Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Speaking of the Church confronting the State

Here is a quote from Basil the Great (not my brother) when confronted by a minion of an Arian emperor:

Then indeed the prefect became excited, and rose from his seat, boiling
with rage, and making use of harsher language. "What?" said he, "have you no
fear of my authority?

"Fear of what?" said Basil, "How could it affect me?

"Of what? Of any one of the resources of my power."

"What are these? "said Basil, "pray, inform me."

"Confiscation, banishment, torture, death."

"Have you no other threat?" said he, "for none of these can reach me."

"How indeed is that?" said the prefect.

"Because," he replied, "a man who has nothing, is beyond the reach of confiscation; unless you demand my tattered rags, and the few books, which are my only possessions. Banishment is impossible for me, who am confined by no limit of place, counting my own neither the land where I now dwell, nor all of that into which I may be hurled; or, rather, counting it all God's, whose guest and dependent I am. As for tortures, what hold can they have upon one whose body has ceased to be? Unless you mean the first stroke, for this alone is in your power. Death is my benefactor, for it will send me the sooner to God, for Whom I live, and exist, and have all but died, and to Whom I have long been hastening."

50. Amazed at this language, the prefect said, "No one has ever yet spoken thus, and with such boldness, to Modestus." "Why, perhaps," said Basil, "you have not met with a Bishop, or in his defence of such interests he would have used precisely the same language. For we are modest in general, and submissive to every one, according to the precept of our law. We may not treat with haughtiness even any ordinary person, to say nothing of so great a potentate. But where the interests of God are at stake, we care for nothing else, and make these our sole object. Fire and sword and wild beasts, and rakes which tear the flesh, we revel in, and fear them not. You may further insult and threaten us, and do whatever you will, to the full extent of your power. The Emperor himself may hear this--that neither by violence nor persuasion will you bring us to make common cause with impiety, not even though your threats become still more terrible."

From Gregory Nanzianzen, Oration 43.

I love the line "Well, perhaps you have not met a Bishop!" It sounds like a super hero line. I can imagine Apocalypse saying that he'd never heard such language to the Green Lantern, and the Green Lantern replying, in the same tone of voice, "Well, perhaps you have not met a member of the Justice League!"

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