måndag, april 13, 2020

JPII om åldrandet

Då jag nyss korsade gränsen till 70-plus-åldern, blev Johannes Paulus lilla essä om vördnaden för det grå håret plötsligt mer aktuell. Här är delar av essän i engelsk översättning:

To my elderly brothers and sisters!

“Seventy is the sum of our years,
or eighty if we are strong,
and most of them are fruitless toil,
for they pass quickly and we drift away” (Ps 90:10)
Guardians of shared memory

9. In the past, great respect was shown to the elderly. “Great was once the reverence given to a hoary head”, says Ovid, the Latin poet. (13) Centuries earlier, the Greek poet Phocylides had admonished: “Respect grey hair: give to the elderly sage the same signs of respect that you give your own father”. (14)

And what of today? If we stop to consider the current situation, we see that among some peoples old age is esteemed and valued, while among others this is much less the case, due to a mentality which gives priority to immediate human usefulness and productivity. Such an attitude frequently leads to contempt for the later years of life, while older people themselves are led to wonder whether their lives are still worthwhile.

It has come to the point where euthanasia is increasingly put forward as a solution for difficult situations. Unfortunately, in recent years the idea of euthanasia has lost for many people the sense of horror which it naturally awakens in those who have a sense of respect for life. Certainly it can happen that, when grave illness involves unbearable suffering, the sick are tempted to despair and their loved ones or those responsible for their care feel compelled by a misguided compassion to consider the solution of “an easy death” as something reasonable. Here it should be kept in mind that the moral law allows the rejection of “aggressive medical treatment” (15) and makes obligatory only those forms of treatment which fall within the normal requirements of medical care, which in the case of terminal illness seeks primarily to alleviate pain. But euthanasia, understood as directly causing death, is another thing entirely. Regardless of intentions and circumstances, euthanasia is always an intrinsically evil act, a violation of God's law and an offence against the dignity of the human person. (16)

10. There is an urgent need to recover a correct perspective on life as a whole. The correct perspective is that of eternity, for which life at every phase is a meaningful preparation. Old age too has a proper role to play in this process of gradual maturing along the path to eternity. And this process of maturing cannot but benefit the larger society of which the elderly person is a part.

Elderly people help us to see human affairs with greater wisdom, because life's vicissitudes have brought them knowledge and maturity. They are the guardians of our collective memory, and thus the privileged interpreters of that body of ideals and common values which support and guide life in society. To exclude the elderly is in a sense to deny the past, in which the present is firmly rooted, in the name of a modernity without memory. Precisely because of their mature experience, the elderly are able to offer young people precious advice and guidance.

In view of all this, the signs of human frailty which are clearly connected with advanced age become a summons to the mutual dependence and indispensable solidarity which link the different generations, inasmuch as every person needs others and draws enrichment from the gifts and charisms of all.

Here the reflections of a poet dear to me are pertinent: “It is not the future alone which is eternal, not the future alone!... Indeed, the past too is the age of eternity: Nothing which has already happened will come back today as it was... It will return, but as Idea; it will not return as itself”. (17)

“Honor your father and mother”

11. Why then should we not continue to give the elderly the respect which the sound traditions of many cultures on every continent have prized so highly? For peoples influenced by the Bible, the point of reference through the centuries has been the commandment of the Decalogue: “Honour your father and mother”, a duty which for that matter is universally recognized. The full and consistent application of this commandment has not only been a source of the love of children for their parents, but it has also forged the strong link which exists between the generations. Where this commandment is accepted and faithfully observed, there is little danger that older people will be regarded as a useless and troublesome burden.

The same commandment also teaches respect for those who have gone before us and for all the good which they have done: the words “father and mother” point to the past, to the bond between generations which makes possible the very existence of a people. In the two versions found in the Bible (cf. Ex 20:2-17; Dt 5:6-21), this divine commandment is the first of those inscribed on the second Tablet of the Law, which deals with the duties of human beings towards one another and towards society. Furthermore, it is the only commandment to which a promise is attached: “Honor your father and mother, so that your days in the land which the Lord your God gives you may be long” (Ex 20:12; cf. Dt 5:16).

23. The eclipse of the sense of God and of man inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism. Here too we see the permanent validity of the words of the Apostle: "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct" (Rom 1:28). The values of being are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is the pursuit of one's own material well-being. The so-called "quality of life" is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions-interpersonal, spiritual and religious-of existence.
In such a context suffering, an inescapable burden of human existence but also a factor of possible personal growth, is "censored", rejected as useless, indeed opposed as an evil, always and in every way to be avoided. When it cannot be avoided and the prospect of even some future well-being vanishes, then life appears to have lost all meaning and the temptation grows in man to claim the right to suppress it….
In the materialistic perspective described so far, interpersonal relations are seriously impoverished. The first to be harmed are women, children, the sick or suffering, and the elderly. The criterion of personal dignity-which demands respect, generosity and service-is replaced by the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others are considered not for what they "are", but for what they "have, do and produce". This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak. 

