Fragile and Complex Beauty: Christian Freedom
What are the characteristics of Christian freedom?
Christian freedom is grounded in individual conscience, which is meant to be informed by the commandments, beatitudes, life of Christ, wisdom from tradition, witness of good people and life experience. Christian freedom should not be influenced by social pressure to meet the ‘acceptable’ standard of behavior, though this is often the case. Christian freedom is ideally an opportunity to choose independently from natural cause or fate and includes assessing various alternatives free from the authority or influence of others.
What virtues are most essential to a Christian character?
The virtues most essential to a Christian character include faith, hope and love, the greatest of which is love. The Great Commandment encapsulates how to live out these virtues e.g. Love God and love others. Christians who live these virtues are people of service, full of mercy and understanding, fascinated and awed by the wonder of God’s creation and eager to love what God loves.
What is most central to a Franciscan image of God?
Most central to a Franciscan image of God is that God loves us and is “diffusive goodness, love and infinite freedom.” (Chinnici in Nairn, The Franciscan Moral Vision, 269). God is love, loves all His creations and we ought to love what He loves without exception.
What is the significance of creation in your theology?
I’ve always been moved and experienced spiritual renewal in the forest, in the mountains and when seeing stars and the aurora borealis. These experiences are truly awe-inspiring and are like a touch of the Creator for me. When I learned that the Franciscan view honors creation as imprints of God this really resonated for me. All creation is an ascent towards God and the utter gift of the incarnation, Jesus. This aligns with Nairn’s characteristic eight that the Franciscan vision is an aesthetic vision that privileges beauty. (The Franciscan Moral Vision, 16)
In my theology I am making a shift, thanks to Franciscan perspectives, to an understanding that humans are creation too and all of creation needs to be respected and cherished as vestiges of God. In other words, the Franciscan views creation as imprints of God – we care for creation because we are moved to return God’s love by caring for what He cares about.
Describe a Franciscan anthropology (i.e., understanding of the human person).
Franciscan views of the human person as part of creation amplify the dignity of the human person as images of God. In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict speaks of “a transcendent vision of the person” which is also Franciscan in the sense of “mirroring of the free and self-giving exchange of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that calls people to live in free and self-giving relationships of mutuality.” (Nairn, 16).
This transcendent vision of the person makes sense in light of understanding that “The human person cannot be properly understood apart from God.” (Gula Reason informed by Faith, 64) Because God made us out of love, and everything He made is good, we are good, we have dignity independent of our achievements. The transcendence is complemented by the particularity and uniqueness of each human person. This Scotistic notion of individuation reflects God’s incredible love for each person. (Ilia Delio, A Franciscan View of Creation, 36-37)