Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Curtain Call

"All I do is to go about and try to persuade you, both young and old, not to care for your bodies or your moneys first, and to care more exceedingly for the soul, to make it as good as possible ... either let me go free or do not let me go free, but I will never do anything else, even if I am to die many deaths ... And now it is time to go, I to die and you to live; but which of us goes to a better thing is unknown to all but God." -- Socrates

"Do not despise death but be well content with it, since this too is one of the things that nature wills ... Consider your life, your childhood, youth, manhood and old age -- for here also every change was a death. Is this anything to fear? In like manner, then, neither are the end and surcease from life itself anything to fear." -- Marcus Aurelius

"I hope, indeed, by your prayers to have the good fortune to fight with wild beasts at Rome, so that by doing this I can be a real disciple ... I am giving my life for the Cross." -- Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians.

Socrates of Athens faced his death calmly and without tears. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius, well-steeped in Stoic virtue, also looked to his end without fear.

But a new script seems to have been written with the rise of Christianity, which, after all, was born in the salvatory death of its founder. Its earliest faithful not only accepted death, some of them positively longed for it. They were not as the modern kamikaze fighters or suicide bombers, sacrificing their bodies to take out the enemy -- they were as sheep to the slaughter but seeming to rejoice at the opportunity to die meekly as had their Master.

Thus Ignatius, bishop of Smyrna, who for the crime of being a Christian was marched a thousand miles across what is today Turkey, to the Coliseum in Rome to be torn by beasts. Along the way, he wrote seven letters which have been preserved for us, and which are the subject of my reading tonight.

Has there been anything else like this ever, in the history of the world?


Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I believe that there were things like this, but in different times, and in different lives and places.

I think of Sojourner Truth whose travels and battles for freedom and equality took her all over our nation. These causes cost her her own children; 12 of them. Beaten, abused, hated, mocked, shunned; but she marched on... is this not the road of a thousand miles as well?

There are so many more people in the history of our world, whose beliefs and sacrifices cost them their lives and for whose work, we are blessed even today.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Eastcoastdweller said...


Your train of thought leads me to think of Harriet Tubman. Though Her health was not good, though She had escaped slavery Herself, She went back, again and again, to bring other slaves out at peril of Her life.

Janice Thomson said...

I think when one has met, faced and made peace with the inner self the fear of death slips away and one is empowered to help the cause of mankind in whatever area is suited to the traits and no matter what the outcome.