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Benedict XVI on freedom

“The first reality meriting respect, therefore, is the truth: freedom opposed to truth is not freedom.” The Pope adds something here that is not often considered. Authority is presented in the New Testament as not “being served” but as “serving,” serving others. This understanding leads him to say that “to serve one another creates the common space of freedom.” Benedict does not say just “serve another,” but “serve one another.” It is this reciprocity that provides the space, the relationship. This realization is why the “whole law” is contained in this one principle, “to love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Behind this affirmation appears the mystery of God Incarnate. Here is the mystery of Christ who in his life, in his death, in his Resurrection becomes the living law. This is the “law” to which we are called “in freedom.” The freedom refers to what Christ has stood for and taught us. If baptism means, as it does, the participation in “the death and Resurrection” of Christ, it teaches us that our freedom is, in principle, “sacrificial.” It is not just for ourselves but for the laying down our lives for our friends, even for our enemies.

Benedict cites the famous Latin saying of Augustine that reads, “Love God, and do what you will”—”Ama, et fac quod vis.” He adds that Augustine speaks the truth if we know the extent of what this “love” means. The “divine law” that guides our will is precisely this law of love. It means serving one another. This is the truth of our being.

The famous French writer and wit, Rabelais, once put on the door of his famous monastery of unruly monks the following motto: “Fac quod vis.” This motto, of course, was intended as a parody of Augustine’s “Ama, et fac quod vis.” One can say that Rabelais’ dropping of the “ama,” the love, so that we do whatever we will, whatever it is, brings out precisely the Pope’s point. The doing what we want, whatever it is, absolutizes ourselves. The “love” and “do what we wish” means rather that we serve one another, that the reciprocity of love that gives its space of freedom and limits it to what it is for.

We wish to let God’s will be done. And thus what God is becomes incarnate. It dwells amongst us in the “flesh,” as John said. This is why Mary is central, for without her “Fiat,” this incarnation as we know it could not have happened. To be ourselves, we must let ourselves be more than ourselves. —from “The Extraordinary Adventure: Real Love Is the Gift of Ourselves to One Another” [1]