The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for the ‘Dialogue of Comfort’ Category

Bede the Venerable’s Homily on Luke 11:14-28 for the Third Sunday of Lent (Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2012

I. In Matthew (12:22) we read that the devil by whom this poor creature was possessed, was, not only dumb, but also blind; and that, when he was healed by our Lord, he saw as well as he spoke. Three miracles, therefore, were performed on this one man: the blind saw, the dumb spoke, and the possessed was delivered. This mighty work was then wrought carnally indeed; but it is still wrought spiritually in the conversion of believers, when the devil is cast out of them, so that their eyes see the light of faith, and the lips, which before were dumb, are opened that their mouth may utter the praise of God. But some of them said : He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. These some were not of the multitude, but were liars among the Pharisees and Scribes, as we are told by the other Evangelist (Matt 12:24). While the multitude, who seemed to be less instructed, wondered at the work of the Lord, the Pharisees and Scribes, on the other hand, denied the facts when they could, and, when they were not able to do so, twisted them by an evil interpretation, and asserted that the works of God were the works of an unclean spirit.

II. And others, tempting, asked of Him a sign from heaven. They wished Jesus either to call down fire from heaven, like Elias (2 Kings 1:10), or, like Samuel ( 1 Sam 7:10), to make thunder roll, and lightning flash, and rain fall at mid-summer. Yet, had He done so, they would have tried to explain away these signs also, as being the natural result of some unusual, though till then unremarked, state of the atmosphere. O thou, who stub bornly deniest what thy eye sees, thy hand holds, and thy sense perceives, what wilt thou say to a sign from heaven? Perhaps thou wilt say that the magicians in Egypt also wrought many signs from heaven (Exodus 7-8). But He, seeing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, and house upon house shall fall. He answered not their words, but their thoughts, as though He would compel them to believe in His power, since He sees the secrets of the heart. But if every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, then the kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is not divided, since His is a kingdom that, without all contradiction, shall never be brought to desolation by any shock, but shall abide unchanged and unchangeable for ever. And if Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because you say, that through Beelzebub I cast out devils. Saying this, He sought to draw from their own mouth a confession that they had chosen for themselves to be part of the devil s kingdom, which, if divided against itself, cannot stand. It was, therefore, the duty of the Pharisees to answer our Redeemer; for should they say that Satan has not the power to cast out devils, they must confess that they have not anything to say against Jesus. On the other hand, should they pretend that the devil has that power, then, in order to secure their own safety, they will be forced to leave a kingdom which, being divided against itself, will be brought to desolation. However, should the Pharisees wish to know by what power our Lord casts out devils, and to be convinced that this is not done by the power of Beelzebub, let them listen to the words He added, saying: Now, if I cast out devils by Beelzebub, by whom do yonr children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. Here our Lord is speaking of His disciples by saying to the Pharisees that their children would be their judges; for the disciples of Jesus, being their posterity, knew for certain that in the school of so perfect a Teacher they had not learnt the detestable art of casting out devils by the power of the devil. Just as if our Lord had said: You will be judged by these simple men, whom you despise, in whom there is no guile, who are free from all cunning artifice, whose faces bear the mark of virtues and holiness, which they discover in Me. Or should you wish to explain these words in another sense, then say that our Lord wished to give to the Pharisees and Scribes this other lesson: If your children cast out devils from the bodies of the possessed by the power of the Holy Ghost, what reason have you to attribute the works I perform to any other than to God the Almighty? Therefore, these children will be the judges of their fathers and will condemn them, for the children refer to God the power they possess to cast out devils, whereas their fathers referred that power to Beelzebub, the prince of devils.

