Bishop Maxim Speaks at Berkeley

"Liberated from Bondage to Decay Through the Freedom (Romans 8:21):
True Freedom as the Conquest of the Self"

Last Tuesday (May 3rd), in the midst of the Paschal season, His Grace Bishop Maxim of the Serbian Western American Diocese, presented an inspirational and engaging lecture at the Patriarch Athenagoras Institute, Berkeley University.? At 6pm Bishop Maxim presided over Vesperal Liturgy service at the chapel, followed by dinner. The lecture titled "Liberated from Bondage to Decay Through the Freedom (Romans 8:21): True Freedom as the Conquest of the Self", was dedicated in honor of St. Nikolaj Velimirovic Bishop of Zica, referred to as Serbia's New Chrysostom, whose feast day was celebrated that Tuesday.

His Grace Bishop Maxim's theological work focus on both the theology of being and also contemporary theological questions. Christos Yannaras described Bishop Maxim as "a theologian who illumines" and Fr. John McGuckin identifies his work as "deeply biblical and patristic, academically learned yet spiritually rich."

Some 50 guests and friends of the Institute took advantage of this auspicious occasion.

Here we bring the introduction of this interesting presentation of Bishop Maxim.

It is not by accident that we speak about "freedom," "conquest," and the "self" here at Berkeley, which is famous for its search for these ideals, although very often in an exceedingly secular and extremely liberal way. At the same time, we recognize these concepts as very "Hellenic"-aren't we at the Patriarch Athenagoras Institute?-since it was in the Greek philosophical milieu that the question of "liberation from bondage to decay through freedom" was formulated and emphasized. But, historically, it was necessary that a Jew, St Paul the Apostle, come to a synthesis of all ancient religious and philosophical aspirations. Tonight, we are paying this debt to both Academia and the Church. At the same time, we dedicate this lecture in honor of St. Nikolai (Velimirovic) Bishop of Zica, referred to as Serbia's New Chrysostom, whose feast day is celebrated this Tuesday.

Honored by your presence, in this short presentation I will try to examine the relationship between true Freedom and the notion of the Self, both concepts being indispensible parts of today's culture. Further, I will offer a perspective for an understanding of St Paul's notion of "liberation from bondage to decay through freedom".

As we know, modern science is attempting to understand human freedom as a genetically determined neuro-chemical process. This scientific worldview has influenced modern man in his desire to discover a basic hormonal predisposition for taste, fashion, political choices, concerns and preoccupations, and finally, religiosity. However, these genes and hormones could also be examined in light of the anthropological experience of the Church, especially in association with her basic idea of freedom. Therefore, at the beginning of the third millennium since Christ, here at the Patriarch Athenagoras Institute at Berkeley, I will attempt to say something on this fundamental and fascinating topic.

Modern science, especially medicine, has not provided satisfactory answers to numerous questions on this issue; for example, when are we responsible for our behavior and when are we under the influence of biological forces beyond our control? Love and falling in love, the intensity of our spiritual life, the degree of our aggressive impulses, are all examined in light of our cerebral system (brain structure), which determines our individual traits. However, exactly here, one can ask whether human identity is grounded exclusively in a biological hypostasis? If so, should it be this way?

On the other side, the authentic awareness of the Church is that man maintains homeostasis with nature and receives a foretaste of the Truth and supernatural powers (the grace of the Holy Spirit) through the Eucharistic and ascetic life, which assist him in his struggle for wholeness against illness and sin. Because we believe that a genuinely healthy man is he whose pulse is in harmony with the Eucharistic life of the Church.

Tonight, I would like to examine, under the light of this new scientific approach, whether liberation from bondage to decay can be achieved through freedom, as St Paul suggests in Romans 8:21, specifically liberating the self from its bondage to decay. I will allow myself just to ask the crucial question: why and how should true freedom arrive at the conquest of the Self? Is Self a negative notion? Contemporary civilization promotes in all things a culture of self-preoccupation in the pursuit of happiness and well being.