I have begun to touch on issues of the “false self” and the “true self” for which we could find other language, a number of different metaphors. Theologically all this is grounded in the proper understanding of what it means to exist as a person. Of course, it means to exist in a completely unrepeatable, unique existence. There will never be another you. It also does not mean to exist in isolation – a person always exists in a relation. Thus our existence as persons is predicated on relations to others.
Equally important are the critical aspects of love and freedom, without which the person cannot exist in its proper fulfillment. The life of the Holy Trinity is our model for what human life should be – for this is the image in which we were created.
But before we get too abstract – the Trinity has its most complete revelation to us in the Cross of Christ. It is the self-emptying love of Christ, in an act of total freedom that manifests for us both what love means and what freedom means. We do not engage in abstract speculations about the Trinity and then move to consider our life with one another. We examine the testimony of Christ and from that can speak of Trinity, and from that can see how it is that we are to live.
Overcoming the fears that each of us has – fears that laying down my life for you will mean that I will no longer be – or fears that freedom will destroy everything around us – is an essential part of the struggle to be a person. Such fears have driven mankind to attempt any number of well-ordered societies, even uptopias. Inevitably, both freedom and love are compromised in these efforts. The self subsumed by the state is a demonic notion. Human beings in a relation that is not love is a construction point for hell.
As strangely philosophical as all these things sound, they are simply another way to describe the life we live in the Church, as we properly live it in the Church. Here we learn to love: learning to forgive frequently so that those around me are not bound by the past and by the debt they owe me, but have been set free in the loving act of forgiveness that I freely give them. We also learn freedom – not utter self-centered autonomy – but the freedom that comes from saying yes and no to God. He will not leave us or forsake us. If we say no to Him, He still says yes to us. We learn that the offering we make to God is indeed an act of freedom. I did not have to make it – I could have done otherwise.
It is like a marriage. I have said yes to my wife and to laying down my life for her and for my children. This is love and it is my freedom. I find that as I lose myself in my beloved I find myself and am renewed. Marriage is a sacrament, a mystery of the Church. All mysteries are centered in the great mystery of our salvation, our union with Christ in the fullness of ourselves as persons. I am a more whole man after 31 years of marriage. I have found a freedom greater than anything I knew before.
We struggle daily to rise to the level of person – something that is the highest form of our humanity. To live fully as a human person is to rise to the level of union with God, for to be fully human is to be fully conformed to His image. What joy awaits us each day. Each opportunity to love, to use our freedom rightly.
It is no wonder that tyrants always oppose the life of the Church. It is antithetical to their existence. May God free us from the tyranny of the false self and bring us into the glorious liberty of the Sons of Light.