In Order To Be Remembered
This story, my chronicle, a memoir of sorts, is not for eyes alive in my time, although if I myself die before its completion, my editors, my intimates and discrete, will be privey to the all of me. On the other hand, they will repair the damage from incomplete reporting should death make an early, I cannot say, “unexpected” visit. It is also the case that I may delude myself in thinking I can only be known from disclosing myself in my journal, or what Balthus as a kind of biographer may say. We are all probably open books to our fellows, and more thanks to them they accept us, when they do, anyway.
The story, this chronicle, is for you, so many years and seas away, you of the mists and descending river’s flow. The all of you there as my kin, kin to all of my times and places, you, so far away, nevertheless there and, in my eyes, waiting. This much has been revealed to me. I am confident in it and in your brotherhood and yes, that sisterhood of daughters time has generated as well. You, now reading me, are bearers of blood as diffused in qualities and bequests as are tumbled rocks on the plain below were once a great mountain which time and nature have dispersed. We all come to be leveled, mountains, empires, families. I write to you of this blood, so now diffused but richly red yet with memories which you will find I stir. Reflect as you read and they will rise within you. Your imagined images will be true. I am the first of us to become Christian. If you remain in the faith you may take some pride in that, but there are sorrier lessons in me of the human kind which may benefit you. Lessons and visions and knowing we are much the same. You then, of this blood, great in histories and imaginings, remembering the best of us as if timeless selves. Ourselves then as the Gracchii of such generous consciousness for others, and yes, almost conversely, admiring the conquering Scipio as all who study war and empires must. We of our times and places, whether great or fallen or nonentity, now live in you who come after, as your imagination must now live in us.
I write in Antioch, Syria, this 11th of May, of 863 dated from Rome’s founding by Romulus, the Julian calendar, now in the 11th blessed year of the reign of Aelius Hadrian. As much has changed, will change with Christ’s coming, the calendar is newly converted to Christian. Our dates, forward and back, center on the birth of our lord Jesus the Christ, and so of this age newly begun, the year now is Anno Domini 128. It is a new and powerful faith, so powerful in its beginning because God’s son Jesus died for mankind so it might be forgiven and live eternally. By your life now, this river of time will have spread, nourished and also dissipated that faith, this great river of faith and kinship. I think of it as God’s river carrying us. Not even God’s river flows easily, and so it is contradictory against itself with churnings, whirlpools. It is stoppered with dams and debris, great obstacles as in my time and these slow weaken us, yet the river of us flows on.
A memory of me and these times is in your blood. All of you, for you are all, wherever you are and how assorted your parentage and convictions, are my descendents. As you dream of me, the images, the writings will become clearer. Time is not only a dimension, a space; it is a vehicle, a force, and a messenger. These times, these faiths, men like me, women like my Helen, have contributed to your formation. Without us, you are not what you find yourself to be.
Call this, perhaps, the “Book of Cornelius”. That title intends nothing grand, it is the fashion of these times that stories, whether outright lie, fantasy or truth or their ordinary mix are so titled, whether they are about sayings and teachings, or lives brought. It is also the case that a lesser writer seeking to be religiously persuasive, pretends authenticity by borrowing the prestige of a name from among the honored dead. Indistinguishable for the reader is the apostolic eponymous put in the service of one or another faction.
Our environment is rich in the spirit of Hebrew books, their genius for covenants, faith, law and righteousness. I decline these traits, as do those about me, We find their law too ancient, their insurgent fury too readily aroused, their world still tribal. Overwhelming is their devotion, of which its ferocity and sole affection prove their history and piety to be unique. Many believe their intelligence and brotherhood is also singular. On our part their Yahweh blessings are too confined for us, for our God lovingly encompasses all cosmos and mankind. He promises more. There is more of the hedonist in the Christian; he prefers love, consolation, immortalit and an intact foreskin.. The Christian wayfarer relies heavily on the forgiveness Elijah understood, and in doing so tests the limits of his God. He derives, Yahweh but is somewhat better conceived and conveyed by a no longer tribal Christ. He allows allows his blessing on all who open themselves to that magnanimity. That does include demands for faith and ritual. His most extreme demand was the sacrifice of his only son, of which sacrifice Abraham was forerunng.