III. Then, to confirm this truth, and to justify the great wonders He performed, our Saviour continued His discourse with these words: But if I by the finger of God cast out devils, doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you. It was the finger of God, which was recognised by the magicians of Pharaoh, when they played their tricks or enchantments before Moses; for, seeing the unheard-of wonders of this man sent by God, they exclaimed:This is the finger of God (Exodus 8:19). By this finger of God the Commandments were written on the tables of stone on Mount Sinai. All this teaches us that the Holy Ghost is that finger of God proceeding, as it were, from the hand of the Son, Who is the arm of the, Almighty Father, whilst the Father has one and the same nature with the Son and the Holy Ghost. Should you be scandalized by this comparison of the members which seem unequal, the unity of the body formed by them will edify and even encourage you. It may also be said that the Holy Ghost is called the finger of God, on account of the special graces bestowed by Him to angels and men; for no other limb points like the finger at the different parts composing the Body. When our Lord said: The kingdom of God is come upon you, He meant by this kingdom the happy dispositions of those who now do penance for their sins, and are, even in this life, separated from the wicked condemned by them. When the strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth. This strong man is the devil; his court is the world, which .he continually guards, which is thoroughly corrupted through his wickedness, and over which this unclean spirit ruled powerfully before the coming of the Saviour; for he reigned without opposition over the idolatrous nations, his worshippers. Holy Scripture therefore calls him the prince of this world, and our Lord says of him to His disciples: The prince of this world shall be cast out (John 12:31). And the better to describe the defeat and flight of this prince of darkness, our Lord added these words: But if a stronger than he come upon him, and overcome him, he will take away all his armour wherein he trusted, and will distribute the spoils. We are thus taught by our Lord that He is the stronger One, more powerful than the devil, whose dominion was overcome, from whose tyranny He delivered mankind by the strength of His almighty arm, and not by a deceiving or with Beelzebub-concerted deliverance, as by their calumnies the Jews tried to make the multitude believe. The cunning artifices of this wicked spirit are the armour wherein the enemy of our salvation trusted, and men deceived by him, are the spoils taken from him and distributed by Jesus after His victory. For, according to the prophet, He will take with Him, on the day of His triumph, a multitude of prisoners up to heaven, where He grants His gifts in abundance, setting up in the Church, some as Apostles, others as prophets, and choosing some as shepherds or as teachers.

IV. He that is not with Me, is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth. Though these words may be applied to heretics and apostates, they specially refer to the devil; for, according to the words following, our Lord wished the multitude to understand that there can not be any comparison between His works and those of hell. What does the devil desire but to keep souls in his slavery? whilst Jesus offers them freedom. The devil presents idols and false gods for our adoration; Jesus teaches us to adore the one and true God. The devil praises sin and vice, and Jesus encourages us to practise virtue, therefore, there cannot be anything in common between Jesus and Satan, for their works are in direct opposition. The Redeemer of the world says that, when the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, and thus teaches us the difference between His works and those of the devil. This latter endeavours to defile that which is clean, whereas the Redeemer cleanses what is defiled. Nevertheless, by these words may also be understood heretics and apostates, and even wicked Christians who, after receiving the grace of Baptism, making profession of the true Catholic faith, and renouncing the pomps and vanities of the world, banished the devil from their hearts. And to this unclean spirit, who finds his former house swept and garnished, and the dwelling of the Holy Ghost, one place only remains a dry and barren land, to the approaches to which he goes, trying to take the soul by surprise, and to re-enter his former home. It may be said in all truth that this infernal spirit is seeking rest therein, and cannot find it. For this unclean spirit, who shuns the proximity of pure and innocent souls, can only make his abode in the souls of the wicked and godless, offering him an agreeable refuge and a place of rest. This enemy of the human race, according to Holy Scripture, sleeps in the shadow, in the covert of the reed, and in moist places (Job 40:16). This shadow, hiding him, represents the darkness of a sinful soul; by the reed, smooth outwardly, yet inwardly hollow, are meant the hypocrites, who cover the emptiness of their merits with the appearance of virtue; lastly, sensual and lascivious souls are represented by the moist places into which the devil retires. He sayeth: I will return into my house whence I came out. Such resolution on the part of our enemy must make us fear lest our passions and vices, which we thought destroyed, return with greater force to overthrow and take possession of us at the very moment when we but carelessly resist them. Though the enemy on his return will find our soul sanctified by the grace of Baptism and adorned with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, he will also find in it a dry and desolate place, as the Gospel says, when we do not endeavour to increase these graces and merits by practising virtues and good works, or when we do not try to obtain the spiritual goods of which we were at one time deprived. And should our soul only seem to be adorned with virtues, these will be but apparent virtues, brought forth by our hypocrisy.

