Tag Archives: Plato

Tuesday 29 March


Plato describes how the prisoner who escapes from the darkness of the cave into the sunlight is at first dazzled by the unaccustomed brightness. Gradually his eyes adjust to it, but when he returns to the cave to rescue his fellows he must learn to see in darkness again.

In today’s gospel we read of how Mary Magdalene sees the risen Jesus but fails to recognise him. When he asks why she is weeping and who she is looking for, she mistakes him for the gardener. Only when he addresses her by name does she recognise him.

Why did she not do so before? One reason would assuredly have been that he was the very last person she expected to see standing there. But perhaps the main reason was the state of utter shock, grief and exhaustion she would have been in. She probably barely recognised herself any more. It took the familiar voice speaking her name to bring her back to reality. Or rather, to bring her forward to reality.

For this is not the reality she knew before. It is something wholly new, yet more real than anything she has ever known before. She has awoken to find herself outside the cave. The air is limpid, the early morning light catches the myriad pearls of dew and tiny spiders’ webs that adorn the fragrant grass, a gossamer bridal gown for the new earth.

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Wednesday 23 March: Sad and Squalid Sin

mercylogoJudas so clearly embodies the pitiful nature of sin. However much sin might try to large it up, the reality is always sad and squalid; a symptom of alienation, of being akosmios, ‘outside the cosmos’. It deserves of our compassion.

The greatest of the Greek philosophers understood this. The greatest of the Greek philosophers understood this. The root meaning of the Greek verb, harmatanō, which in biblical contexts means ‘to sin’, is ‘to miss the mark’, as when an archer misses a target.

For Plato, humans naturally desire the good, and so all wrongdoing is due to ignorance and as such an expression of deficiency. To commit evil is to wound and deform our soul, the most important part of us. It is always better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus teaches:

‘“Ought not this brigand, then, and this adulterer to be put to death?” you ask. Not at all, but you should ask rather, “Ought not this man to be put to death who is in a state of error and delusion about the greatest matters, and is in a state of blindness, not, indeed, in the vision which distinguishes between white and black, but in the judgement which distinguishes between the good and the evil?” And if you put it this way, you will realise how inhuman a sentiment it is you are uttering, and that it is just as if you should say, “Ought not this blind man, then, or this deaf man to be put to death?”’


Illustrations from Strasbourg Cathedral: Judas the pitiful is shown: at supper; hanging on the tree; giving the treacherous kiss. The artist has shown Jesus restoring the servant’s ear in the garden even as he is arrested, but even more mercifully, the Lamb of God is undoing the scarf that Judas used to kill himself, ready to rescue him from Hell’s Mouth.


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O, that you would tear the heavens open and come down



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From where we stand, the Cave is dark.

We wait in this valley of darkness; this night

of shadows and echoes from the past.


The Father is aware, but silent;

the Watchers are there, mute and still;

the Holy Ghost broods with quiet joy.


Moses is there in a cleft of the rock;

 Plato observes the images thrown on the wall

by the fire outside, near the sheep-fold.


In this silence and darkness is no threat,

for waiting there is right; without signs.

Mary has said her Fiat and it shall be.


 The door pushed open by the shepherds,

casts another shadow on the wall;

image of a cross, for pain is there before birth.


Then, at the breath of a new Creation

uttered by the Father, the Holy Ghost stirs;

 Jesus slips into the waiting world.

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The Father tears open the curtains of heaven,

 beside Himself with the weight of joy

at this first glimpse of His only Son,


Child, you shine at your birth, translucent

   with love of the Father, who sees even now, how

 the veil of the temple will be rent at your death.


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