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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
        Friday, April 16 2004

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Martyrdom

Tertullian (160-240 AD) said that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church," an observation that has echoed down the history of Christendom, repeated by every generation in virtually all communions (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox). But in our generation, "martyr" is a word more often used derisively. We've forgotten the thousands who died under inhuman persecution under the Roman emperors before Constantine; we've mostly forgotten the millions who've died in the past century, under Stalin, Hitler, Mao and the other socialist dictators. To us to be a martyr is to be playing a role, being untrue to ourselves and our fellow travelers through life; it's reduced to pretending to be suffering; it's a "complex," or a neurosis that we pin on those who complain too much or seem to enjoy being forced to suffer.

After the conversion of Constantine (272-337) to Christianity and his ending the martyrdoms, the spiritual fathers of the church feared that the Christians would become soft; they feared for a Christianity that would become the established church of much of the known world at their time. Their actions on those fears led to several remedies: the veneration of the saints who'd been martyred (to never remember them and their contribution to the church, to us all), the holding up of suffering—taking up each one's cross as a chosen form of martyrdom—through sermons and writings, and, pre-eminently through monasticism.

The monastic movement, the removal of single (unmarried) men and women from urban society and its distractions and comforts to a "desert existence" in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, and Jesus in his 40-days fasting sojourn in the wilderness, was a direct response to the ending of the physical martyrdom of Christians. Monasticism called those who would take up the vocation to lives of self-denial ("asceticism") because the church's spiritual leadership discerned that a church without martyrdom would become a Christian community in name only, a community that had forgotten the price of Christ's salvation.

I came to this topic by observing politicians who try to tell us that to be a Christian "in good standing" doesn't require being "a Christian" in the legislature, the House or Senate, the judiciary, or the statehouse or the White House. "Separation of church of state" excuses them from paying any price, even the easy yoke of following Christ in elective office. Where is their martyrdom? To those who cannot follow the church's universal teaching on life versus death for the unborn, the words of Jesus' brother, James, seem especially applicable: "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" James 2:14.

And lest we pluck at the splinter in a neighbor's eye while missing the plank in our own, where is our martyrdom? The church also taught, when it blessed the many who chose the single celibate life of the monasteries, that the rest of us, also, must be martyrs, willing to suffer, for our wives and husbands, our children and grandchildren, our neighbors and our local and not-so-local neighborhoods. Do we suffer for the sake of Truth? And if not—make that, "when not"—does it mean our faith is not working?

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Country wisdom

It doesn't take a very big person to carry a grudge.

—Sent by Mary Ann Losiewicz 

Thought for today

Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.

— Douglas Casey, Classmate of W. J. Clinton at Georgetown U. (1992)
Sent by Trudy Myers 

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