Beauty itsel can be is a binding magic. Such beauty as conceived and conveyed may not seem palpable in this world, it soars and moves us beyond. It is absolute and ephemeral, there and not there, to be held in memory and anticipation.. Beauty’s is God’s sensation which we share. Its presence is and assures the Deity. Its proclamation is a duty of a bishop. Its God emanations declared are my engine and my art. Belief as but thought, set apart from passion and inherent knowing would not sustain me. I must experience much more than talk, although you who know bishops will smile at this conceit.
I respond to the beckoning. For the Other reaching out. I directly sense the fragrance, but grasping the flower is more difficult. An infinite reach, expansion, surety, ecstasy and tranquility beckon. I would be with the God, however momentarily. The experience of Him redefines time and space, the former reappears unmeasured as eternity, the latter disappears to become eternity. I would be boundless with this God possessed, my surd and irrational number, that One. This part of me may be mad. I pursue such gorgeous lunacy, to be possessed of and by the happiest and most sure, admirable and forever constant insanity, all of this without my intending You see my engine and compound parts, therein my flaws, and, for many more temporal than blessed, my heresy.
I contain contradictory, fermenting. In that I am child of my times and mostly Syrian circumstance. I am aware of the calls, cursing, bruising and glory which are the competing religious business of our works and days. I borrow of course from that hoplite, that farming poet soldier Hesiod who wrote Works and Days many hundreds of years ago. His bardic masonry contributes to our Greek foundations. Much has changed, not much is changed, of visions and the sustaining earth, of imploring, cursing the gods, and all of us pulling one or another plow hoping the furrow beckons our seedto germinate. Hesiod lived his days well, but looked back in longing praise to an evem earlier golden age. Humans are rarely satisfied. Homer’s Achilles, that priest Chryses, precipitous Paris, were their loyalties and desires worth the seed they planted which grew so many deaths even though out of Troy’s destruction was founded a greater Troy, Rome. The other goodness out of it was Homer through whose song we know of it at all. Your planting Bishop can only trust that what we grow here will yield the riches of new Romes, of great poetry, and if we are remembered, some notion that ours too will be seen as golden days.
In Homer we encounter a poetic host of immature Olympians. Their lust, envy, and, yes, are also beautiful. They were an artistic human product. They were, generally, a great deal of bother. We are that as well, a bothersome race, saved by such as Homer’s song, or Virgil’s, which brings us balancing beauty. There is a lesson in those war-meddling Olympians, as with ourselves, for depending upon our aspect examined, one will find either flaw or greatness. Those gods were our mirrors.
I am able, in my more confident hours, to venture far ahead of myself. I can move beyond the here-and-now strength of my Stoic lessons, the disciplined luxury of those well born enough to be well born enough to appreciation the Epicurean, Aristotelian rationalism, the penetrating reach of Plato, the Hebrew passion and loyalty. Contrasting crudeness will be found in my embrace of the unperfected art of being Christian, One must work to employ it, as Hesiod or any other farmer knows. God’s gift of the idea of himself, Jesus portraying, other seer and prophets searching, hinting, discovering aspects. In practice it comes down to all of us plowing our furrows straight and planting them carefully. This is yeoman’s work; it is our task in all vineyards. This is sorrowful for there is loss and pain in our work, that magnified in Jesus’ who toiled on our behalf, showing us the way. God labors with us., is there in our hands while we plow, we are the sweat of Him. But my hand also holds the sword, a reminder weare not simply defined.
You must know my vanity, for it is that as well as sowing seeds and proclaiming work and knowings, which leads me to writing. A man wants to be remembered. A triumphal arch, inscriptions in marble and in memories, ceremonially bestowed and sculpted laurels even if carved in our dreams, plus honoring offspring, these could be ideal. We want enduring decorations to mark that once we were here and worthy. In the mirror one sees the lesser self, but one imagines there a Cicero or Pericles, Horace or Lycurgus. These are seen best in the mists on our mirrors. Wiped clean, facing ourselves, we can see ourselves lonely.
