted a revelation of divine love for the world, a love into which he and his churches were now caught up; they were called to narrate to the world, in word and deed, the suffering and reconciling love of God in Christ. To suffer for others is to absorb evil and pain rather than inflict them; that was God’s way in Christ, and it became Paul’s way, too, the natural consequence of his conversion from violence as his means to justification before God…Indeed, for Paul suffering is also a prelude to glory, as crucifixion is to resurrection; shame gives way to honor in the economy of God. Just as Christ was humiliated and then exalted, in the pattern of the suffering servant of Isa 52:13-53:12, so also those who suffer with him as God’s servants will be glorified with him (Rom 8:17; Phil 3:10-11).” (Michael Gorman)

“…suffering is the one and only source of true knowledge; adversity is the mainspring of self-realization.” This interpretation of freedom in terms of suffering, on which Dostoevsky insists throughout his works, reveals the mystery of freedom as the capacity of man to embrace fully his incapacity, that is, as his ability to turn weakness into strength or rather to realize his power in weakness. This paradox is nothing other than what Paul means when he writes in 2 Cor. 12: 10 after mentioning his full acceptance of suffering: “for when I am weak, I am strong.” Human freedom, in its true meaning, abolishes the scheme “capacity versus incapacity” and replaces it with the paradox of “capacity in incapacity.” (Metropolitan John Zizioulas)

“Man’s capacity willingly to embrace suffering to the utmost point shows that even in the slavery of his fallen state he remains a person, though an unhappy one. Just as by frankly facing absence man becomes capable of faith in presence, in the same way by facing suffering and not turning away from it with the help of various “securities,” man affirms his freedom in a negative way. This is no romanticizing of suffering as there is no idealization of absence and death; these are man’s worst enemies. But the important thing in human existence is that the only way to abolish these things, the only way to conquer them, is freedom, and this implies freedom to undergo them. The Cross is the only way to the Resurrection, and this does not take away from the Cross its utter shame and repulsiveness.” (Metropolitan John Zizioulas)

“The paradox of suffering and evil is resolved in the experience of compassion and love.” (Nicolas Berdyaev)


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