Guest post by Br. Joseph Selinger, OP.
Freedom does not come from the ability to move about, to go where one pleases, and determine our lives. So many people today carry with them their own prison wherever they go. True freedom is the interior freedom provided by the Spirit, wherein our shackles to vice and sin are broken, and I can encounter the world unhindered. When I am free in the Spirit, no external prison can hinder me.
The paradox of monastic life is that those bound to the holy prison of the cloister are in fact much freer than they would be if they were in the world.
The current lockdown forces us to see freedom in a new way, a way reflected in the monastic tradition. Am I really less free than I was when I could move about whenever and wherever I wish? In a sense, I am less free. My physical movements are restricted. But of what value is this kind of freedom? In a more fundamental way, I am just as free as I was before, because I have the same interior orientation towards the good and the same interior capacities to obtain it. Nothing has changed. If I was bound by vice and found my own presence with myself displeasing, I will still be thus bound. However, if I find myself renewed by the Spirit of God, I will find myself just as free.
The upshot is that physical confinement does not necessarily undermine the freedom that is most valuable. In many ways, it can provide an opportunity to become freer. Lockdown provides an opportunity to look at ourselves and the world in a new way, and to focus on those things that matter most.
Brother Joseph Selinger is a Dominican friar, originally hailing from British Columbia, Canada; he serves in the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, California.