46. With regard to the last moments of life too, it would be anachronistic to expect biblical revelation to make express reference to present-day issues concerning respect for elderly and sick persons, or to condemn explicitly attempts to hasten their end by force. The cultural and religious context of the Bible is in no way touched by such temptations; indeed, in that context the wisdom and experience of the elderly are recognized as a unique source of enrichment for the family and for society.

Old age is characterized by dignity and surrounded with reverence (cf. 2 Mac 6:23). The just man does not seek to be delivered from old age and its burden; on the contrary his prayer is this: "You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth ... so even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, till I proclaim your might to all the generations to come" (Ps 71:5, 18). The ideal of the Messianic age is presented as a time when "no more shall there be ... an old man who does not fill out his days" (Is 65:20)."

Så långt vår käre filosof och påve. Samma problematik men mer subjektivt och poetiskt/praktiskt finns i följande text av Walter C. Lanyon (ur "A Royal Diadem"):

CAMILLA is not a story book character, she is not a creature manufactured to suit the issue, she is a real, live woman – – a nun, living in an old grey stone convent which is situated on a beautiful mountain which overlooks the winding Moselle River.
We met her one morning coming from the little chapel where she had been at prayer. It was a clear morning with a high blue sky, the faint perfume of wild mountain flowers and vegetation was in the air – – the year was at spring. As she stepped out into the open she seemed to fit perfectly with the setting, as if she were the personification of youth eternal. As she passed us she did not shyly cast her eyes to the ground, but looked up at us with wide blue eyes – – eyes full of lovely fearlessness, eyes full of depth and wonder; eyes of youth with the wisdom of the ages shining through them. This woman had youth in her grasp – – clear, firm, white skin with a transparency to it; lips red and full of expression – – youth was so evident that it made itself felt.
“Not a minute over eighteen,” said one of us. But Camilla was a woman who would soon count her years sixty. Later in the day I talked with her, and here is how she did it.
“At twenty I found myself practically an old woman, both in mind and body. I was weary and life was more or less of a burden to me, and it was at this time I became a nun. Soon after I began to study the ‘Word’ it came to me that I had never really lived, that the sense of fleeting youth which I had was nothing but a shadow – – a shadow of the real youth which was eternal and everlasting. I soon realized that God could not grow old, not in the sense of decay; that nature never grew old – – she renewed herself annually – – and gradually I came to know that if God could not grow old, that Man – – His idea and image and likeness – – could not age.
“In seeking the Kingdom of Heaven first, we are told that all things shall be added to us. In seeking the Kingdom of Heaven we are seeking youth, joy, harmony, happiness. The Kingdom is not made up of aged persons, it is vibrant with youth eternal; and finally I began to realize that I was a part of the Kingdom of Heaven and that in reality I was only seeking my true self.
“‘Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you; ask and ye shall receive,’ so I went forth seeking the real life. As God was everywhere present I found Him expressed in all nature. I found Him expressed in His universe – – and I was of His universe, in fact I was a part of it – – not apart from it. Just like the lovely force which impelled the rose to cover her vines with snowy white blossoms, I found that power growing and growing in me, swelling up in me, until one day I felt the complete thrill – – the ‘Divine spark’ – – which awakened in me and made me feel this rejuvenation taking place. God is everywhere and He is life eternal and youth eternal. If He is eternal youth and is everywhere I could literally bathe in youth. Not only that, but I felt I was a part of the whole scheme and drew my life, my vitality, my youth, from the same source which impelled the whole plan. Yonder on the mountain the grey mist hovered and swayed over the crest, the sun plunged through it and then the blue patch showed in the distance. The heather on the foothills was like a flash of purple, the white hawthorn tree glistened in the warm sun, and I a part of it all, vibrated with youth eternal.”

torsdag, april 09, 2020

Klara livet i ett kallt Narnia

En elev, en kristen flicka, frågade efter lektionen hur i all sin dar man ska kunna besegra frestelser och tokiga handlingar i ens eget liv. -- Man har ju ingen chans ! utropade hon. Den här världen behärskas ju av den Onde, det är som i det förfrysta Narnia ! -- Men hur tänker du om dig själv? svarade jag som ofta när elever hade problem. Bibeln tänker på dig som Guds barn, perfekt skapad till Guds avbild. Men som Rom 7:20 säger är den någon annan som syndar i dig då och då. Precis som du säger, den här världens prins. Vi måste ge honom rätten att skjuta sina heta pilar på oss och säga till honom: Ok, jag hör vad du säger, men nu är det så att jag hör till Jesus Kristus. Om vi inte säger så blir ofta följden att vi lånar ut vår kropp och själ till hans eländiga verksamhet, som Jesus klargör i Joh 8:44. Men fakta är att satan sattes ur spel för evigt i Jesu kroppsliga död, se Rom 6:10 och så ska du se på dig själv enligt nästa vers "Så ska också ni se på er själva: i Kristus Jesus är ni döda för synden men lever för Gud. Han dog för dig också så du är fri, även om det är kallt i vinterns Narnia.

