I’ve started reading St. Maximus the Confessor during my morning prayer time, and I found myself caught up in wonder, love, and praise when I read this quote:
Everything will cease its willful movement toward something else when the ultimate beauty that satisfies our desire appears…St. Maximus the Confessor, On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, p. 53.
We imagine our “free will” lies in our ability to choose against God, against the Good and Beautiful, but I wonder if in fact that thought is evidence that our wills are not truly free.
For what could be more “rational” than choosing Ultimate Beauty? And yet we do not. Does this not speak of the constriction of our wills? Is not the inability to see and choose the truly Good evidence of unfreedom? Slavery to untruth? Bound in lies?
I wonder if we choose something other than God not because we have “free will,” but because our wills have not yet been fully freed? We do not yet fully see the “ultimate beauty that satisfies our desire” and therefore we are yet fully free.
True freedom will be the ability to see God for who he is and say YES to him and move toward him. When the ultimate beauty that satisfies our desire is revealed, what could freedom mean except that we cease our “willful movement toward something else…” for God will be all in all.
I haven’t come to any concrete conclusions about all this, but I want to wrestle with it, because I’ll admit that this is a much more beautiful and compelling picture to me of the eschaton than one where I could hypothetically still move away from God if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed or something.
For there is no other end toward which all free movement is directed than the rest found in total contemplation by those who have reached that point.St. Gregory Nazianzen
What we think of as “freedom,” then, is perhaps in fact the constriction of freedom. (What a pernicious lie!) When we move toward something other than God, we manifest our slavery and blindness and unfreedom. And when we move toward God, we manifest our true freedom.
(This relates, by the way, to some of the discussion I’ve seen about David Bentley Hart’s new book That All Shall Be Saved.)