Rarely do all three weekly writings here on Oboedire revolve around the same theme, but they do this week. The theme of freedom has woven its way naturally into each post, quite apart from any advance or deliberate plan on my part. Perhaps in reading all three posts together, a larger message will emerge for you.
Today, my study of love in relation to early Christianity brings me to the topic of freedom because the early monastic commitment to love was not something coerced, but rather an expression of what Paul had earlier written to the Galatians, “Christ has set us free for freedom” (5:1). The call to “flee, be silent, and pray” propelled men and women into the desert with a sense of liberation. They had been freed from the law of sin and death by Christ, and now they were free to live what Paul referred to as “the more excellent way”–the way of love (1Corinthians 12:31–13:13).
Even their hermetical lodgings bore witness to this freedom. In calling their living quarters a “cell,” they were using the word to describe their space as a little bit of heaven, not an imprisonment. And from their prolonged times of loving God there flowed sustained expressions of loving others.
Our monastic predecessors remind us that as long as we see love as a duty, we will come to each moment as calculators, trying to figure out to whom love should be given, and how much to give. But when love is a fruit of the Spirit, we bear a tree full of it and offer it to anyone who happens by. This is not obligation, this is opportunity–the opportunity to love as we have been loved. This is freedom to love.