Today I think it appropriate to call all innocents, "holy". Certainly we honor those who lost their lives to sin for merely being born in the wrong place at the wrong time, to quell a man's fear. The misery of their parents and family is incomprehensible to me and is beyond my ability to measure.
But are these not truths all the time? How many innocents die everyday because of someone's fear, or greed, or selfishness? How can we not imagine the pain and suffering endured everyday by children and their families? Families abandoned by weak or corrupt governments? Refugees driven by famine, pestilence, or war; those suffering from indifference, from neglect, from hatred - especially our own.
"It was then that the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah were fulfilled:
A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loudly lamenting:
it was Rachel weeping for her children,
refusing to be comforted because they were no more." (Matthew 2:17-18)
Let us pray for all the innocent: the unborn, the young, the abused, the marginalized, the poor, the elderly - all who suffer and innocently bear the burden of sin for and from the rest of us, who should know better. Let us pray that we will be forgiven for the things we have failed to do, for the innocent we have failed to protect.
Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
-- Matthew 25:37-40
We like to think of the world of second chances, but that is not what forgiveness nor conversion is. First, Thomas challenges us to unequate the two and think not as we would think but as God thinks.
Next he challenges us to question what it means to be a best friend. Obviously Peter was one of Jesus' best friends and yet he denied him vehemently. Jesus tests Peter three times after the Resurrection: "Peter do you love me?" (John 21:15-17) But is it really a 'test' as we often present it or is it Jesus removing the veil of sin, the self-loathing and fear of failure? He is really moving past the sin to the reason he chose Peter in the first place: Jesus desires that Peter"Feed my sheep."
In this story Jesus asks Peter with the word "agape" and Peter answers with the word "philo". Eventually Jesus shifts to "philo" with Peter but a very strong form of the word. Jesus realizes and acknowledges the place where Peter is, but he warns him in the next passage as to the difference between the two words.
Such must have been the case between Thomas and King Henry. But how different the reaction and the outcome! When Thomas seems to suddenly get religion, Henry reacts exactly the opposite of the true king, Jesus. He refuses to accept Thomas as he is, where he is and though the outcome is the same, Henry fails to forgive and accept that opposite reaction. Thomas dies at the off-handed remark of Henry who refuses the level of 'love' that Thomas can give him.
Certainly, like Peter, Thomas was no saint in his life. As David Knowles observes in his biography, while many of his contemporaries admired Thomas, no one but the king whose words killed him claimed to have loved him. Still while no saints in life both Peter and Thomas certainly were in their death. Jesus makes saints out of sinners, and that is our hope!
Thomas pray that first we may be true to the Truth and second that we may love Christ as best we can.
"It is useless to threaten me. If all the swords of England were over my head, your threats would not shift me from God’s justice and obedience to the pope. I will dispute every inch of ground with you in the Lord's fight. I left England long ago in fear; I have now returned to my church at the pope's behest; I will not again abandon her. If I may hold my office in peace, well and good; if not, may God’s will be done.” An uproar followed, and the knights left the room calling on those present to defy the traitor and prevent his escape. The archbishop started up and followed them to the door, where he heard them telling his servants that the king released them from fealty to the archbishop. “What do you say?” he exclaimed. "Speak! speak! I shall not fly. I shall be here. Here you will find me." And he raised his hand to his head. He then turned calmly back and sat down once more. John of Salisbury, as always the candid friend, made complaint. "You have always been like that. You always act and speak entirely on your own, without taking advice.” The archbishop took him up good-humouredly. “What would you then, master John?’ ‘You should have summoned your council. You must realize that those knights simply want an excuse for killing you.’ ‘We must all die, master John', replied Thomas, ‘and we must not let the fear of death make us swerve from justice. I am ready to accept death for the sake of God and of justice and the Church's freedom—far more ready to accept death than they are to kill me.’"
-- From Archbishop Thomas Becket: A Character Study By David Knowles
Anysia was a pious woman of wealth known for her prayer, her vow of chastity, and her charity. She lived during the Diocletian persecution at a time when Maximian (co-emperor) had issued an edict stating that anyone had the right to kill Christians with no fear of punishment. I can only imagine the fear she lived under as the bodies piled up around them.
The story goes that one day, on her way to liturgy, she was stopped by a Roman soldier demanded that she come along to the festival of the sun to offer sacrifice. It is reported that she refused and when the soldier grabbed her and attempted to tear the veil from her head, she shoved him, spit in his face and said, “My Lord Jesus Christ forbids you!” Either from that slight or from the mere fact that she may have crossed herself in fear, he knew she was a Christian and killed her with his sword.
On a historical note, Roman coins of the first century show the civic virtue of pietas (Latin for "piety") is personified as a woman with a veil as well as the personification of pudicitia ("modesty" or "chastity"). The veil was also seen as the sign of a husband's authority over his wife. Because of these customs I would guess that the Roman soldier understood that a woman under a veil was fair game when he approached her. Trying to remove her veil was certainly an action of violence against her vow.
It is the two-fold problem of the powerful over the weak and the dehumanization of others, especially of women. Anysia falls victim to both, and for that reason we should spend some time thinking about the exercise of authority, in our own lives, and by those we trust to keep order.
There are so many saints that East and West share, a sign to us that we should be more willing to share all of our Faith with one another.
Anysia, pray for all victims of violence and pray that we may understand the violence we cause and allow to happen for our own self interests.
Your lamb Anysia, O Jesus,
Calls out to You in a loud voice:
I love You, O my bridegroom,
And in seeking You, I endure suffering.
In Baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You,
And died so that I might live with You.
Accept me as a pure sacrifice,
For I have offered myself in love.
By her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.
-- Troparion (Tone 4)
Best known as the pope of the later Donation of Constantine forgery, the truth is more that his being a contemporary of Constantine was probably the main contribution to the length and efficacy of his papacy compared to those of his predecessors.
But this controversy overshadows Silvester's legacy, such as we can understand it.
I had written much more but the Spirit has seen fit to keep it from seeing the light of day. As the calendar year comes to a close I take that as a sign for me to close; and so I will respect it and just post the beginning of the Gospel for today.
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
-- John 1:1-5