“Let us now add our lamentation to him that laments, and let us pour out our tears with those of Jacob bewailing Joseph his glorious and wise son. For Joseph, though enslaved in body, preserved his soul in freedom and became lord over all Egypt. For God prepares for His servants an imperishable crown.” (Oikos of Holy Monday Matins)
Holy and Great Monday is for the Church an occasion to remember the All-comely Joseph. His story is known from the Old Testament. His brothers sell him as a slave, he is brought to Egypt, the wife of his master Potiphar attacks him erotically, he resists her, he is thrown into prison, he interprets the dream of Pharaoh about the thick and thin cows, and then essentially he becomes the Prime Minister of Egypt, saving his father Jacob, his brothers and all the people of Israel.
In the oikos of the Synaxarion for today we read the following strange phrase about Joseph: “Joseph, though enslaved in body, preserved his soul in freedom.” Joseph was outwardly a slave, but his soul and thoughts remained free. This phrase is very important.
Humans tend to equate freedom with the absence of any external coercion. Today, we live freely, because we do not have someone oppressing us, which is why we fought the Struggle, and that’s why our society is democratic. Whenever our democratic freedoms and individual rights of any kind are threatened, there is a general mobilization. The same goes when the freedom of this country is threatened, as well as the democratic polity.
However, there is another form of freedom, which does not receive the attention we need. It is the freedom of the soul. This is not only freedom of thought and speech, but rather the freedom of the heart from passions and sins. Today it is almost an axiomatic truth the perception that personal morality should not be subordinated to any obligations, that the religiosity of man is a right he can exercise or not, and that man needs to enjoy all things every moment of his life, without barriers and limitations.
But this is a fallacy, “worse than the first”. Because this enslaves man’s needs and desires, leaving him a prisoner of his needs, making it impossible to think of his inner life and ultimately makes him a slave of sin and wickedness. The person who does not strive for inner freedom subjugates himself to his interests, faces life only with economistic and technocratic logic, and is not willing to sacrifice anything, which eventually reverses the characterizations of the Synaxarion: he becomes “free in body, preserving his soul in slavery”.
The Church, by viewing the example of the All-comely Joseph, shows us its ethos, which is nothing more than trying to obtain inner freedom. Man, inspired by the ascetic perspective, devoid of desires, the ego, leaving aside his interest, preferring to love and offer, works harmoniously balanced in the relationship of body and soul, and ultimately is the truly free man.
In the era of domination of the media, where freedom of thought and criticism remains a major issue, everyone has a lot to learn about the course to the freedom that is suggested during Holy Week. It is enough to just ask for freedom, to find the truth in Christ, and not despise this truly existential path by living under the slavery of passions and the illusion of power and pleasure. Joseph won the internal war and eventually was glorified, proving that the unconquered soul is worth much sacrifice. Because only then, as the Synaxarion also says, God gives “an imperishable crown”.
By Protopresbyter Themistocles Mourtzanos
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.