Friday, July 24, 2009

Do Not Fret - Times have been worse - Wisdom from the Past

But when the enemy's policy against us was changed from one of long and bitter contention to open warfare, then, as everyone knows, the war was split into a myriad of factions, so that all men succumbed to irreconcilable hatred, either through individual suspicion or party spirit. What storm at sea was ever so savage as this tempest of the Churches? It has moved every boundary established by the Fathers; every foundation, every established bulwark of doctrine has been shaken. Everything still remaining afloat is shaken by unsound teaching and thrown back into the abyss. We attack one another; we are overthrown by one another. If the enemy does not strike us first we are wounded by our comrade; if he is wounded and falls, he is trampled by his fellow soldier. Although we are united in our hatred of common foes, no sooner do they retreat, and we find enemies in each other. Who could even list all the casualties? Some have fallen in battle with the enemy; some have been treacherously betrayed by their allies; others are the victims of their leaders' incompetence. . . A darkness full of gloom and misery has descended on the Churches: the lights of the world, established by God to enlighten the souls of the people, have been exiled. The terror of universal destruction already hangs over us, yet they continue enjoying their rivalries, ignoring any sense of danger. Private emnities are more important to these men than the struggle of an entire people; they prefer the glory of subduing their opponents to securing the common welfare and they love the immediate delights of worldly honor more than the rewards awaiting us in the age to come. . . Inspired scripture is powerless to mediate between these two parties [those who confuse the Persons and revert to Judaism and those who oppose the natures and are swept away into Greek polytheism - ed.], nor can apostolic tradition offer them terms of reconciliation. One honest word and your friendship with them is finished; one disagreement with their opinions is sufficient pretext for a quarrel. . . The ordinances of the Gospel have been thrown into confusion everywhere for lack of discipline; the jostling for high posititons is incredible, as every ambitious man tries to thrust himself into high office. The result of this lust for power is that wild anarchy prevails among the people; the exhortations of those in authority are rendered utterly void and unprofitable, since every man in his arrogant delusion thinks that it is more his business to give orders to others than to obey anyone himself.

Since no human voice is powerful enough to be heard in such an uproar, I reckon that silence is more profitable than words. If the words of the Preacher are true: "The words of the wise are heard in quiet," then with the present state of affairs, any discussion of them at all is scarcely appropriate. Moreover, I am restrained by the prophet's words: "Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time," a time when some trip their neighbors, others kick a man already fallen, others applaud, but no one is sympathetic enough to lend a helping hand to the weary, even though the old law says "if you see the beast of one who hates you lying under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it, but you shall help him to lift it up." This is certainly not the case now. Why not? The love of many has grown cold; concord among brothers is no more; the very name of unity is ignored; Christian compassion or sympathetic tears cannot be found anywhere. There is no one to welcome someone weak in faith, but mutual hatred blazes so fiercely among brothers that a neighbors' fall brings them more joy than their own household's success. And just as a contagious disease spreads from the sick to the healthy during an epidemic, in these days we have become like everyone else: imitators of evil, carried away by this rivalry possessing our souls. Those who judge the erring are merciless and bitter, while those judging the upright are unfair and hostile. This evil is so rooted in us that we have become more brutish than the beasts: At least they herd together with their own kindred, but we reserve our most savage warfare for the members of our own household.

These are the reasons I should have kept quiet, but love pulled me in the opposite direction, the love that is not self-seeking, but desires to conquer every obstacle put in her way by time and circumstance. I learned from the example of the children in Babylon that when there is no one to support the cause of true religion, we must accomplish our duties alone. They sang a hymn to God from the midst of the flames, not thinking of the multitudes who rejected the truth, but content to have each other, though there were only three of them. There for the cloud of our enemies does not dismay us, but we place our trust in the Spirit's help, and boldly proclaim the truth. . . .


- St. Basil the Great (~330 - 379 A.D.), in his work On the Holy Spirit, concerning the Arian schism.

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The Church has seen far worse times - the gates of Hades will not prevail against her and "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

We'll come through this.

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