Hon såg tvivlande ut, vilket vi alla gör inför sanningen. -- Alltså behöver du inte ens försöka vara den fria person du är. Du är bara, och HAN gör det. Jesus lever dig. Du är bara ditt dagliga jag. Klart vi lever i djävulens territorium. Jesus frestades också, men syndade aldrig! Så vänd bara din syn på dig själv till vem du verkligen är är - Kristus i din form. Han liv flyter ut över alla frestelserna !  Så om du faller, stå upp igen.  Prisa det dyrbara blodet! Livet är härligt för Jesus är permanent i dig, som du, och du går med honom hela dagarna som grenen på vinrankan.  Ta detTa alltid för givet, oavsett vilka stormfulla känslor eller kroppsreaktioner du kan ha.

Mer än tjugo år senare stötte vi på varandra, men situationen medgav inte mer än några hälsningar. Undrar om hon mindes vårt samtal?

lördag, januari 25, 2020

Det hände in Indien...

En äldre vithårig man i den lilla flodbyn Laxmanhjula i norra Indien frågade mig en sen eftermiddag om jag kände Jesus? Jag var purung sökare som bodde ett tag i byn, på romantisk resa till Indien, landet där ju heliga gurus fanns. Året var 1972. När jag nickade tveksamt till svar tog han om frågan: Känner du personligen Sat Purusha Jesus Kristus? När jag inte förstod drog han mig till ett litet utomhuscafé nära Ganges. 

Det är en indisk charm: du kan prata Gud när som helst varsom helst ! Tempel och flaggor och statyer omger dig, vid floden gör alltid några religiösa gester. Försöker minnas konversationen utifrån anteckningar jag gjorde samma kväll.

Nu började han, över två glas mycket sockrat chai, förklara att Jesus är den sanna människan, Sat Purusha. Eftersom jag var från Europa, sa han, har jag sannolikt en något skev och sekulariserad form av kristen tro. Att Han är Sat Purusha visas genom att Jesus gör mirakler helt naturligt ur sitt medvetande i Gud, och dessutom är Han helt fri från synd. Dessa två egenskaper är inte till för att bevisa Hans gudomlighet, utan att visa vilken sorts människa Han verkligen var. Jesus är det ursprungliga mönstret som lever i Guds medvetande. Detta mönster är det som ligger till grund för skapandet av människan.

Men Jesus är inte bara Sat Purusha utan även Mula Purusha, mänsklighetens essens och verkliga vara, den andliga bakgrunden för allt människovarande. Såsom Sat Purusha är Jesus oberörd av synden, oberörd av maya, vilket alla andra människor naturligtvis inte är. Jesus är, vilket frestelserna i öknen visar, fri från maya, fri från synd. Han är för evigt upphöjd, Hans värdighet och ljus skiner över världen, vare sig få eller många människor uppfattar det i ande och tro.

Jag såg ut över Ganges, som var ren och frisk så här högt upp i bergen. Jag tänkte att den här mannen/läraren ville poängtera för mig samma sak som swami Krishnananda som jag fick tala en halvtimme med några veckor innan, att "Varför söka Gud i Indien när ni har honom hemma i Europa i var och en av era hundratusentals kyrkor?" Men han menade att Jesus var mer oriental än occidental och att östlig tidig kristendom var mer äkta än den västliga och imperialistiska. Verklig Jesus är bhakti marga, hängivenhetens väg och bygger på anubhava, personlig erfarenhet av Hans ljus.

Han fortsatte på sin melodiska engelska: Jesus Kristus är den Uppståndne som finns immanent i alla bhaktas hjärtan, alla de hängivnas hjärtan. Inte bara är Jesus närvarande som genom strålning av hans Ljus, utan Hans genuina Personlighet är antaryamin -- den inre Kontrollören, den inre Inspiratören och den enda äkta Gurun, som sitter i lotusblomman i varje hängivens hjärta. Någon annan guru behövs inte.

Men Bibeln, sa jag, är inte den central? Jo den är en av de två källorna i bhakti marga: anubhava, direkt erfarenhet av Jesus, är den ena, och Sruti, den skriftliga uppenbarelsen, är den andra. Skriften betonar att Jesus från Galiléen fortfarande och alltid är med oss. Hans historiska Personlighet, Hans liv och död har en gång för alla etablerat denna immanens. För att lära känna Honom som lever i våra hjärtan, måste vi också känna Jesus från Galiléen. Förödmjukelsen på korset, "avorohana" är den indiska termen, står i en rytmisk rörelse tillsammans med Upphöjelsen och Uppståndelsen, "arohana". Avorohana och arohana hör ihop i ett växelspel och kan inte skiljas från varandra. De är två sidor av en och samma verklighet. 

