“Strengthened and Prepared for Spiritual Combat”

Today is the Memorial of Pope Saint Sixtus II and his companions. Sixtus (or Xystus) was Bishop of Rome during the time of the emperor Valerian, who waged an all-out persecution against the Christian faithful. On August 6, A.D. 258, Sixtus was celebrating Mass at the catacombs of Saint Calixtus with four of his seven deacons, when the emperor’s soldiers entered and killed them. Another of his deacons, Lawrence, would be killed a few days later following a stunning act of defiance (he is the only deacon to be honored with a Feast).

We know of their fate primarily from a letter written by Saint Cyprian, who would himself be killed not long thereafter, to a fellow bishop named Successus. I am including my meager translation of that letter below. I would ask that, as you read it, you please think of those Christians suffering religious persecution today, and recognize the mindset that accompanies it on both sides. I don’t mean the simple humiliation that Christians in the West endure at the hands of secular humanist relativism (not to mention each other); I’m thinking of those at odds with the government in Sudan and Syria, those being wiped out or forced to flee in Iraq by the radical Islamic caliphate, and those trapped in Gaza and unable to evacuate. I pray such extreme persecution never develops here, but rather ends everywhere. Continue reading

The Depths of the Compassion of Our God – The Explanation

There is a traditional Christian answer… It is not clear, however, that the language of that answer any longer communicates what it was intended to convey. Hence we have embarked on a process of reconstruction, attempting to get hold of the reality that the traditional language originally engaged.

Thank you, William P. Loewe, for writing down what was on my mind as I worked on my translation of the Canticle of Zechariah (which I published back on Christmas Eve).  Here he is speaking of the meaning of the Resurrection as salvation from sin, but the quote really does apply much more broadly than that.  Translation really is more of an art than a skill; obviously one needs skill to know what the words mean and how they work together in grammar and syntax, but translation seeks to communicate not just words but the entire frame of mind and way of life that generated them.  And for us Christians it has happened, we must confess, that the oft-used and -abused words such as “redemption,” “salvation,” “justice” and “mercy” have come to simply assume meanings that are no longer actively known, and as a result they are not effectively communicated.  This is a problem that I am seeking to at least alleviate as I make my way through a daunting self-imposed project: a reading guide to the Four Gospels, with special attention paid to the beautiful hymns set down by Luke and John. Continue reading