Parresia: Holy Freedom of Speech

Reading about the Origen homilies discovered last Holy Thursday, it turned out that Origen talked about “parresia,” which Perrone defined informally as “freedom of speech.” (Remember all those times when you read about various Biblical figures speaking out boldly? That’s “parresia.” It also implies being candid, not holding things back that people need to hear. There’s an alternate spelling, “parrhesia.”)

Anyway, Perrone talked about how Origen talked about how the imperative (command form of a verb) being directed to God in the “Our Father” was a consequence of the freedom of speech (parresia) accorded to the righteous as adopted children of God. Those who obey God are commanded by God to command Him, in a way. (Video of the lecture. Copy of the paper.)

Pope Francis mentioned parresia back on St. George’s Day.

It would seem that a lot of Christians do speak in a reserved or frightened or politically correct way, instead of using parresia.

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3 responses to “Parresia: Holy Freedom of Speech

  1. It is one of the many sad things about our time that no one has tried to write about the great truth crystallized in GKC’s gem:

    “Free speech is a paradox.”
    [GKC Browning]

    but then at the Ambrosian, students (and even transient seminarians) are required to take classes on Developmental Anatomy, where they learn about such things. (Though someone IS trying to write about this now… stay tuned.)

    The way in which our speech and our hearing work, and their intimate interconnections, is so complex and wonderful – and so laden with Law – that it is a wonder we are able to speak at all. No anarchist is so disdainful of law as to abolish those strict bindings which commit him to the use of his muscles and nerves, and to the Traditions of Language, for in the moment he does, he would become deaf-mute, or utterly incomprehensible. (The locus classicus for such things is Ende’s “City of the Old Emperors” in his great The Neverending Story; cf. the Latin tag Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius. In computing we call it A*, the closure of the alphabet A over concatenation; it contains every finite text of all time and space. Handy little thing to carry around in your carpetbag. Hee hee.)

    Of course, there are so-called “philosophers” (of every era) who are already there; they have as many followers as the guy who sits down on an organ keyboard and labels it with a title.

    The term I use for such cases is “thesaurus in a blender” – you grind one up, and then take a chunk of sticky tape, drop it in, pull it out – and whatever words you get becomes your next sentence of your journal article! (So easy, so effective and you save a bundle on grad students checking references.)

  2. Well, the freedom of speech of the Christian virtue of parresia is the freedom to candidly speak _what is truly true_ according to God. That makes a big difference. (I’m not against the US version of freedom of speech, but obviously it’s the natural version of the supernatural virtue.)

  3. I was always suprised by reading how direct the requests are in the Our Father in Latin or Ancient Greek. Both these languages use the imperative form! This made me really surprised to stumble across the Japanese version of the Our Father, which uses -kudasai (please) at the end of all the petitions. I guess a too direct form when talking to God would blow a Japanese person’s mind!

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