Relationen mellan Fadern och Sonen, fortsatte han medan allt fler på caféet lyssnade uppmärksamt, ska ses i ljuset av Sat Purusha, inte som något metafysiskt, en monistisk enhet. Jesus lever i enhet med Fadern och just därför kan han inte influeras av maya, synden. Detta betyder att Jesus inte lever för sig själv. Tvärtom lever Han endast för Riket. Han har inget personligt liv skilt från Guds Rike. Jesus är Guds verklighet och genom Jesus blir Gud verklighet också för oss, inom oss och som oss.

Nu märkte han att hans unge svenske åhörare började bli överväldigad och behövde en paus. Han log varmt och slog ut med händerna: Åk nu hem och lär känna Jesus ! Den gamle vithårige mannen skakade hand med mig. Vi lämnade caféet och snart försvann han i dunklet längs Ganges. Jag vinkade åt honom.  

måndag, januari 06, 2020


Idag firas Epifanía här i Spanien och en underbar predikant i morgonmässan förlade adorationen av barnet i stallet, som är Fridskonungen, till hjärtat i människan. Det gjorde han rätt i och dessutom citerade han följande rader ur den märkliga skriften "Na Gorach Kavkaza", eller "Ibland de kaukasiska bergen" från 1907, i den tyska översättningen:

"Der Herr Jesus Christus lehrte: 'Wer an Mich glaubt, Ströme lebendigen Wassers werden aus seinem Inneren fliessen.' Damit meinte Er den Geist, den alle empfangen sollten, die an Ihnen glauben...(Joh. 7:38) In der Gespräch mit der Samariterin, erklärt der Herr Jesus das göttliche Leben, dessen Quelle sich in Ihm befindet, ebenso durch das Bildes des Wassers, das strömt in das ewige Leben (Joh 4:10 ff) Und dieser Strom in das ewige Leben ist die Liebe zum Herrn Jesus Christus, die, nachdem sie Wohnung in unseren Herzen genommen hat, es durch die Erfüllung seiner rettende Gebote, durch tiefe Demut und das unablässige Gebet zum Geliebten bewegt -- ähnlich eine sprudelnden Quelle, deren Strahlen nie versiegen."

Kanske är det i den kaukasiska bönetraditionen som Adorationen bäst bevaras in i modern tid, vilande på de kristna bönefäderna i Filokalia och överlevande sjuttio år av Sovjetunionens tidvis militanta ateism. Bland bergen i Kaukasus kunde tillräckligt många mödrar och fäder gömma sig för bönens skull. Får vi se en ny blomstring av denna urkristna andlighet?

lördag, november 23, 2019

Den katolska Jesusbönen

Åren 1984-85 hade jag kurs i Jesus-bönen i Eskilstuna. Vi satt i en liten mysig kursgård nära Fors kyrka, med utsikt över den stora ån. Jag såg även huset i vilket jag bodde på andra sidan ån, på den kullersteniga Köpmangatan i gamla stadsdelen. Vi hade Stinnisens bok och Sjögrens bok som stöd. Men deltagarna var få och snart inga alls. Då fortsatte jag ensam. För mig var Jesusbönen den centrala övningen i både västlig och östlig kristendom kring vilken mycket av den traditionella bedjande kristna läran utvecklats. Grundtexterna, förutom Bibeln, var samlade i Filokalia, ökenfäderna och medeltidens begåvade bedjande katoliker, som inte visste av någon uppdelning av den världsvida kyrkan. En sådan uppdelning är förstås en skandal.

Jeesusbönen är den pågående recitationen av hjärtats bön med Jesu heliga Namn i centrum. Den klassiska formen som formellt fastställts, men inte som uteslutande av andra varianter, av den bysantinska spiritualiteten, är på grekiska: "Kyrie Iesou Christe, Yie tou Theou, eleison me, ton amartalon", det vill säga "Herren Jesus Kristus, Guds Son, ha barmhärtighet  med mig, syndare. " Istället för "ha barmhärtighet" kan vi också säga det vanligare "förbarma Dig över mig". 

Det är nödvändigt att betona att denna formel har upplevt variationer genom historien och inte alls begränsas till en enda form, men även om det finns några undantag, till exempel de som väljer att upprepa den traditionella "Kyrie eleison", "Herre, förbarma Dig". Det väsentliga är åkallandet och koncentrationen i det gudomliga Namnet.  Vissa använder till exempel en kortare formel: "Herren Jesus, ha barmhärtighet med mig" eller bara  "Herren Jesus".  Andra föredrar att, efter den äldsta historiska användningen, återgå till den primitiva monologiska bönen genom att bara uttala Jesu namn, såsom Frans Jalics i vår tid. Ibland ges kurser med Johanna Schulenburg från Wien på Bergets kursgård i denna bön.