We demand to be remembered, preferably well, even if that requires lies or enamoured historians who chisel pleasing epitaphs. Unloved and unremembered we are entirely exiled. I need this remembering which is of what I write to you, you kin and cousin Cornelius-and all descended mankind now are that- our blood (and faults and hopes) shared, whatever your name. If you are my reader you are of my descent. Your acknowledgement, even if disapproving, is my memorial. In turn most of us want to remember our roots, our line, know the folks and time that preceded us, which knowledge allows ties, preferably proud. I give you that here.
It was Herostratos, whom I often cite as the epitome of the curse of the need for fame. You remember, that Herostratos who, upon setting destroying torch to the great temple of Artemis/Diana in Ephesus north of here, when asked why he ravished that which was greatest and most beautiful, bringing upon himself the fury of the people as well as the goddess herself, replied simply, “I want to be remembered”. To be remembered and so do I. That is why I write, for a new Christian and Bishop here in querulous and earth-shaken Antioch is not guaranteed memorials. A man may be too dull tobe remembered, or his more exciting life may be be erased, both in life and in inscriptions, by jealos rivals. I have known of tombstones removed, epitaphs erased. There is vengeful thriftiness to it, whereby the new Bishop’s memorial is installed over the old one’s by means of a chisel.
Much writing is being done around me, sometimes ever more convincing Jesus stories.. There is glory in that, and the writer’s vanity. Some new stories claim truer visions of a `path which Jesus showed, of these, some are clear invention. Some stories serve a new prophet proclaiming himself well dressed in a Christian cloak the better for display in the market place of faith.
My story here is none of these, thanks to a Roman education, which taught me gravity, and God who has taught me gratitude, and should have taught all of us modesty. In some ways what you read here is worse than falsehoods, for in attempting disclosure, I invent an appalling literary novelty, much egotistical , radical in form. There is shame in being so immodest, for the story of lives until now is always-and quite properly so-of others, or if involving oneself, presents an observer and commentator; Herodotus, Thucydides, Tacitus, Plutarch, all of whom serve the reader. I instead choose to be personal, a vanity that serves myself under the guise of being a memorable moment in our time and place. Even so, most of me is found in a chain of persons called history, where I am but one of an accumulation of conversions and conveniences, of covenants and of aggrandizements, of conquests of self and others, all clade- mates. The latter guarantees recognition and some understanding, whether in ants or elephants. So it is that we know the essences of one another.
I am by nature, investment, purpose and situation, unfit for the ambition of it , this being Bishop of Antioch, Syria, Palestine, (and by Ignatius’ invention India and the East) and more, here 4th in line from Peter. Residual supporters say also Paul, whereas whether 3rd or 5th instead of 4th is also possible, for recency of recording lends no guarantee as to facts set down. In times of dissent and invention such as ours, there is uncertainty about the who, how long, and whether, for histories chronicled by those who are invested, are colored by preference, if not malignity. Until someone erases the succession and my name, I am Bishop. All small thrones are insecure, as is mine. Yet prayer, music, fine wine and celebrating a sacred meal, garments in the Roman manner, well-woven of silk and good wools, all richly colored, are all confirming. The formal robe is a new design, white with bordering red, a large red cross stitched on the back, large open sleeves. With it, an entirely new idea, jewelry in the shape of a cross and ruby ring quite imperial. Adornments such as these please parishioners, and bishops even more so, but make a real emperor wary, for they suggest competing ambition. I believe I have calmed the Emperor on this matter, yet all imperial calms are like those of other great oceans, unstable. My Hadrian is easily jealous and wise to be wary, for no great throne in such a mixed and extensive Empire, shiny with gold and concentrated power, being conspiratorial, hungry, and trained to killing as is this, is ever secure. A confident emperor is likely soon a dead one.
For my investiture, consecration, as always on such passaging occasions the theater requires multiply- flowing but ever so carefully channeled brooks of words hummed and magical. Indeed much of what priests do is an elevated magic and respected as such. I listened more carefully to some of those words than others, for depending on who spoke in ceremony, there were sounds so suspiciously sweet I took warning of poisoned honey from one or two buzzing poiston-perverted hives. I already smell and know it too well, know that if it drips upon, even near you, it will sear, and, in conspiracy with those other already busy bees, can kill.
