Heavenly Samizdat

My latest over at Catholic Weekly, looking at the New Testament as the underground literature it was and is:

One of the oldest bodies of samizdat in the world is called the “New Testament”. It was written by a community living, not only under the threat of persecution by a brutal Roman regime that killed its Master by crucifixion and which periodically killed his servants by equally brutal means, but also under the rejection of its very own fathers, mothers, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who were constantly telling the early Christians that they had lost their minds, that everything they believed is a lie, and that they are either crazy or liars too.

Such a community, telling the world such a tale as the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the God-man, needed to hear words of encouragement from one another—a lot. Its members needed to remind each other not merely to be brave against mobs that wanted to kill them, but against moms who pled with them to stop chasing after this nutty new cult that believed in a risen Messiah and claimed to have seen him with their own eyes. The great danger they faced was not persecution but seduction: the pleading call of friends and loved ones to see reason, abandon Jesus, and come along with them “for fellowship.”

The early Christians needed to tell each other, “No. You are not crazy. We saw the Risen Lord too. We heard his words. We saw the miracles. We saw the signs. We saw the apostles do such signs. We even saw each other do them. It’s all real. It’s all true. Be not afraid.”

This is why the letters of Paul are replete with admonitions to “encourage one another.” As Orwell noted, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. One thing that helps toward it is to keep a diary, or, at any rate, to keep some kind of record of one’s opinions about important events.” The New Testament is the Church’s diary. Every liturgy is a reading of that diary: a reminder of what happened, of what it means, of what the truth of things really is, that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. It is a call from our most ancient ancestors to hold fast to those truths no matter how much the world may lie to us.

More here.

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