Men denna bön är framför allt liv, dagligt pågående bön i medvetande om att Jesu Namn är platsen där all kraft finns. Den som läser ens tund i Filocalia märker snart att det inte handlar om fridfull mindfulness. I andra traditioner finns det viss praxis och lära baserad på vetskapen om Guds namn som består, som i fallet med islam, i recitering (dhikr)) eller meditation på de 99 namnen som visar Guds attribut. I den judiska traditionen har vi det oförstörbara namnet på gudomlighet, Tetragrammaton, IHVH.  

Men i kristendomen finner vi en verklighet som är helt annorlunda med tanke på specificiteten i denna  Jesusbön.  För det är namnet som avslöjades för Jungfru Maria av ängeln Gabriel under det stora tillkännagivandet. Det är varken mer eller mindre än det gudomliga namnet, direkt tillgängligt för oss i den mån vi kan känna igen det.

 Således skriver aposteln Paulus:

"Det är därför Gud upphöjde honom över allt annat och gav honom det namn som är över varje namn, så att i Jesu namn ska alla knän böjas i himlen, på jorden och i avgrunden och varje tunga ska förkunna till Gud Faderns ära:

 'Jesus Kristus är Herren'. "

 (Filipperbrevet 2: 9-11)

 I Apostlagärningarna läser vi:

"För det finns ingen frälsning i någon annan, och det finns inte heller något annat namn under himlen som ges till människor, så att vi kan rädda oss själva."
 (Apg. 4: 12)

 Evangeliet enligt Sankt Johannes påminner oss om dessa Jesu ord:

"Den dagen kommer ni inte att fråga mig om någonting. Sannerligen, jag säger er: vad ni ber Fadern om i mitt namn, det skall jag ge er.!"
(Johannes 16: 23-24)

Exemplen i Nya testamentet många. Den ryske pilgrimen söker i sin berättelse någon erfaren som kan visa hur den ständiga bönen fungerar. Han har hört och läst 1 Thessalonikerbrevet 5:17: "Var alltid glada, be ständigt och tacka hela hela tiden Gud". I Filocalia finner vi ibland referens Luk 18:1, liknelsen om änkan och domaren, som Jesus berättar för att "lära dem att alltid be..."

Om själva Namnet. Det är allmänt accepterat att 'Ιησούς är en grekisk översättning av den hebreiska Ieschouah, som kan översättas som "Frälsare" eller, mer exakt, "frälsning av Gud", "Gud räddar" eller "Gud är frälsning". Utifrån den hebreiska stavningen med endast konsonanter och semikonsonanter får vi enligt transkriptionen till det latinska alfabetet 
IHShV '(a), vilket, som vi ser, innehåller det gudomliga namnet IH, uttalat Iah (som i Hallelu Iah), det utgör det första elementet och grunden för det stora gudomliga namnet IHVH.  Denna tolkning verkar helt ok för mig eftersom den sätter människan i en personlig relation till Guds barmhärtighet, det vill säga till det vertikala mottagandet av nåd som främjar vår frälsning.

Om vi ​​nu tittar på den romerska kyrkan, ser man att värderingen av Jesu Namn som andlig verklighet åtminstone under vissa perioder har utvecklats av bedjande skribenter av stor relevans -- Bernard of Clairvaux, Henrik av Suso, Ambrosius , Bernardino de Siena, Juan Capistrano och eventuellt också Franciskus av Asíssi, om vi tror på vittnesmål av flera medlemmar i hans brödraskap.  

Hur som helst är det intressant att notera att medan minnet av dessa andliga insikter i Jesu Namn i östkyrkan har förblivit mer eller mindre levande, har det i väst gradvis försvunnit, även om det inte är helt förlorat. När den franska översättningen av En rysk pilgrims berättelse dyker upp på 1880-talet (den publicerades först i Kazan 1884, baserad på en tidigare berättelse från 1881) upplever många det som en rent österländsk kristen tradition. Så den västliga kunskapen om Jesusbönen och tolkningen av dess djupaste betydelse har uppenbarligen bevarats under jord bland bedjande katoliker. "Anden blåser var den vill", och undantag har alltid funnits, synliga medlemmar i kyrkan som effektivt har trängt in i bönens väsentliga kärna.

måndag, oktober 14, 2019

John Henry Newman

Glädjande att John Henry Newman ges formell uppmärksamhet, hoppas ceremonierna leder till att folk läser denne skicklige apologet. Hans Apologia har berört mig djupt och många med mig. Men den mest charmiga texten kanske ändå är "romanen" Callista. Smakprov här är kapitel 2 som mästerligt tecknar den kristna trons läge på 200-talet.