Accompanying ceremonial elevations, there are, one day to come, the burials. I ask myself, how soon shall mine be? Consecrations, funerals, now in Christianity just emerging are enhancing practices c not Roman, some altered in form from the Hebrew or Persian. There is however a Christian genius in them insofar as these are affirming rituals which God himself attends. His aura is there with us. These are rich and wonderful moments, with God affirming our ceremonies, we affirming God. Mostly these are of passage. There are ceremonies for naming, baptism, marriage, death, and yes, capitalizing the “B” on new bishops.
We hold them here in our quite elegant courtyard and house, sometimes we call it, ‘the Lord’s House” and so it is, this, it is our assembly place, the Greek “ecclesia” It was, I have earlier told you, a gift to Ignatius from a rare rich member, probably the finest Christian building anywhere. It is built appropriately next to the Jewish quarter, some call it a synagogue. A new religion relies heavily on borrowings,- - Roman, Hebrew, Persian, Greek, probably beyond the wife of it, Celtic,-- all sacred somewhere to someone and easily, compellingly incorporated, syncretic. Mostly these are of passage, and in that, ancient and tribal indeed.
At my consecration as Bishop—the word has too heavy a sound to me—where, with Balthus editing, winning his argument that wherever it occurs here it be capitalized ludicrous in exaggeration of Ignatian insistence on power displayed, it is now Swabian- tinged “B” with a bit mockery. I agree Trappings of rank may command obedience, but if the man elevated is not carefully selected as worthy of respect, the institution is unhealthy, resting on power and propaganda At my ceremony, not an ‘elevation” since I came bearing more rank than was given, there were more than Christians were there since Antioch loves a festival, whereas the Roman revelers were likely Balthus own spies. Present was a formidable Egyptian priest, a dominant fellow with his looming, overhanging, so I will say “cantilevered” Alexandrian nose. He was chest-heavy with amulets blue and green, -one an eye of Rah, which was against the evil eye. He wore a cross of silver, ruby–studded, which was shiny from much rubbing. Like Egyptians, Greeks and Hebrews also pray by stroking, emblems or beads. The fellow said he was a “Copt” which term I recognized as a rude form of the Greek for “Egyptian”. Teaching me history I need to know, he told me his fellow Copts weree“first followers of Christ”.
I was honored that he had come so very far to my investiture, participating with good wishes and enforcing prayers. His droned, repetitive intonations were, he said, to command the assistance of all the godly forces that see to our passage on the river of life, which, he emphasized, includes death in its continuous flow. “These are” he said, “the same river, like the Nile, eternal”. There was optimism in his use of the word, “command”, vis-a-vis the guiding energies, as there was when he told me he had been “commanded” to sail to Antioch from Alexandria, by his vision of a Roman noble whose “spirit” would mark a new kind of leader for the northern Christians. ”Spirit” is a bit ephemeral, applying as its Latin does to the dead, and so hardly confident as to my life span here on earth. If his vision is right, so be it, if it is my spirit that serves as some kind of general over hosts and doings, fine. In the meantime I am gratified for beneficial Egyptian commands, for I am sure I will need that help, however far the river flows, and however festooned the imposing stranger who came so far to pray for my passage, to tell me his complimentary, I’d say ‘dead or alive” vision.
I will do what I can while yet robust to marshal Christian hosts by recruiting as best I can. Our Roman legions stationed hereabouts, the IV Scythica, III Gallica. II Trajana, the III, will provide, mostly through the influence of their women already converted. I am well known as a commander and, for those ready for trust, I welcome them. Should the legion X Fretensis itself rotate back here where it was so many years stationed here, its veterans will remember them how fertile is Syria, how pleasing Antioch can be. Rome welcomes the stabilizing force of its veterans settling here. X Fretensis is a solid legion. It’s retirees will be ever welcome in our House of the Lord. It is conceivable that additional legions will one day be brought in, for Antioch is temperamental, and if the mob misperceives Roman power, riot is the least form of revolt against law and civility. There will be no uprisings whilst I serve. One priority is to recruit the nosiest of local agitators to the peace of our assembly.. New members are easily made comfortable, for Christians are all stranger to this new faith which further defines itself as we experience it. All of us are architects and carpenters newly building. Of all of these working this vineyard, I am surely the oddest, given my extravagantly Roman standing. But then, that is why I was invited Bishop, Ignatius saw the value of experience, ties, status, the possibly favor of Rome should I be able to steer this ship in conciliatory directions.
