Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Golden Rule in the Early Church, Part 6

SALVIAN OF MARSEILLE, a Christian priest who flourished in the 5th century, wrote his great work, De gubernatione Dei (On the Government of God), also known by the title De praesenti judicio (On the Present Judgment). He dedicated his work to Bishop St. Salonius. The barbarian invasions and the collapse of the Roman rule had led to the what historians would later call the Dark Ages, and this work, written at the cusp between the old order and the new, chaotic one, was authored shortly after the capture of Toulouse by the Huns led by Litorius, and after the Vandal conquest of Carthage in 439 A.D., since it mentions them. It does not mention Attila's invasion of 451 A.D., and so scholars reason that it was written somewhere within that dozen or so years between 439 and 451. It takes up the great theme of St. Augustine's On the City of God and Orosius's similar, though less brilliant work, Hitoriae adversum paganos (History Against the Pagans): why was the old order falling away? Where was God's providence in all of this? How much was the fault of the Pagan and paganism? How much the fault of the Christian and Christianity?

Even here, in the incipient chaos of the Barbarian invasions, the light of the Golden Rule flickered among the Christians, though as Salvian makes clear, it appears not to have been as practiced by the Christians as he would have hoped. The gap between practice and ideal has always been a challenge, sometimes it is a greater challenge than other times. Salvian takes up the tendentiousness among men to remember but one half of the rule. We always seem to know what we would like others to do to us, but we forget that other part of that rule that would require us to do the like unto others. Salvian goes further than this. He insists that the Christian is but half way there when he practices the Golden Rule. To be perfect, he must not only do to others what he would like done to himself. He must also learn not to see his own good, but to seek the good of others. In following the Golden Rule we follow in the footsteps of Christ, and do good. In going beyond it to actively seek the good of others, we follow those of Paul, who followed in the footsteps of Christ, and we do better.

Medieval Miniature: Barbarians Sack Rome

The Saviour has said: 'all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them.' There is a part of this thought we know so well that we never omit it. There is a part we omit as if we were wholly ignorant of it. We know quite well what we wish done for us by others, but we do not know what we ourselves should do for them. Would that we did not know! Our guilt would be less if we could claim ignorance, according to the saying: 'he that knows not the will of his Lord shall be beaten with few stripes, but he that knows and does not do according to the will of his Lord, shall be beaten with many stripes.' With us, the offense is greater, because we like a part of the holy command since it is to the advantage of our affairs, but we omit a part of it to the injury of God.

The Apostle, Saint Paul, in his function of preaching also amplified this word of God: 'Let no man seek his own, but that which is another's.' And again: 'each one not considering the things that are his own, but those that are other men's.' [1 Cor. 10:24; Phil. 2:4] You see how faithfully Saint Paul executed the precept of Christ. As the Saviour ordered us to take the thought for others in the same manner as for ourselves, the Apostle ordered us to look more to the affairs of others rather than to ourselves. He was, indeed, a good servant of a good Master and an outstanding imitator of a singular Teacher. He so walked in the footprints of his Master that he somehow made by his own feet those of his Master more distinct and prominent. Which of these precepts do we Christians fulfill: that of Christ or of Paul? I think we obey neither. We are so far from doing something for the affairs of others that would work to our disadvantage that we all give first consideration to our own affairs, no matter what discomfort it entails for others.

"Quod vultis," inquit Salvator, "ut faciant vobis homines, eadem et vos facite illis similiter (Matt. vii.12). Huius sententiae partem tam bene novimus ut nunquam praetereamus, partem sic praetermittimus quas penitus nesciamus. Nam quid ab aliis praestari nobis velimus, optime novimus, quid autem ipsi aliis debeamus praestare, nescimus. Atque utinam nesciremus! Minor esset ignorantiae reatus, secundum illud: "Qui nescit voluntatem domini sui, vepulabit pancis. Qu autem scit, et non facit eum, vapulabit multis. (Luc. xii, 47, 48). Nunc autem maior in hoc offensa est quod partem sententiae sacrae pro commodorum nostrorum utilitate diligimus, parte pre Dei injuria praterimus. Exaggerat quoque hoc Dei verbum officio praedicationis suaae apostolus Paulus dicens: "Neme quod suum est quaeret, sed quod alterius" (1 Cor. x, 24). Et iterum: "Non quae sua sunt," inquit, "singuli cogitantes, sed ea quae aliorum" (Philipp. ii, 4). Vides quam fideliter praeceptum Christi fuerit exsecutus, ubi cum Salvator sic nos pro aliis sicut pro nobis juesserit cogitare, ille plus aliorum nos commodis jussit consulere quam nostris; boni scilicet domini bonus famulus, et singularis magistri praeclarus imitator, qui in vestigiis domini sui ambulans, patentiora quadammodo et expressiora pedibus suit fecit domini sui esse vestigia. Quid ergo horum facimus Christiani, quod Christus, and quod Apostolus jubet? Puto omnino quod neminam. Nam tantum abest ut aliorum commodis aliquid cum propria incommoditate praestamus, ut omnes vel maxime nostris commodis cum aliorum incommodo consulamus.
Salvian, De gubern. Dei, III.6 (English trans. by Jeremiah F. O'Sullivan, CUA). Latin version may be found in Migne: 53 PL 62.

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

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