April 18, 2016, Monday — Where now?
Trajan (Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 A.D.): “Dost thou carry Him who was crucified within thee?”
St. Ignatius: “I do: for it is written, ‘I will dwell in them.’”
Then Trajan pronounced this sentence against him: “Forasmuch as Ignatius has confessed that he carries about within himself Him who was crucified, we command that he be carried, bound by soldiers, to the great Rome, there to be thrown to the beasts, for the entertainment of the people.”
When the holy martyr heard this sentence, he cried out with joy, “I thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast vouchsafed to honor me with a perfect love toward Thee.” —From an ancient story of the martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch, translated out of the original Greek in Spicileg Patrum, tome 2, where is related the trial and martyrdom of Ignatius. The text shows that Ignatius thought of himself, his body, as the temple of God.
“Vices and carnal sins must be trampled down, beloved brethren, and the corrupting plague of the earthly body must be trodden under foot with spiritual vigor, lest, while we are turned back again to the conversation of the old man, we be entangled in deadly snares, even as the apostle, with foresight and wholesomeness, forewarned us of this very thing, and said; “therefore, brethren, let us not live after the flesh, for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall begin to die; but if ye, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the flesh, we shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” If we are the sons of God, if we are already beginning to be His temples, if, having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holily and spiritually, if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven, if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God.” —St. Cyprian, Treatise Number 10, Chapter 14, teaching that we are to mortify the deeds of the flesh and live holy lives if we in our bodies are to be, in fact, the temples of God.
“My child, flee every evil thing, and from everything like it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leadeth to murder; nor jealous, nor contentious, nor passionate, for of all these murders are begotten.
“My child, become not lustful, for lust leadeth to fornication; nor foul-mouthed, nor lofty-eyed, for of all these adulteries are begotten. My child, become not an omen-watcher, since it leadeth unto idolatry; nor an astrologer, nor a purifier, nor be willing to look on these things, for of all these things idolatry is begotten. “My child, become not a liar, since lying leadeth to theft; nor avaricious, nor vainglorious, for of all these thefts are begotten. My child, become not a murmurer, since it leadeth to blasphemy; nor presumptuous, nor evil-minded, for of all these things blasphemies are begotten.
“But be meek, for the meek shall inherit the earth. Become long-suffering, and pitiful [i.e., merciful], and guileless, and gentle and good, and tremble continually at the words which thou hast heard.” —The Didache, or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, the oldest Church manual in existence. The date of its composition is uncertain, but it is probably not later than A.D. 150; some scholars are of the opinion that it is from the first century.
We know absolutely nothing about the author. A few Hebrewisms occur, and this may indicate that it was written by a Jewish Christian. The genuineness of the document is universally admitted. It begins with a description of the two ways, the way of Life and the way of Death. This selection is from the beginning of Chapter 3.
The Pope in a lightning visit to Lesbos, Greece; Bernie Sanders in a lightning visit to Rome, and back to New York; and 400 African refugees drowned yesterday in the Mediterranean.
Lightning flashes from the east to the west, and from the west to the east, the loss of many lives.
The essential question remains: what is the way of life, and what is the way of death?
Indeed, is there any difference?
Do not all roads lead, in any case, to death?
Is not life in time already a type of unfolding death, inevitable decay, downward to darkness, even if “on extended wings”?
And since this seems so, the question remains: why choose “the good” if the same fate awaits both those who choose “good” and those who choose “evil”?
Both have the same end.
In our time, the question takes on a new complexity, since the inventions of the human mind are pushing on limits once attributed to divinity.
We have nearly annihilated “space” and “time.”
Only “gods” can fly in a moment from east to west.
And so we are tempted to believe that we humans are “gods” or “god-like.”
The great temptation.
The temptation of all the hidden orders, and secret societies, from the dawn of time…
And, if we yield to this temptation…
Then, the great apostasy.
We seem in danger of that…
The Pope said that the other morning in his homily in the Domus.
But if we think deeply about it, is the temptation even tempting?