We have as yet no agreement on our episcopal duty to emperors, other than that which Jesus so clearly understood and counseled. Yet of writings there are plenty, these ever more. Here in Antioch, I am almost daily handed a story claimed old in origin and godly in intent. (Recently some are claiming his divine authorship or at least dictation) indeed I know of one or two believers near me who are writing such stories, As for holy and riveting stories there are as many of these as nibbed quills for ink and styluses (stili), as many as from those useful geese whose feathers make the quill. Their intent is fervently good, their Greek not always excellent. Whether they will prove enriching or devotional or even able to comprehend the divine, I will not judge. Most works will be forgotten, some manuscripts burned in righteous anger, some authors killed. Jesus’ nature in relationship to God may never be agreed. It follows that the architecture and economy, the very of God will be in dispute. Insofar as this occurs, the overly disputatious mind is not beneficial. Evidence of that can be found in the conduct of the Roman Senate during the Republic.
I am no theologian. I am no geometer of the unseen, no Euclid offering laws as to the infinite where even that is assumed. I do know the simple geometry; plain. spherical and topological of myself, this S. Cornelius, Bishop. It is a very limited sphere which defines the self, although not the reach of me, nor what reaches out to me. Names define only us –by no means God- so mark me: I take no other name but my own. I am no freed slave adopting his owner’s name, nor, as happens quite often, adopting a noble one such as Cornelius. (I have sufficient blood cousins of whom to be wary; those born vulgar who copy our names would fill a small stadium) I am no copy of another, however revered, who has gone before. I am no imitator, nor am I humble. A mouth full of mealy worms is not my diet. There. Know me ! I do not pretend to know the reach, sentiments, dimensions of God. I do not aim to describe him, beyond the overwhelming ecstasy of inner experience which is no description at all, simply an avowal. Nor do I do borrow other’s avowals, although I am prepared, with some caution, to believe them. I have no need for faith according to another’s idiosyncratic instruction, no need for” belief” as a product of thought or reason. Reason does not apply here.. Awe does. Awareness of immensity, joy, inconsequentiality, and of union, those apply. Gratitude is implicit. It is, at one level, simple enough. We have had one teacher for the spirit, and its inherent, compelling ethic and command; the rabbi Jesus. Jesus the man, and in some mysterious, saving way, also God-invested. So yes, a miracle. I know not its greater design..
I do not intend to be overly simple. Appreciation is a general virtue. An educated man is not indifferent to others great and thoughtful to whom any civilized man is indebted. We have had many teachers of great understanding. but if of the spirit, theirs were all approximations.
I experience him, or “Him”, profoundly That “Him” is but a convenience of language, a respectful convention, one pretending natural understanding among us that what we know emanates from One unknown but for aspects. I know my most innermost experience, conviction following. The soul within me is certain, and in that certainty of experience itself, I need no Pauline “leaps”. Let that be for the unsure mob. I write no Ignatian treatises, insist on no lawyer’s theology. Spare me the exasperation of written proofs. Of God I know that He is, Our words are all mumbling but for prayer. Bishops write treatises, these weapons of dispute, because they cannot write poetry, or thrill in song. All of that mutes in externalizing, our inner moments. Treatises, dogma beyond the simple, seeks to objectify the private and personal. The work of it escapes the mysteries.
People find magic in words, are reassured by the repetitious droning of priests, and so, a bishop is caught up in the obligation. Yes, those magic, reassuring words, better done by music, by poetry, by wild dancing which binds worshippers in their very marrow, heating them in ecstatic thrill which unifies a congregation as one experiencing body. The smell of that sweat may be close to the fragrance of Christ. Here then is one dilemma for the church, that precarious balance too easily filled with texts, then dispute, but also too easily rocked by private exhilaration insisted upon as revelation to be adopted. These include the insane.