{14} THE revellers went on their way; Agellius went on his, and made for his lowly and lonely cottage. He was the elder of the two sons of a Roman legionary of the Secunda Italica, who had settled with them in Sicca, where he lost their mother, and died, having in his old age become a Christian. The fortitude of some confessors at Carthage in the persecution of Severus had been the initial cause of his conversion. He had been posted as one of their guards, and had attended them to the scene of their martyrdom, in addition to the civil force, to whom in the proconsulate the administration of the law was committed. Therefore, happily for him, it could not fall to his duty to be their executioner, a function which, however revolting to his feelings, he might not have had courage to decline. He remained a pagan, though he could not shake off the impression which the martyrs had made upon him; and, after completing his time of service, he retired to the protection of some great friends in Sicca, his brother's home already. Here he took a second wife of the old Numidian stock, and supported himself by the produce of a small piece of land which had been given to him for life by the imperial government. {15} If trial were necessary in order to keep alive the good seed which had been sown in his heart, he found a never-failing supply of that article in the companion of his declining years. In the hey-day of her youth she might have been fitted to throw a sort of sunshine, or rather torchlight, on a military carouse; but now, when poor Strabo, a man well to do in the world, looking for peace, had fallen under her arts, he found he had surrendered his freedom to a malignant, profligate woman, whose passions made her better company for evil spirits than for an invalided soldier. Indeed, as time went on, the popular belief, which she rather encouraged, went to the extent that she actually did hold an intercourse with the unseen world; and certainly she matured in a hatred towards God and man, which would naturally follow, and not unnaturally betoken, such intercourse. The more, then, she inflicted on him her proficiency in these amiable characteristics, the more he looked out for some consolation elsewhere; and the more she involved herself in the guilt or the repute of unlawful arts, the more was he drawn to that religion, where alone to commune with the invisible is to hold intercourse with heaven, not with hell. Whether so great a trial supplied a more human inducement for looking towards Christianity, it is impossible to say. Most men, certainly Roman soldiers, may be considered to act on mixed motives; but so it was in fact, that, on his becoming in his last years a Christian, he found, perhaps discovered, to his great satisfaction, that the {16} Church did not oblige him to continue or renew a tie which bound him to so much misery, and that he might end his days in a tranquillity which his past life required, and his wife's presence would have precluded. He made a good end; he had been allowed to take the blessed sacrament from the altar to his own home on the last time he had been able to attend a synaxis of the faithful, and thus had communicated at least six months within his decease; and the priest who anointed him at the beginning of his last illness also took his confession. He died, begging forgiveness of all whom he had injured, and giving large alms to the poor. This was about the year 286, in the midst of that long peace of the Church, which was broken at length by the Decian persecution.
This peace of well-nigh fifty years had necessarily a peculiar, and not a happy effect upon the Christians of the proconsulate. They multiplied in the greater and the maritime cities, and made their way into positions of importance, whether in trade or the governmental departments; they extended their family connections, and were on good terms with the heathen. Whatever jealousy might be still cherished against the Christian name, nevertheless, individual Christians were treated with civility, and recognised as citizens; though among the populace there would be occasions, at the time of the more solemn pagan feasts, when accidental outbursts might be expected of the antipathy latent in the community, as we have {17} been recording in the foregoing chapter. Men of sense, however, began to understand them better, and to be more just to the reasonableness of their faith. This would lead them to scorn Christianity less, but it would lead them to fear it more. It was no longer a matter merely for the populace to insult, but for government deliberately to put down. The prevailing and still growing unbelief among the lower classes of the population did but make a religion more formidable, which, as heathen statesmen felt, was able to wield the weapons of enthusiasm and zeal with a force and success unknown even to the most fortunate impostors among the Oriental or Egyptian hierophants. The philosophical schools were impressed with similar apprehensions, and had now for fifty years been employed in creating and systematising a new intellectual basis for the received paganism.
But, while the signs of the times led to the anticipation that a struggle was impending between the heads of the state religion and of the new worship which was taking its place, the great body of Christians, laymen and ecclesiastics, were on better and better terms, individually, with the members of society, or what is now called the public; and without losing their faith or those embers of charity which favourable circumstances would promptly rekindle, were, it must be confessed, in a state of considerable relaxation; they often were on the brink of deplorable sins, and sometimes fell over the brink. And many would join the Church on inferior motives as soon as {18} no great temporal disadvantage attached to the act; or the families of Christian parents might grow up with so little of moral or religious education as to make it difficult to say why they called themselves members of a divine religion. Mixed marriages would increase both the scandal and the confusion.
"A long repose," says St. Cyprian, speaking of this very period, "had corrupted the discipline which had come down to us. Every one was applying himself to the increase of wealth; and, forgetting both the conduct of the faithful under the Apostles, and what ought to be their conduct in every age, with insatiable eagerness for gain devoted himself to the multiplying of possessions. The priests were wanting in religious devotedness, the ministers in entireness of faith; there was no mercy in works, no discipline in manners. Men wore their beards disfigured, and woman dyed their faces. Their eyes were changed from what God made them, and a lying colour was passed upon the hair. The hearts of the simple were misled by treacherous artifices, and brethren became entangled in seductive snares. Ties of marriage were formed with unbelievers; members of Christ abandoned to the heathen. Not only rash swearing was heard, but even false; persons in high place were swollen with contemptuousness; poisoned reproaches fell from their mouths, and men were sundered by unabating quarrels. Numerous bishops, who ought to be an encouragement and example to others, despising their sacred calling, engaged themselves {19} in secular vocations, relinquished their sees, deserted their people, strayed among foreign provinces, hunted the markets for mercantile profits, and tried to amass large sums of money, while they had brethren starving within the Church; took possession of estates by fraudulent proceedings, and multiplied their gains by accumulated usuries." [Note]