Are not our limitations so evident, our sins so grave — we abort our children and sell their body parts, and mock and menace those who seek to expose these crimes — that any claims to be “god-like” are, to a thoughtful mind, absurd?
If this is so then are not all the secret orders, the secret societies, absurd?
If men could live — and this question is posed purely as an hypothesis — if men could life “forever,” on and on, and on, and on, would we really wish to live, being such creatures as we are?
If we were the Emperor Trajan, divine Trajan, would we wish to live forever?
St. Ignatius said “no.”
And he said he would not wish to live even another day, a single day longer, if he could not be “lived in” by another… by Christ.
If could not carry about within himself Him who was crucified, that is, if he could not be the Temple of God, then… he preferred to die.
And he did die, in Rome, his body ground by the teeth of wild animals, for the entertainment of the crowds.
Because, for Ignatius, to live was Christ.
The words of Christ, the mind of Christ, the holiness of Christ, the life of Christ — even the death of Christ, because by that death came resurrection.
This is the still point in the turning world.
This is the message in the bottle that is our universe, this space-time continuum of all that is and ever will be.
Man may use his mind to discover the secrets of nature, message upon message, power upon power, until he becomes intoxicated with his knowing, and with the power that knowing provides.
But without that “shekinah,” that “presence of God,” that “glory” which is the presence of God, which shone “all around” upon the shepherds in Bethlehem, man has nothing.
He is a bare ruined choir, a vacant temple, uninhabited, desolate, the transient grass of the field.
But if, somehow, as if from an outstretched hand, a spark of life can touch a man, or a woman, if nourishment can enter into him, or her, as bread enters, but if it nourishes more than bread, if it brings true life…
If the bare ruined choir is restored.
If the vacant temple is inhabited again.
If the eyes of a man are lit with life, if the faces of men and women shine with faith, and hope, and love.
That is something to see.
That is the glory of God.
The glory of God is man alive.
A man or a woman fully alive is like nothing else in the universe.
A man or a woman fully alive is what the universe was made for, what the universe was intended to bring forth, as its fruit — the fruit of all the galaxies and stars, dying and being born.
But the life of man is… the vision of God.
But what does this mean?
It means something similar to the words “the meek shall inherit the earth.”
But it means even more than that…
We are still trying to digest the Pope’s apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
We will have a complete dossier on the encyclical, including the critiques of many others as well as our own analysis, in our next issue of Inside the Vatican magazine. It will be out at the end of April.
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“I felt like crying”
I think it is worth viewing this video if you wish to understand Pope Francis.
Flying to Lesbos on Saturday, there were many empty seats on the papal plane.
On the way back, 12 Muslim refugees sat in those seats.
“It was an inspiration from a week ago that a collaborator of mine had, and I accepted immediately because I realized it was the Holy Spirit speaking,” the Pope told the journalists.
He said that he recognized that this initiative did not resolve the plight of thousands of refugees, only of a handful.
And he quoted Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom he will canonize on September 4 in Rome.
“A small gesture”
“Mother Teresa was once asked,” he said, “‘Why all this effort and work just to accompany people to their graves?… What you do is not working. The ocean is too big!’
“And she said, ‘It’s a drop of water in the sea, but after this drop, the sea will no longer be the same.’
“I answer in the same way. It is a small gesture, but all of us men and women need to make small gestures to lend a hand to those in need.”
“I can understand those who have fears”
He said it is understandable that in Europe the arrival of refugees can be seen as a threat, but said the solution is not to build walls.
“I can understand those who have certain fears,” he said.
But he showed the journalists drawing he had received from the children, which show children who had drowned, and showed the sun weeping tears.
“After what I saw, what you saw, in that refugee camp, I felt like crying… it would move you to tears,” he said. “What have these children seen? Here is a drawing of a little boy drowning. They have this image in their hearts, today was really enough to move one to tears.
“I invite arms traffickers to spend a day in that refugee camp. I think it would do them good.”
The arms traffickers, for Francis, bear a great responsibility in this crisis.
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What is the glory of God?
“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.