As for God, all other gods which contain him, I pray he consciously occupies our essence. Obviously I have an a affinity to the mysteries, Eleusinian, all others respectful. For me Christianity is their promise and completion. I am become a man given the gift of private rapture, made tender by the music of silence, seeking to grasp the strange geometry of the infinite, here knowing the bliss of union. I pretend no means of translation. But there is a compulsion to the public consequences given us by this beyond overwhelmingly insisting God of love, harmony, forgiveness, generosity. There is an emerging logic to this religion, its wisdom. It commands, and so I preach, our duty to one another, allowing beauty, furthering fellowship. Generated is the demand for an almost ruthless practicality so that these can survive and prosper. I am then politically also obliged. In that there should be my skill, my understanding from which are derived plans, and mayhap also sacrifice. The latter is of no consequence. It is but a marker on the path, itself a candle offering light on the way.
My duty is to a better and Christian Rome, and for our few Christians, their role in bringint that about, gentle militancy born of compassion. Rome’s millions are needy, whereas this tiny Assembly, so lucky to know grace, has already been given to each what his, her, chalice holds. This Bishop does not make or fill such goblets. I assist in serving. The wine, and the body of bread taken with it, are preceded by sacred words, also some borrowed without careful examination The text commands all to ‘love they neighbor as thyself”. A sensitive man realizes this text is not from the hand of God- if any post- Jesus elaborating text is other than mortally inscribed- for our maker would know many people who enjoy no such love, whatever contrary is imparted by our arrogance. I am one such. That authoring scribe, no doubt pleased with the rule imparted, was an egotist. Again, a problem for our assemblies, what is claimed holy, and may be wise, may not withstand examination. As with the priests.
You see now he is an eccentric, this worrying Bishop. Now himself again contradictory. He is an aristocrat who has deserted his birthright, a sub-governor charged with the good order of Empire who is become a sacred revolutionary, a patron of bricks, ships and wars who proclaims spiritual priorities, a warrior committed to peace, a man of one singular love, for Helen, and no passion at all for embracing all humanity. Do not say I “love” God, the idea surely, the ecstacy absolutely,a benign rule of course, but I will not mix home-made syrup as a blend in sweetness distinctly other-wordly. One needs no self-praising confectioners. As with romances, one must be careful about swearings of love; ask somewhat acidly,“cui bono?,” “who benefits? So duties both holy and sensible must rule regardless of love, present or suspect. Allow, demand the contractual structures of morality and law.
Of course I know why Ignatius might have sought me. He knew me incomplete, longing, thus ready and needy. And I was, and am, a wanting, ambitious vessel to fill. Whether he knew all this through God or cunning I cannot say. My vocation credits the Lord, my suspicious mind grants Ignatius some genius. That worthy’s intelligencers surpassed even Balthus, that Knife. Balthus is not aware that for all his knowledge, scholarly or covert, he is himself unsure. We have shared that as entirely unstated. Balthus is unsure when his mind is clear, not when in his cups. or violent or thrusting a woman. When he is being cunning he is sure enough, the fox in him has a certain and delighted nose for such matters. He is, for all of that, a simple man of three parts; mind, some ambition, and his lower reaches. I had thought there might yet be spirit in him, but he is too rational to complete himself. Plato divided us in three as well, thinking ill of our lower region, with its only base, animal functions. Jesus was much the wiser, we are flesh and deserve the pleasure in and care of it. What is base is the unkind.
I must say it now, for I try to adhere to this new morality, thus honest and apologetic for it. Balthus is, I have said it before, brighter than I am and, by now, probably much better read. But he is a peasant, a sweaty fellow and crude. He has been a friend, perhaps even now is one, although hid displeased that I can no longer facilitate his ambition. Presbyter yes, a tolerant gesture we both know allows some relationship to continue. But he lives in the palace. That is the connection he prizes. The Governor Publius Marcellus will use him as best he can, and Balthus, much the cleverer, will reciprocate.