The relaxation which would extend the profession of Christianity in the larger cities would contract or extinguish it in remote or country places. There would be little zeal to keep up Churches, which could not be served without an effort or without secular loss. Carthage, Utica, Hippo, Milevis, or Curubis, was a more attractive residence than the towns with uncouth African names, which amaze the ecclesiastical student in the Acts of the Councils. Vocations became scarce; sees remained vacant, congregations died out. This was pretty much the case with the Church and see of Sicca. At the time of which we write, history preserves no record of any bishop as exercising his pastoral functions in that city. In matter of fact there was none. The last bishop, an amiable old man, had in the course of years acquired a considerable extent of arable land, and employed himself principally, for lack of more spiritual occupation, in reaping, stacking, selling, and sending off his wheat for the Roman market. His deacon had been celebrated in early youth for his boldness in the chase, and took part in the capture of lions and panthers (an act of charity {20} towards the peasants round Sicca) for the Roman amphitheatre. No priests were to be found, and the bishop became parochus till his death. Afterwards infants and catechumens lost baptism; parents lost faith, or at least love; wanderers lost repentance and conversion. For a while there was a flourishing meeting-house of Tertullianists, who had scared more humble minds by pronouncing the eternal perdition of every Catholic; there had also been various descriptions of Gnostics, who had carried off the clever youths and restless speculators; and then there had been the lapse of time, gradually consuming the generation which had survived the flourishing old days of the African Church. And the result was, that in the year 250 it was difficult to say of whom the Church of Sicca consisted. There was no bishop, no priest, no deacon. There was the old mansionarius or sacristan; there were two or three pious women, married or single, who owed their religion to good mothers; there were some slaves who kept to their faith, no one knew how or why; there were a vast many persons who ought to be Catholics, but were heretics, or nothing at all, or all but pagans, and sure to become pagans on the asking; there were Agellius and his brother Juba, and how far these two had a claim to the Christian name we now proceed to explain.
They were about the ages of seven and eight when their father died, and they fell under the guardianship of their uncle, whose residence at Sicca had been one {21} of the reasons which determined Strabo to settle there. This man, being possessed of some capital, drove a thriving trade in idols, large and small, amulets, and the like instruments of the established superstition. His father had come to Carthage in the service of one of the assessors of the proconsul of the day; and his son, finding competition ran too high to give him prospect of remuneration in the metropolis, had opened his statue-shop in Sicca. Those modern arts which enable an English town in this day to be so fertile in the production of ware of this description for the markets of the pagan East, were then unknown; and Jucundus depended on certain artists whom he imported, especially on two Greeks, brother and sister, who came from some isle on the Asian coast, for the supply of his trade. He was a good-natured man, self-indulgent, positive, and warmly attached to the reigning paganism, both as being the law of the land and the vital principle of the state; and, while he was really kind to his orphan nephews, he simply abominated, as in duty bound, the idiotic cant and impudent fee-fa-fum, to which, in his infallible judgment, poor old Strabo had betrayed his children. He would have restored them, you may be quite sure, to their country and to their country's gods, had they acquiesced in the restoration: but in different ways these little chaps, and he shook his head as he said it, were difficult to deal with. Agellius had a very positive opinion of his own on the matter; and as for Juba, though he had no opinion at all, yet he had an {22} equally positive aversion to have thrust on him by another any opinion at all, even in favour of paganism. He had remained in his catechumen state since he grew up, because he found himself in it; and though nothing would make him go forward in his profession of Christianity, no earthly power would be able to make him go back. So there he was, like a mule, struck fast in the door of the Church, and feeling a gratification in his independence of mind. However, whatever his profession might be, still, as time went on, he plainly took after his step-mother, renewed his intercourse with her after his father's death, and at length went so far as to avow that he believed in nothing but the devil, if even he believed in him. It was scarcely safe, however, to affirm that the senses of this hopeful lad were his own.
Agellius, on the other hand, when a boy of six years old, had insisted on receiving baptism; had perplexed his father by a manifestation of zeal to which the old man was a stranger; and had made the good bishop lose the corn-fleet which was starting for Italy from his importunity to learn the Catechism. Baptized he was, confirmed, communicated; but a boy's nature is variable, and by the time Agellius had reached adolescence, the gracious impulses of his childhood had in some measure faded away, though he still retained his faith in its first keenness and vigour. But he had no one to keep him up to his duty; no exhortations, no example, no sympathy. His father's friends had taken him up so far as this, that by an extraordinary favour {23} they had got him a lease for some years of the property which Strabo, a veteran soldier, had held of the imperial government. The care of this small property fell upon him, and another and more serious charge was added to it. The long prosperity of the province had increased the opulence and enlarged the upper class of Sicca. Officials, contractors, and servants of the government had made fortunes, and raised villas in the neighbourhood of the city. Natives of the place, returning from Rome, or from provincial service elsewhere, had invested their gains in long leases of state lands, or of the farms belonging to the imperial res privata or privy purse, and had become virtual proprietors of the rich fields or beautiful gardens in which they had played as children. One of such persons, who had had a place in the officium of the quæstor, or rather procurator, as he began to be called, was the employer of Agellius. His property adjoined the cottage of the latter; and, having first employed the youth from recollection of his father, he confided to him the place of under-bailiff from the talents he showed for farm-business.
Such was his position at the early age of twenty-two; but honourable as it was in itself, and from the mode in which it was obtained, no one would consider it adapted, under the circumstances, to counteract the religious languor and coldness which had grown upon him. And in truth he did not know where he stood further than that he was firm in faith, as we have said, and had shrunk from a boy upwards, from the vice {24} and immorality which was the very atmosphere of Sicca. He might any day be betrayed into some fatal inconsistency, which would either lead him into sin, or oblige him abruptly to retrace his steps, and find a truer and safer position. He was not generally known to be a Christian, at least for certain, though he was seen to keep clear of the established religion. It was not that he hid, so much as that the world did not care to know, what he believed. In that day there were many rites and worships which kept to themselves—many forms of moroseness or misanthropy, as they were considered, which withdrew their votaries from the public ceremonial. The Catholic faith seemed to the multitude to be one of these; it was only in critical times, when some idolatrous act was insisted on by the magistrate, that the specific nature of Christianity was tested and detected. Then at length it was seen to differ from all other religious varieties by that irrational and disgusting obstinacy, as it was felt to be, which had rather suffer torments and lose life than submit to some graceful, or touching, or at least trifling observance which the tradition of ages had sanctioned.

