Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Faith of our Fathers

Meditations ...

How romantic -- in the classic sense -- that one Philotheus Byrennios was browsing an ancient monastery library in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1873, and found there an eleventh-century copy of a second-century text called Didache, or Teachings.

The Didache was known to some of the early Church Fathers, quoted by them and nearly made it into the New Testament canon -- then dropped out of sight for nearly 800 years.

If I did not love the pleasures of fine food, travel and such, if I did not utterly idolize the existence and desire the presence of the Feminine, if I had been raised in the Catholic tradition, I could possibly have been a monk. A life of contemplation, of tending a garden of herbs and poring over ancient tomes -- that appeals to some part of me.

Never shall I forget my journey to Pannonhalma in Hungary, an ancient monastery set high atop a hill -- the mystical feeling of that place and the library, oh, that library -- row after row of leather-bound volumes probably dating back to Guttenberg.

How sorrowful, that another work of the Early Church Fathers, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, which I have read this week -- a stark and powerful testament to piety and faith -- should be stained and sullied with most unworthy and unnecessary anti-Jewish polemics.

Are we to believe that the Jews -- themselves persecuted and driven by the same aggrieved Romans of the 2nd Century A.D. who tortured the Christians -- would join a mob of pagans in the ampitheatre to scream that Polycarp was "a destroyer of their gods," exult in his agonizing death, then send their "captain" to burn his body to prevent the Christians from converting it into sacred relics?

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