Daily Meditations

Liberation from our Enslavement

Once we have become aware of our enslavement, and have passed from mere lamentation and a sense of misery into a sense of broken heartedness and poverty of spirit, our imprisonment in the land of Egypt is answered by the words of the next beatitudes: ‘Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted’, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’. This mourning that is the result of the discovery of the kingdom, of one’s own responsibility, of the tragedy of being a slave, is a more bitter mourning than that which is the lot of the simple slave. The slave complains about an outer situation; this mourner, who is blessed by God, does not complain, he is brokenhearted, and he is aware that his outer enslavement is the expression of something far more tragic: his inner enslavement, his severance from the closeness of God. And nothing can be done to escape this situation unless meekness is attained.

Meekness is a difficult word which has acquired various connotations and since it is extremely rare in practice, we cannot turn to our experience of meek people, which would give us a clue to the meaning of the word. We find in J. B. Phillips’ translation: ‘Happy are those who claim nothing’, meaning ‘Blessed are those who do not try to possess’. The moment you do not want to possess, you become free because, whatever you do possess, by that you are possessed. Another interpretation of the word meek is found in the translation of the Greek word into a Slavonic word meaning ‘made tame’. A person or an animal that has been tamed is not simply terrified of punishment and subject to the authority of the master; it is someone in whom the process has gone farther, someone who has acquired a new quality and who by this tameness escapes the violence of coercion.

At the threshold of our salvation from the slavery of Egypt stands the condition that we should be tamed; in other words, that we should recognise in the situation in which we are, depth, significance, the presence of the divine will, and it should be neither flight nor rebellion, but a movement guided by God, which begins with the kingdom of heaven that is within us and develops into the kingdom on earth. It is a period of wavering and of inner struggle: ‘Lead us not into temptation 0 Lord, Protect us in the trial, help us in the fight which has begun for us.’ And now we are at the point when a move can be made. Look back at Exodus, at the Jews’ awareness that they are not simply slaves but the people of God that had become enslaved because of their moral weaknesses. They had to take risks, because no one is ever freed by a slave owner, and they had to cross the Red Sea; but beyond the Red Sea it was not yet the promised land, it was the burning desert and they were aware of it and knew that they would have to cross it in the face of great difficulties. And so are we when we decide to make a move that will liberate us from our enslavement: we must be aware that we shall be attacked by violence, by beguilement, by the inner enemies that are our old habits, our old craving for security, and that nothing is promised us, except the desert beyond. Beyond that is the promised land, but far beyond, and we must accept the risks of the journey.

~Archbishop Anthony Bloom, Living Prayer


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