In July we celebrate our nation’s independence day. As Orthodox Christians, we appreciate the tenants of freedom more than most. We respect those who have died to make us free because we understand more acutely than most what it means to be slaves. I am not speaking of the Greeks under the Turkokrateia (Enslavement under the Turks from 1453-1821), though certainly that analogy can be made. I am speaking of our slavery to Sin and the ultimate fate awaiting all under its tyranny: Death. Jesus Christ, through His death, set us free from sin. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”—(Romans 5:12) … “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:15).
O say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
This verse of the Poem written by Francis Scott Key tells a very important story about the symbol of Freedom. The poem takes place in the dawn, after the battle of Ft. McHenry (1814) , after Key watched the British attempts all through the night to both destroy the flag and those who held it up. He witnessed again and again as the men came forward to die (perilous), holding that flag until a pile of bodies formed a flag pole(gallantly). The artillery from the HMS Erebus fired rockets at the flag (rockets’ red glare) while the HMS Meteor fired bombs (bombs bursting in air), and the fact that they kept firing gave proof that the flag was still there. Truly that banner represents the home of the brave and the land of the free.
But let us shift our focus to the Saints, who are no less gallant, no less brave, and fought in no less perilous fights. For they combated against the forces of evil. As St. Paul states “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). They took up their banner (The Cross), and bravely triumphed. After all, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). For it was not they who stood, but Jesus Christ who strengthened them. “To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand” (Romans 14:4).
Let us cherish our freedom. Let us seek what it means to be truly free, for only Christ is truly free.