For his cause, the Bishop Ignatius also used me. He was ambitious for the faith. He knew I could be the political pivot and prize. I am that now. “Bishop” is an odd title, I must play it like an actor, for it no more fits me than my Roman ranks did. These are the theaters of my life. I have no role in designing those public stages, but if I am to do my duty, to accomplish what I know the world requires, needs, for me to be fulfilled in doing that, I must take these public roles. I would as soon be private, and in that exile from the public noise of the world, entirely, quietly, Christian. I am no Plato who rejects the appetites God has given us. Hardly. Luxury becomes me, Helen is part of me, I am glad to have slaves to serve me. My Greek statues, the ponds and plants of my surround, please my eyes and vanity. Any exile I might fancy, and it is only a fancy, would have been in my own garden. I cannot retreat there simply for my own pleasure. I am committed to this public stage, for only there can I work to enact realized Christianity as the spirit and good. Rome must be its complement; the practical, the necessary and the militant, one Empire made whole then, not two.
I will myself be whole, and this is much nearer now. Like Balthus I have also been unsure, composed of ill-fitting parts, Stoic, warrior, noble, now Bishop. My baser part is not Plato’s notion, those lower body parts where we eliminate, or lust. In the quiet of night, I remember, relive, that weeping child of me, still horrified by a crocodile father, revolted by what that man was and cherished, that father whose blood I carry and by that am condemned to be stained. He was Rome walking; its cruelty and power.
How could any child not want a better father, a contrasting capable, even mostly made of love. And no, I am not a ridiculous child who expects only a man be good or loving. None of us are that indeed ridiculous a simple homogenous human. I do try to make do with this new spiritual parentage, God and Jesus, however their parts combine. Mysteries perhaps their architecture, possibly complicated by confusing human reporters over these last storyhing decades.If there can be solid abstractions, these two in one, one in two, are that to me.. What Rome was to my father, Christianity must become that for me. Call them the two cities, only one of which is good. But you know I will not abandon Rome to its own evil, we all have a restorative duty. I was not born to Christianity, but I am allowed to be reborn in it. This time I choose the parentage. My biological father is only faint moisture on the mirror of me. I set my task to save the children of Rome from being devoured by its crocodiles.
I have told you I am certain of God, for we possess one another, but my searching mind, not my satiated spirit, knows error is easy. The mind is a critic, reminding all of me may be vanity, ambition, illusion, a peacock at the altar. I warn you, and myself, of these as possible. So saying, as also my duty, I nevertheless confirm the spirit, this God, this One, and speak to you out of a strange humility, modest before the truth of the soul and its fathering source. Our early source of Him was Hebrew, where he showed himself a jealous, vengeful, demanding, tribal, protective Yahweh One asks but should not, how came he so much changed in Jesus, and so for us? I propose that we, Romans across the Empire, have changed enough to deserve a more forgiving father. It is not that we have changed in our selfishness and error, but in the realization among enough of us, the dissatisfaction with what mankind is and has been.. In our yearning we show we have matured to allow, I say to be ready to earn, God’s optimism and reciprocity. These have earned His tolerant assistance. I allow that He may be tempting us, seeing that we have matured to the point of being able to make better choices. I had not thought of it before, but Hecate performs the same crossroads function, hers the blacker temptation of lures to destruction.
I suspect that before coming to offer us His love, may have come pity. Does He has Maker also suffer remorse for our wretchedness? It would be the best of the human in Him. Out of that might easily have come pity. I have sensed no pity in any god before him, or even now in other gods, only this one. Yahweh, responding to our modest improvement, also changed. I allow then that this eternal deity is himself not fixed, but changing. That essence of him which is His freedom, implies that. It implies more for, if our convenent with Him is one of reciprocities. what He grants as Grace can also, should this species fail totally on the road to the Good, be revoked.
Moral and spiritual progress then is an implicit demand upon humans. My definition of ‘civilization” incorporates that. Guiding roads to that is the work of a Bishop, a greaat responsibility for sensitivity to a greater hopes and plans. So now enter this governing, saving, Bishop who will initally ask not God, but Christians for a difficult change; to pity the Romans.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter