Homily the Second:  An Autobiography of Thought

(The text begins, the Bishop speaking) 

Small Steps toward Perfection.

Peace be with you. I am before you this third Sunday of my tenure. I have told you repeatedly, you are to pity the Romans, thence one day perhaps, love them.  It is a perfecting task for our sakes and theirs. We ask of ourselves perfection achieved in small steps. It is our idea, not to be achieved. There are those who say that when you are in heaven next to God, your job of perfecting yourself will continue through eternity. We do not ever become God. As in life then, and afterwards. So it has been said.

You will not make yourselves outstandingly fearful or  obnoxious even to the worst of emperors. Willfull disobedience to emperors unless they are beyond goodess, is not productive.The ego imagines itself heroic, standing great and admired under torture.  Those sacrificial imaginings are bogus, Flames devouring your flesh, or beasts,  are excruciatingly painful. They devour that vanity before you cease to know the pain. Be kind to yourselves, there is a sufficiency of pain. Do not seek it out. Be assured that until Christ enters them, madmen and fiends will arrive to rule the Empire.They will delight in sacrifices. Some will ejaculate as they see you die. I know because I have seen that.  Is that the glory you want? For the sake of all futures, it is change I preach. No, no change in what we know of the spirit, of our rsponse to grace and  gift but in those practical matters, and narrow sentiments which are not appropriate to our goodness or that saving mission.

As to change, I am its proof. I am myself change itself anticipated, present and planning.  Ignatiius knew, as I know, that I am arrived well before a time when others of my race, class and position will become Christian. I hope for your comprehension that my presence presages what must in future be, that Romans and all subjects of Empire and beyond become Christian. That is our program.  I will not abandon Rome which is my family and my heritage.We are here to save, not abandon.  It follows that the two aristocracies must merge under the rule of God’s, thus our own seamless kindness and example,  God visible  and also under the rule of sensible administration, that organization we must have. In that there is efficiency and order visible. God’s and our own hands are visible in both.

I remind you again of my limitations. I have told you that you must accept that I am the most ignorant respecting creed, text, thus interpretations, exegesis of any of these stories offered, or being offered, whether of Jesus, ostensibly Paul’s, or others such as they may appear.  I know little of the revered Testament of the Hebrews, themselves the deepest of races respecting their intimacy and history with God. God -beloved are the Hebrews when obedient to their convenant, rich they are in prophecy, blessed are they ancient texts and memories, thus the greatest tribe on earth as historians of an elaborated faith.  Out of their seed came our shared Hebrew Jesus whose astonishing news of, I say either repentant or  more optimisticYahveh, commited now to all tribes, not one, is the world’s joy. He did this so that the unshakeable faith of the Hebrews might be further enriched and then spread, as that welcome news to embrace gentiles, just as Paul understood.

Of Stories Great and Small:

We are,in storying times. Stories have shaped our faith and lives, and will always do that. They tell our history and, Homer after all, our epics. We ourselves may one day be a story, I myself intend that so, and have written to that aim. If we are to be a story, now or future known, let it be an honest one, our own names and lives set true. Let that also hold for others. That some will be unmindful of truth, we, all of us, allow doubt, train our critical natures to skepticism, to be immune to the persuasions of the crowd.

Be reminded anyone may use an apostle’s name, or Paul’s, or as we are already seeing, even Ignatius’ false letter to which his own deacon, Luke, testifies.  The ability to write is rare enough hereabouts, but a lettered man of purpose will, in its service, write what he will. Stories, lies even, are more amusing work than the labor of history. Let me tell you a story. It is neither history nor a lie.  

The other day I received a Christian traveler who called on the hospitality of this assembly. Too many religious tramps know that is our three-day duty. I assessed him and dutifully lodged him, but at my own expense, in a room in a lesser cottage in my alleyts.  This fellow, said he was a deacon in a Lydian assembly, specialized there in advising on right doctrine and conduct.  Since such that doctrine is incomplete, I held his dictates premature. I found a bit of the Pharisee abiding in him

He was quite pleased to lecture me on how, some years ago, he had been chosen by the spirit of Paul to write, ‘channeling’, slang has it,  a ‘lost letter to Timothy” . Paul’s “spirit” told him the letter was one he intended to assist in administering assemblies, but had never gotten around to writing. Oddly enough, Elias would not show me the text which, he said, strongly supported “doctrine” It is no confession to say he immediately disapproved of me, both as Christian and bishop. Even though my guest, he chided me for not simply my failings, but my, he called it ‘ineligibility’. The sins of ruling Romans were so great that however one might repent, he said all of them must suffer, , there could be no atonement. That all the tribe must be punished even if not all have sinned is an Hebrew view. Elias enjoyed chastising a Quaestor and a Bishop when there was no fear of retribution. 

We talked further. It soon became apparent this Elias was exceedingly hostile to women, said he had no wife, had wanted one to serve him, but that no father in his birth’s village would betroth a daughter to him even though he offered a bride price.  Paul’s spirit, he said, had told him no female should be elevated by Christians to any rank, any more than other slaves might. As I said, Elias was a rigid man, unforgiving, angry, a bigot too much enjoying that sin. He felt himself the grander through despising others. His so-called letter of Paul’s to Timothy, an invntion and even however useful in advising on administration, served his bitterness and wronged our women.

I will be personal now in telling my, no artist’s story. The Princess Helen came upon Elias and I talking in my garden. She had to listen only a moment to see what manner of man he was. Foolishly Elias had the gall to order her to leave, that to the domina in her house.  It was not Elias’ end but it was his come-uppance. She called slaves and had him forcibly thrown into the alley. She told them to be sure he landed, not upright, in a dung heap of the sort from which he must have sprung. You know now who ruled that moment in my garden:  his wife ruled your Bishop. It is a good thing; all of us must be ruled by greater wisdom. 

On the  Equal Role of Women: 

Here in this assembly, there is much of the heritage of the synagogue and also much that is tribal custom. Women have not benefited from a dictatorship of old ways, of stupid men, Here with us instead, women may hold any post of which they are spiritually and by character, worthy. The Gnostics were first among competing Christians to insist on this principle.   As with men, as it is in God’s eyes that we are equally capable of being loved by him, so we regard one another, contingent upon our conduct, as equal. Rome has achieved this among the rich and noble, although both sexes there use their equality in indiscretions, plots and violence. Again,we must be better than the Romans which message was central to Jesus’s own.  The Gnostics have also achieved this, there is an hermaphrodictic god, his female half that Sophia of whom all of you have no doubt heard, and perhaps in one notably outlandish tent meeting revival, seen a princess acting out that part. I allow us an aside here,  you will recall it was the confidence man Simon Magus, Satan’s magician he would have been had he talent enough, who was impresario for this profitable charade. It is wrong that only Gnostics, or promiscuous Romans be the instiutions that respect the woman as equal, or indeed, I grant my own marital instance, far superior to the man. Any level of enslavement limits our own potential. Slaves in their place are a given in our society, our lives, although as you are and see among, you they are welcome and can be the best of Christians. Your wives and daughters are neither slaves no inferiors, for no where is that written or inalterable custom.  I impose this understanding and action as your rule and duty. I am aware many men will oppose me on this. It is for the sake of power, ego, custom,  none of these worthy of you

A Spiritual Senate 

 I advise you that you here are a spiritual Senate, this Lord’s House is our Areopagitus. You are makers of great opportunity in this Empire. You are near the headwaters and are the turbulent rapids of the uncoiling religious river of time.  All of Empire will be your delta. You will provide the nourishing fish, rather as did the Lord, to Our Sea and those seas beyond Hercules, lower than Egypt, East where Thomas may have sailed.  Be then more responsible as spiritual Senate than the Roman Republic’s was.  Its venality, ego, shortsightedness, lack of charity, indeed murderous discord destroyed the Republic, - as well as my Gracchii forefathers- Keep mindful that you here be no such destructive Senate. If this be a republic of God, and that it is a reasonable metaphor,, be mindful of laws, duties, purpose.  Be prudent as to the treasury, know all men and women are to be citizens, so much unlike exclusive Italian Rome, be glad our Christian army is our marching love and charity.  I say you then, know Rome and be better.`Know your fulfillment and Rome’s need.  Be generous to what one angry, sitefull man has called “the whore of Babylon”. There is no love in the heart of a man who despises whores, no sense in any of us not to realize our mission to Rome.

Respect For All That Has Been Holy 

You must respect for all that has been holy. That forms the basis for tolerance, your requested rituals of respect to Roman gods, and fears. Reverance is also proper, its roots arise from deep withinus.  Do not be narrow as to what is worthy in our history, for gods earlier in time, over those eons. have helped form us all. Around us now, far, far  more folk worship older gods than have regard for the God we know. You know that. You must respect your neighbors worship. Again as Romans do, however empty that is.  The sense of the holy is ancient, born with our race when it was very young. Born I suspect with stones themselves, the caves, the stars, the whole of the firmament  The holy refines itself for new times, but retains its antiquity. No more than God is, are we newly arrived to the idea of the holy. As we generate, we know our generation carry the plenitude of that great chain of being which is God’s.   Do not denounce your Apollo’s or disregard your Athena’s, nor your Cybele’s nor your Attis’s, for as we descend from forefathers in flesh, so we also descend from all that has been sacred. 

Look at that cavern where Peter and Paul both preached, and on some summerish day shall I. Look at its walls and tunnels, imagine the ancient races of the Orontes who carved its niches for their idols, deepened its depth into the mountain.  Look at the ancient shrines, monuments all about it.  I say the greatness of our time and near Antiochean places is the work of all generations.   We are new to our work of creating and presenting our faith and ourselves.  The now work we do here daily is to bake the sustaining loaves of faith. The present must be nourished. But we are not silly. The fare of the Christian we also sustains and gives joy to the. flesh, we aregiven many appetites, only some of which are wild horses to be bridled.  Be bakers then, be gourmets or, if you have the capacities, be trenchermen. Be also lovers. Be great lovers, passionate. You are given flesh,  do not scour it but please it. When two of you are flesh melding together, that is a gift to you.  If a child come forth from that, that infant  a gift to you and the world. Be the Magi, let your faces be the light.  As a caution, please yourselves, and all of us as by learning how to tame the flesh be it too wild. The flesh is to receive nor give harm. As with wise Apollo’s instruction, all things in moderation. 

Literacy Our Necessity

I tell you to know your letters, make libraries of texts, treasure words as fathers who teach you and deserve attention and respect.  Knowing how to read is practical, elevating as well as evangelizing matter. I encourage you all to literacy and more able speech, this not in any local tongue as must be for our local growth and capabilities, but Greek and Latin. As precedent, those older among you may recall that Bishop Ignatius ordered and paid for the education to literacy of Luke, the Younger, his Deacon still with us.

I will have Charmides of your Elders, who is Greek and educated, institute classes for all of you who are without letters to attend. I will buy your quills, parchment, ink, and bring from my own home library, the most noted works in Greek and Latin, ones which demand your familiarity. The classes are voluntary, a great opportunity. I expressly encourage women to attend.  Again I say, I will not allow any lesser status for women among us, none.  We will be disappointed if you in need do not take advantage of it. If your children are not elsewhere schooled, bring them here. I will institute general education. Since our treasury suffered so under Bishop Eros, what your finance committee sees as too expensive, I will fund personally.    If too few join to seek education to letters, and I hope to greater works,  it will become mandatory, but for the ill and elderly.  This is one step along the practical path of this assembly. 

I will also instruct scribes to copy such religious parchments as we have, including the Hebrew Testament. Texts are in remarkably short supply. I have searched the closets. Thanks to that Bishop Eros I found much by way of empty wine flasks and sex toys, customer lists for his girls,  but few manuscripts.   I will expect Charmides to oversee the scribes and report on literacy class attendance and progress. Whatever forgiveness the Lord counsels as the tenor of our congress with one another, this Bishop will not recommend it for any of you failing in your duty to become more competent Christians. That is defined by community respect, which respect will facilitate the audience for your mission among the better educated and better connected. Secure Christian expansion depends greatly on higher classes being among our brothers. 

Your recent Bishop, Eros, might well be said to have been sent by the Devil instead of God. Profound weakness in your structure allowed his appointment. I hear of instances of your greed and lust which were not only unbecoming but ate away at the fabric of goodness which this Assembly was and has recovered. Or so we hope.He filled his own coffers but in spite of his initial gifts, hazarded all. I think he did not intend ill, but one so morally ill- formed cripples others as well as is himself crippled.. The house of God which is also a brothel is contemptible. You who allowed it, you who enjoyed it, you wives who became whores, all of you have profited, have much to do by way of confession and reform.  

On Confession, Our Practice

We will the practice of confession of sin, a practice absent in some assemblies, so that atonement in the eyes of the Lord, His forgiveness, is sought. You know that somewhat from the Israelites and David’s example, some of you Syrian may know it from your tribe if resident near the Euphrates or Tigris. Indeed one of you was kind enough to give me as advise me of the antiquity of knowledge of such sin and grace  an Assyrian psalm. Babylonians practiced it as did the people of even more ancient Sumer.  The right means for its practice I have just now read in the Didache as done in the assembly in Rome. Here, given the enormity of our failings under Eros, it is proper we confess not simply our errors before God, but in failing to be surety for  one another. Self-examination, as the Greeks knew, is the way to a fulfilling life, as well as our comity. 

Since my own standing before you as competent confessor may rightly be doubted, I will ask the Elders to name two who are most pious, wise, trusted and forgiving among you. If you come to trust me, my borrowed power of dispensation, advice, I humbly accept..  You will vote on the acceptability of the Elders nominated, for they must be sympathetic, but abiders by the rules, We can be innovative, set our liturgy so that all of us together make of it a relieving and reminding ritual. Forgiveness is a great gift that God gives us, what he offers we also emulate when we forgive those who trespass against us. Admission of shortcomings, the sins arising from failed Commandments, do well to become a habit of self-knowledge, self-criticism,and efforts toward correction. Your your good conscience becomes guide. It is not for us to mete out punishments. There are enough of these in our lives, many unearned and random.  We are all frail, our work is our constant, decent rebuilding.

On Prudence in Finance.

The spirit rises from mundane foundations, the realities we face, so money matters.  Financially, your history is of your own generous individual support, and the endowment given us with this great house. However now as an institution we require replenishment above what are your individual means. Here is what I propose: 

Obviously wealthy converts would help. Seek them.Decide whether to extend broadly the charitable care for the ill for which you now provide only to one another, only for those not Christian adding a reasonable charge for visits or an infirmary.  Hiring doctors and women wise in herbs, pleasant quarters for the needy ill, All of this will be an investment with a return in coin, good will, and reputation   You will return to me with your recommendations.. Turn to me only when perplexed. As Christians bent on institutional competency, self-government apportioned by rank within the larger structure is obligatory. You are a practical Senate. You are Areopagites who watch over the purse, proprieties and the virtuous state of you citizens of this Assembly. 

Be Gentle in Dispute

I am concerned to learn of continuing serious dissension among you. About it, I not competent to move beyond simple observations. I realize that even these will be found objectionable by some. Over the few weeks since I received, by your good Luke’s hand, the old letter from Ignatius, I undertook personally, but incognito, to inquire after the distribution of beliefs among you here, and more widely in Hebrew and Christian Antioch.  I have learned of the disagreements, sensed the anger, heard the insults, been surprised at the intensity of narrow and intolerant righteousness, its insistence on one or another point of doctrine or centrality of text and story. I have read the one text we have reporting Jesus, that of Mathew. I have bits and pieces of dangerous poetic nonsense by a pseudo John. I have asked everyone to find what the pseudonym Mark wrote, for these words should be here in Antioch. since everyone says that a pious man who used that name lived and wrote here. Importantly, one hears that Mark, it is said Mathew as well, had as sources in writing of Jesus a much earlier document recording the stories only a few years following Jesus crucifixion. Where that document may be, is unknown.  Keep your eyes open for that wellspring source. You would bring us all a treasure, for it is closer to the words of our Father through Jesus, and is shorn of some imaginings and exaggerations. 

While agreement is coalescing, as it must, for if we are fragmented, there is no strength our common conviction in us.To assure that we must not be fierce in our conviction. Yet in the our community, there are few events storied in Jesus life and special death that are not  ardently disputed, as for major instance, the very nature, that “economy” of God, his offer to us as best earned and assured, thus the conditions levied upon us to enter what some call “the Kingdom’. Beyond our Mathew, scraps by other names, and Paul to the Corinthians, and the tattered copies of these are not in entirely the same, we know others here in Antioch have Jesus stories of their own, perhaps nowhere recorded but family memories treasured as proud possessions. Such families will be Hebrew if the story is authentic as to its old origins,.  I am told new Jewish Torah also has Jesus stories, which, I suspect are not complimentary. We keep in mind that Jesus was their revolutionary rabbi. He could have been all of theirs, as he is now all of ours in our regrettable separation. The Hebrews have chosen their traditional path; let us not dispute their right to do so, nor to connect our profound difference with any disrespect.

Disputation among us is easier because it seems Jesus was  disinterested in any recording of his message, at least by his own hand. It is easiest to presume he did not have letters, or alternatively , he did not anticipate either the richness of his legacy or the miracle of his rising. On the other hand, some take his reliance on others as proof of his prescience that greater richness would accrue as those others became his literary artists.  Perhaps he intended no singular veridical transcripts and observations. We dispute these matters among ourselves, bitterly sometimes, but I say all of us assembled, are enriched, it is said eternally. Heavy dispute threatens to deny our own  instruction and reward. Dispute drains and separates Christians, moreso than it inspires creative interpretation, just as Ignatius knew.  

Risks of the Philosophy of the One

I comment on the implications of the concept and term of  “the One,” for the word is much used by Greeks, mystics from other sects and has become a convenience to us. I sometimes use the word.  Much of the religious-philosophical world,-Rome is neither but for what she has borrowed- conceive of what they call “the One.” I know I may bore you here, but words in religion have great significance, and much mischief can come from that.  “The One” is Greek from Parmenides through Plato, with Elean scientists agreeable to some unifying notion of material, or more likely invisble source as, perhaps, energy which underlies unity.  Most think of Plato as the forerunner of conceiving, intellectually, philosophically, of our God as singular. The Jews of course, understand Yahweh in that singular way in relationship to them, but appreciated the competition of other tribal deities, their worship and images banned. Some see this history as one of tribal warfare, gods and tribes warring. To Homer, gods warring with one another was the disorderly order of things. The “One’by definition accepts only the single deity, although that One may not make and rule the cosmos, but be experienced as a gift to the mind knowing union with a greater Being.  Some scholarly Eleans, Myteiline is one center of their study, conceive energy and motion as the structuring of all order, even apparent disorder. Some find mathematics the best description of such regularities, beautiful in its internal consistencies and as its own independent structure to apprehended by, but independent of our minds, thus an entity so awesome as not simply to be the creation of, but even itself to be ‘the One”. It may or may not be a conceived as a conscienceless unity, although either allows it the as-if intent of its self-organization being elaborated toward perfection.

Excellent human minds propound the One so conceived, but mark you, it is one without purpose unless one posits an inanimate un-god of energy and change as purpose. The One, and in a worshipful way it is honored with capitalization, as a name for God, but in general that one is without a relationship to that which it creates or constitutes. Such a one, however brilliantly described, hypothesized, yields an impersonal cosmos indifferent to us,  although we cannot be indifferent to it.  We must be conscious of our relationship with our causes. Intentional relationship, glorious power in these, center Christianity.  At some point earlier, however,  poets sung of the One as our single final, both proximal and distal cause, a speechless father who cast a universe but used no enlivening seed. The” it” of it exists in power and awe, and may overwhelm us with an experience of union. But both parties to such union are speechless.If, however, God visits that union on a mortal, all of the man foever after trembles with the meaning of it. A silent speech, yes, but mighty and lending profound purpose.

Artists of the soul, also prophets  understood our relationship was, is, purposeful, intended intimacies in it.  They allowed attributes, invited meanings, divined laws for being, and thus forsook indifference, joined intentional love, gratitude, and gave us the capacity to understand what grace, glory, were.  They deciphered a great code which, once understood as understandable, was transformed into audible voice, legible Word, and signified for us by those with special gifts of understanding. For those of us in Syria, Jesus interpreted these things for us.

Understand this now, that the One, or ‘one’ so postulated, may be synonymous with God but is oftentimes set as an undefined nature without love, care, possession as we conceive these humanly, indeed as we are all joined with, and if one day perfected, next to the higher powers whose intentions affect us, indeed are us because we are created thereby. An analyzed Nature shows its operations and parts are lesser or greater causes rational causes for events. Causes are an human preoccupation. We are caused, but our mind sometimes invents them for affecting events. Nature, however beautiful to behold, as in constellations, sunsets or the racing hind, is indifferent, utterly mindlessly indifferent. The One as only nature does not plan, although surely futures are directed by its own regularities, which may be bounded irregularities as well.  It sets forth no conditions, morals, punishments, rewards, and blessings as we humans understand these,  for such a one has no mind to know, nor mind for us to know. Well it may radiate, and be seen for its power, which energy is, but our conceptions here are utterly rational, and provide us no hope, nor forgiveness, nor love outside ourselves, thus no exceptional experience,  With such a One, the human race is entirely on its own, its gift only itself and the capability to observe a marvelous cosmos. 

If one is a Stoic one moves from the Elean conclusions to the intelligent requirement that, since humans are alone in the universe, there being no other beings at our level of personal powers, we build ourselves over our lifetime, reach out to become the Type we are. Platonic of course, but in life it means we arrive at standards for what is best made or best avoided. There is work in that, whether one grows in a Caligula or Cato.  We choose ourselves, so to speak, the work and meaning of us. We do not grow simple.  On the other hand, that unqualified so mindless One,  is without meanings. We must invent them. We make of it what we will, more eloquently when wise men conceive ideals as they write poetry, history and philosophy. Science is also eloquent in allowing imagination but it is denied meanings beyond discovery and understanding. It allows no ischeme personal in its dimensions.  For all that, our growth and fate is of no more consequence to anything beyond this world of matter than as if we were stone. We are, as far as meanings, derived conduct and futures only fromwhat we make and do. A narcissistic loneliness tha for the impersonal orders and accountings conceived of as the One, give us no succor, enjoin us nothing, goffer no security but for palisades we can build, guarantee nothing, and most assuredly deny any hope of eternal life as we know ourselves now. The One does not love and cannot be loved  The One which does not love, possess, promise, purpose, compels us to be lonely in the cosmos. If, in spite of that we sense some spirit occupies us, it is not accepted as real, but as the lonely person’ desparately imaginative invention. Insist upo Union possible,any mystical experience, those glories are attributed to some intoxication, or the fainting sickness such as Paul may have had, in a sick  brain. Union, from the view of “realist sceptics’is solitary orgasm, spiritual masturbation. Conceiving the One by no means rules out our independend goodness, nor concord and collaboration, or the ants of us building the giant star of  civilization.  It is all without meaning beyond ourselves. Yet we know we are incomplete. Our self longs for satisfaction from a greater being.

Any one of us here in this Assembly feels the limitations that commiting entirely to the science of the Greeks, the philosophies of such as the Stoics,  the pure reason of Aristotle, can impose.   We risk being only transitory, feeling empty, cursed by longings. We risk being absent any reason for charity, discipline, courtesy beyond calculation and opportunity, where we are saved only by personal disposition to kindness, an expanding biology of love. What would move us to be civilized when slaughter and conquest yield gold, slaves, lands? What, since no longer “who”, inculcates a responsibility that demands a moral man over a successful one? How is `it in the poorest and most find in our poor and inadequate, utterly selfish persons, can come to them a  vision so filling and fulfilling as God . They cannot generate it themselves. So it is, I say to you, that relying only on reason, only sciencewhatever its visions and delights in relationships. Those discoveries by the excellence of a scientific mind poiting—and it is imaginative without doubt-cosmic energies, elements, vastness, galaxies and infinity- will leave most humans only more awarene oft heir nothingness in the void/ “Religio” as bonds of love, respect for the sacred, an extended consciousness are not sustained by the indefinable, personally inactive ‘one”   But then, most say Plato was an intolerant, egotiscal hard ass, so he and the “One” he knew greater and unifying,  may yet be playing infinite card games together

What would move us to the discipline that leads to that glorious, ineffable, ecstatic, immense, and expansive and utterly modestly unselfish\experience of union with God? Why be open to that if we are persuaded the experience is counterfeited by our own brain only, self deluding, perhaps drunken love to five slave girls at once yielding the same, thus driving us to the extremes of selfish lust?  

Spirit is denied us, even though we feel spirit’s presence, essence, stirrings of the soul, even though we may every day partake of that beauty which we would be forced to treat only mere sensory, kinesthesia allowed, but at it base the our own brains’ work, whether imagining, organize, wandering but not partaking. For you see, if there is but the impersonal one, there is no partaking of greatness, thus no rightful awe or, of great importance, modesty.  By extensions there need be no gratitude!  To whom? For what?  We partake of nothing; we owe no thanks or service. Vanity is given its head, in our head, or in our tribal ethnocentric extravagances, some “us” over the world. 

Look you and see you Rome as it is here.  Not even a unifying first Cause,  not any interest in the science of what are wondrous laws and events which science at least elevates the “what is” of it to lawful Oneness. Rome limits itself to “common sense”, that practicality without abstractions or spirit,  Such common sense nevertheless worships gods, is superstitious, is not but for the poets, required to be rational. I confess, as Hebrews might, to the sins of my clan, for we Equestrians have been as Rome was and is.  I am repentant before you for my very blood.  Rome then, inflicting and suffering,  is empty of the utility and admiration and discovering genius which conceiving “the One” allows,  The limitations of the “One” as only and incomplete without attributes and excitement, compels us to see the limitations of having only that word, “the One”, what it seems to relabel as ‘source’ or “unity” but nothing causal or externalized, so nothing “at work” in us or the Cosmos to it.  The” it” of the One is seen as looking on, active in some way, but not responsible for or interacting with us in any but internal, awesome, imploding  experience. As such, the  visiting God, his epiphanies, his Son the Jesus are ignored. To make the contrast simple:  Christians enjoy a lively religion, an enlivened, personalized Cosmos, where we are alive with and because of our conscious, intentional God. The philosophy of the One accepts Being, but in a passive way, no joy or Grace in it. On the other hand, think of us writing poetry with the Spirit, in conversation with Jesus, dancing with God. In that of course we are “at one”  But to agree when we escape definitions, is to make ourselves ill-defined.

I say it again, we are enjoying the gift of being alive in the Cosmos, writing poetry, in conversation, dancing with God. Note the reciprocity and collaboration, God is with us in poetry, in conversation-as prayer-and dances with us. 


The Aristotelians, Eleans, Stoics are rightly credited with the heavy work of disciplined rationality, but it is not rational to deny what all those religious feel and know so intimately. truths are inside as we as heard and read in testimonial.  Describe it as the immensity, fulfillment, rapture, or comfort, ease, that so positive valance, even all of us then with our far-seeing shadows made lighter, boundaries more permeable.  It is the case that our experience, visions, the revelations of others, all come to us and are recognized. There is an instinct in it, just as a mother recognizes and is drawn to her child, as with lovers the pattern and the body of one fitting that of the other.  These are the rational and irrational truths of Christianity.  Christianity does not dispute or contradict the logic, mathematics science encompassed by “the one”, hardly, such discoveries, laws, probabilities are the universe in its wonderful but spirit-shallow ways.  Those of see only “the One” deny us our deeper, intimate, passionate truth; we do not at all deny theirs.  Of the two positions then, they are less encompassing, we are more embracing.   I propose to you that it is self evident that a more embracing philosophy, for others call can call us that, meets the better test of reason as well as the transcendental reality which is given as experience, a given we name God.  We do that without quibbling as to other names other peoples use, as long as those powers and meanings, the being of him, and of our human relationship fundamental, is acknowledge

This then is my argument against the sufficiency of what the Parmenideans, Eleans and Stoics contend. 

In the East, in India which prized Buddha, or and Hindus, one hears their Way is to a One called that, or as we with Jesus, calling that “Buddha” as the enlightened one to whom one’s spiritual steps are directed.  I know insufficiently of these faiths, but am told they do not conceive our personal, promising, possessing, God.

Of these believers in the East, as indeed with those narrow in their Platonism, or Eleans, or Stoics and Cynics, do not be intolerant.  Remember we are of an embracing faith. We welcome those discoveries of the universe that philosophers as scientists make,  that philosophers wise as to our moral requirements make.  All who differ from us arise from a different history, a different place, a different life. Minds work differently.  Allow, do not condemn that, unless they would condemn your mind to obey theirs. A Creator God must love creativity in the service of understanding, of laws, of harmony, of value.

We are the luckier, for history as Jesus in it, in our record, has come to us. Consider that again, he has come to us! Do not contend with an unbeliever should you meet him, or her, in the marketplace.  Who wants to listen to you as to a contentious man?  Instead, in all respect, tell him simply the news and joy you yourself have. Tell, but do not argue that we are the richer in this so recent event, knowledge, Jesus coming so that we may walk in his wisdom, appreciate God charitable in coming to us.  We are blessed with a new message, updated as to the disposition of the Deity.   Be glad for the joy the beliefs of others give them, offer the greater joy you know.  But no disputation, for that practiced against others will turn against us.  If we appreciate “the One” as but a name for God, however others call him, the “One” then is our common source, development and joy. As with the Greeks on their holy island of Delos, where they have the temple to the unknown god, it was Paul who told them this long ago caution was prescient, that such a one has come in the nature of Jesus; the Delos temple can now be dedicated.  If others, Platonists likely, already honor “the One”, elaborate on it with God’s gifts as therein.. Honor then the ‘”One” not a “one” to whom we are joined,  where we may find ecstatic union and the bliss of that, where unbelievers can understand they already have received Grace.

Having spoken of tolerance as balm for potential dispute, know there is also a requirement for particular intolerance.  Have no tolerance for evil that shows itself in harmful acts, in Satan’s divisiveness strewing discord and contention. Have no tolerance for sins defined as acts which hurt others, those Moses enunciated, and too much harm done  we see around us. Have no tolerance for selfishness, particularly when it is within you, for it is a crippling as well as aggrandizing, deluding disease.  Required then, your minds at work in judgment. Your will at work in striving for the good, your soul at work opening ever wider to the experience and promise of God which is proven in your conduct, not in bragging.

On Silence

I have already over-spoken. I have done so on no authority but my own views and experience.  These drive me but may be insufficient for others. I have told you I am unschooled in articles of faith, any intricacies of doctrine. I am not an intellectual Christian; I am better as a quiet one. I am Bishop awkwardly come to you, recruited by means of inherited advantage, then offering proof in practice of merit, for that is the Roman way. I am not risen from your ranks which is how other bishops mature to be chosen. I am your invited stranger. You will determine my welcome and our future.

I tell you of this stranger.   Know me best as a private man who is more comfortable with silence respecting the inner experience of God. Know me as you have heard me, an admirer of creation, God’s and our gifted own. You have heard me also as a skeptic, for in that Greek school I have much of my formation. None of us escape our formation. It is good when we can build upon it.  We are but intrusive noise, and vain,  when we claim more than we are.  Let us all be silent about what we do not know, as well as what it is we should only privately know. We must be careful not to brag about best intimacies with God. In the same way, as to our excellence in reason, let us not claim  by any intuitive right the logic and exactness, knowledge, science (ars scientia) such as Aristotle or Eleans prized.  A new Polybius may one day watch us to forecast his and our grandchildren’s days, but it is not ours to write such histories, not engage so many quills in noisy work, for we are the living history in being the living, loving faith.  That will give us the strength the build as our free minds direct, built upon the Eleans,  Aristotle, or such as Hippocrates, Pericles, Sophocles, Homer.  The Creator God has given us his gift of life, and then of soul’s further reaches through Jesus.  It is a poor thing any silence which limits our community’s ability to build on the good works of others,  and to build such a good work of ourselves. But of our persona  goodness, be silent. If others say it of us, be glad.  Many of us prefer to pray in silence, but if we are fortunate and God occupies us exquisitely in those time, it is a silence which deafens us to all else.  It is God speaking, but we hear his voice with the senses of our soul. We may teach receptive attitudes, but we do not evangelize, nor make a theater of ecstasy. One may instruct others in best disciplines which may open one to stupendous awareness well beyond any sense we can identify. It is unbecoming to shout out to others God experienced within, beyond acknowledging the gift, the very wonder of it 

Expel Me If  My Purpose Cannot Be Yours

You have learned my program for us runs counter to the ordinary Christian’s posture toward Rome.  It, rather like today, is a rhetor’s arguing stance more than homily, for I dwell more on the world than the Lord, knowing only my portion of first, wheras I am painful witness to so many experiencing the Roman world far inferior to what it might be.  I ask you to reflect on my purposes in your own meetings led by your Council of Seven Elders.   If your majority disagrees, then as with ancient Athenian council, that boulee, later expanded to a larger democracy, voting on the Areopagus, I will view myself expelled.  If ostracized by your contrary opinion, I will depart on my part in all good will.” 

IT IS I, BALTHUS, COMPILER , who interjects. I stopped from the shock of this, inviting an illiterate assembly to vote on the yea or nay the ostracism of their Bishop? He had read too much of Greece, its entirely unRoman and impractical s democracy. Fools, too often the majority,  vote their own stupidity at great cost, as the history of Greece after Pericles shows.  I prefer to believe there was cunning in it, that this Bishop, knowing opposition to him, for I had warned him, was bringing his confident warrior self to the pulpit, challenging, daring. That warrior knew no fear, was contemptuous of enemies, and had always triumphed in the field. So this was an angry challenge to his lessers,  an “I dare you”. A nobleman sneering at the mob.  I heard him speak that Sunday in the Assembly. I want you to lean forward yourselves as if better to hear it. At this point then, no whispering script. Let the font of it rise as he raised his voice in the assembly. A warrior to be sure,  loud and clear, this man who might be destiny’s child. Hear him: 

“I am set on my course that is to define yours and, should our mission succeed, Rome’s  You will, quite contrary to any Roman imperium practice, decide whether yours set is contrary or agrees.  The greatness of God, his very nature,  is freedom. That demands of us, our freedom in the image of God, so now, your responsible, foresighted choice. 

I reiterate the policy on which you are to vote for or against your Bishop. It is to bring Christianity to all of Rome beginning now.  Christians on behalf of our faith, must conquer by the example and mission. We go in all gentleness and persuasion to win heart and soul, thus determine through faith, the fate of Empire. But we go forth, we do not sit a comfortable Sunday inside our small palace snug in the Jewish quarter of Antioch. We go forth!  The Empire’s fate is our own. I repeat that, the Empire’s fate is our own. I repeat again my mission, to make all of Rome Christian.  Equally, tto assure all Christians who live within the Empire are loyal to that new Rome which, in becoming Christian, is Good, likewise, as God-filled and Jesus conscious, is saved.  I say once, I will say it hundreds of times,  Christianity survives these difficult early years only if Rome survives,  and Rome survives, indeed only becomes worthy of perpetuation, if it is Christian.  The two become one. More than Rome will beour domain..  Remember Thomas’ Eastern mission beyond Parthia, old Babylon, to India, and beyond India if we can. Ignatius of course was premature. Vanity does not acquire Christendom, albeit it occupies ourselves. It is essential we extend the domans of excellence e to bless the peoples beyond Empire. I believe it within our gift, which is God’s. Our hands hold that gift. Our hands reach out to grip all other’s hands. We seek a chain of us across the world. .We make that chain!.

In the meantime, again I urge you, pity the Romans and be confident” He paused, look at the crowd of them sternly, and added,” insofar as you have seen to your good character and your duties as best you can, insofar as you have sought to expand your human capabilities for charity, kindness, empathy, and I bless your for the work of that,  hear me now on that which can be much more difficult than we admit,

You should love yourselves.” 


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