If there is to be no distinction between Jew and Gentile, this means more than the emancipation of Christians from Jewish ritual laws. There can be no prejudice exercised against Jews, no persecution on account of religion or race. If we see any of this we know that the signs of the Messianic times are not being realised, and the Gospel is not being lived. The Nazi holocaust and the silence of Christian nations in the face of it proclaimed to the Jews that Messianic times are not yet. Because the Jewish community continues to be faithful, God is faithful to them.
Because the case of Judaism is unique, theologians have had to ask what about other religions? What should be the Christian reaction? From the beginning it was always seen as apostasy for Christians to take part in worship of pagan gods, to offer incense before idols, even before the statue of the Emperor. No distinction was made between the use of incense in a ceremony that symbolised civil obedience and loyalty, and the use of incense in what is strictly worship. On account of such a lack, many Christians died.
Anthropology came to our aid by distinguishing between what is actually religious ritual, and what is merely a civic ritual. In modern times this distinction was made in China and Japan so that Christians could take part in honouring ancestors.
It is interesting to see that Christians did not see these things as so terrible when done by pagans, as when done by those enlightened by Christ. Saint Justin Martyr (died 165 AD) saw pagan philosophies and religions as ways that were leading people forward and would eventually converge on Christ, bringing everyone to worship the Father. This understanding faded in time due to a general distrust of foreign people and cultures – which led to Western Crusaders even killing Eastern Christians! With such a background we can see how the view of non-Christian religion as inherently evil arose.
Door of Mercy from Doug in San Antonio
Nana wearing her official ring at a family wedding.
The day Fr Daniel’s reflection on relics arrived there was a family discussion on jewellery, in particular my mother-in-law’s bequest to her grandchildren. One daughter had a diamond-set ring, but fiancé was unhappy about using one that had come down through her side of the family.
Another daughter had received a ring from her own fiancé at a very public occasion – no other ring would do for him. Third daughter has her grandmother’s engagement ring but no-one to present it to her so far.
My wife wears my grandmother’s spare wedding band; Nana had lost it and only found it after getting a new one. My ring is made from my father’s broken gold watch. ‘Don’t bury it with me, pass it on and tell the story,’ I said. We all agreed, but my wife, who works in the hospice, said that many want to be buried with their wedding rings. Good reasons can be given for both points of view. I like the relic of my father that goes everywhere with me in this life. I’m sure we’ll be together in the next, by which time Abel may be wearing it.
One interesting set of relics in Canterbury Cathedral were buried with Archbishop Hubert , who served in the reigns of Richard I and John, and dug up in 1890: his chalice and paten and his crozier and ring. Hubert was a crusading archbishop, who is said to have met and talked with Saladin. Sometimes his relics are put to use at the Cathedral, but they can often be seen in the treasury displays.
Our family relics invite us to pray for each other, living and dead, and those who may wear these trinkets after we are gone. Hubert’s invite us to pray for him, but also for peace in the Middle East.
Alexander Nevsky (d. 1263) was a popular Russian soldier who defeated Swedes, Lithuanians and Teutonic Knights in battle. The Russian Orthodox Church declared him a saint. Prokoviev’s cantata Alexander Nevsky was sung at this year’s first Prom Concert in London. It contains the lines ‘Peregrinos exspectavi’ (I expected pilgrims), then ‘Victory to the Crusaders, death to the enemies.’
This photo shows not Alexander but a different crusader, whose statue is prominent in the centre of Brussels. This is Godfrey of Bouillon (d. 1100) who took the title ‘Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre’ after he had been the first to defeat the Muslim occupants of Jerusalem, after three years of campaigning. The patriarch of Jerusalem (a man from Pisa) was forced to crown Godfrey’s brother Baldwin as the first Latin king of Jerusalem. Another brother, Eustace, inherited Boulogne, and a family estate in England.
Perhaps, with such a widespread confusion of the words ‘pilgrim’, ‘crusader’ and warrior we should not be too surprised that a number of people from Islamic cultural backgrounds regard European and Western economic and military dominance of the world as evidence that crusaders, tourists and trade delegations are three versions of the same thing, all opposed to Islamic traditions.
Belgians who wanted to let the world know their heartbreak after the subway train bomb went off in Brussels in March this year, left their flowers and memorial tributes to the victims in front of the Bourse, the Stock Exchange. Finance deals and power-brokering are one pattern of domination.