onsdag, oktober 09, 2019

Från insidan

Allt du gör, efter att du vet och vill, gör du från insidan. Det är anden som ditt verkliga jag, i enhet med Kristus och med alla andra. I kropp och själ sker en individuell differentiering, oändligt varierad, aldrig exakt detsamma. I anden förenas vi, där är Guds kärlek, gemenskap, frid och enhet. Där är Gud allt i alla, som Paulus säger.

Så Guds vilja sker inte någon annanstans. Vi är Guds vilja redan. Han vill oss och alla de händelser som sker med oss i erfarenhetens centrum. Hans vilja är oss och det som sker med oss. När vi handlar sker det i tro. Denna tro är den faktiska aktiviteten, det vi väljer att göra. Det är i vår ande som vi finner den djupa önskan efter frid och kärlek i Gud. I själ och kropp, utan andens ledning, finns endast förvirring och okloka val, där frestelser blir till långdragna eländen istället för att snabbt försvinna i Kristi blod.

I det nya livet handlar om vad du ser. Det du ser blir ditt liv. Ser du att varje människa är en ande som uttrycker sig kroppsligt? I medvetandet om att Jesus lever som oss, att Gud uttrycker sig som oss, kommer du också att se varje människa som ande. Och du finner den andliga enheten i den enda Personen som är Fadern.

Att se är att tro. Det är seendet som griper oss. I vår konsumtionsvärld förekommer mycket negativ tro. Man tror på yttre ting, yttre symboler. Man tror att man är rik genom pengar. Denna negativa tro finner ingen väg ut. Många skadas av denna negativa tro. Endast den verkliga tron kan läka dem, tron som ser anden i varje varelse, längtande efter gemenskapen med universum som Guds bildverk och uttryck för Hans kärlek.

Den negativa tron får människor att se allting utifrån den obehagliga sidan. Livet blir en enda ström av hot och jobbigheter. Allt blir svårt, tillfällen för vila och andhämtning mycket få. Läkemedel och terapi hjälper sällan på djupet. Anden i varje sådan människa längtar ständigt efter upptäckande tro, kärlekens tro i Faderns ständiga omsorg om oss.