V. And the devil goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and, entering in, they dwell there. By these wicked spirits, seven in number, are meant all sins and vices. For those who, after being sanctified in Baptism, let their faith be perverted by error and heresy, or give themselves up to the sinful desires of the children of the world, will soon, by the blandishments of Satan, be thrown into the abyss of all wickedness. These other devils, taking possession of the souls, are justly called more wicked than the first, not only because they introduce into them the seven capital sins, opposed to the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, but also because these souls, by their hypocrisy, preserve the exterior appearance of virtues, which they no longer possess. In all truth we can say with the Gospel, that the last state becometh worse than the first, since it would be better, had these souls never known the way of justice, than to for sake it when once recognised. This happened to Judas, the traitor, to Simon, the magician, and to many others mentioned in Holy Scripture. Moreover, our Lord had also another object in view when He spoke this parable, namely, to apply it in a special manner to the Jews, and to teach them that, what He said about one man would be fulfilled in the whole nation. For in St. Matthew He concludes the same parable with these words: So shall, it be also to this wicked generation (Matt 12:45). This truth is confirmed in a most astonishing manner, when we bear in mind that the Jews, accepting the Divine law, forced the devil to go out of their hearts. This unclean spirit, driven out of his house, took refuge among the pagans, as in a desert, and there he found rest. But when these idolatrous nations began to believe in the Saviour of the world, then the devil, again driven out of this house, purposed to return to the Jews, where he had formerly taken up his abode. He returned into the house he had left, and found it again deserted, for Jesus, Who had foretold the Jews that their house would be desolate, no longer dwelt in their temple. This, however, still seemed to be adorned; but these ornaments were but exterior and meaningless observances, introduced by the Pharisees. This house was deprived of the assistance both of God and of the angels, and the enemy, accompanied by seven other spirits, entered without difficulty, and secured to himself the conquest of this nation, whose unfortunate end was worse than its beginning. For, since this unbelieving people has been blaspheming Jesus Christ, it is possessed by devils in a more cruel manner than it was in Egypt before the promulgation of the Law. At the time, when the Jews did not believe in the coming Messiah, they were less guilty than when, after His coming, they refused to acknowledge and to receive Him.

Advertisements

Posted in Bible, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Christ, Dialogue of Comfort, fathers of the church, Latin Mass Notes, Lent, liturgy, Notes on Luke's Gospel, Notes on the Lectionary, Quotes, Scripture, SERMONS | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

St Thomas More and St John Fisher, Martyrs

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 22, 2009

St Tjhomas More’s A DIALOGUE OF COMFORT AGAINST TRIBULATION is must reading.  An up-to-date rendering which replaced obsolete old-English words with more modern ones is available online.   be sure to click on the My Bookmark link when you finish reading.  This will take you to a page which you can then add to your favorites or bookmark.  When you want to continue reading the text just go to this page and hit “continue reading”, this will take you to the page where you left off.  Maria Lectrix has the entire book on audio, you can listen to installments here:

Part 1

Part 2

St John Fisher’s famous sermons (commentaries) on THE SEVEN PENITENTIAL PSALMS can be read here:

Book 1.   PDF format here

Book 2.  PDF format here

Posted in Audio/Video Lectures, Bible, Books, Christ, Devotional Resources, Dialogue of Comfort, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, SERMONS | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St Thomas More’s Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation (Post #7)

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 15, 2008

Note: What follows is the continuation of St Thomas More’s wonderful work. I have provided in italics what I hope are useful introductory and guidance notes, along with references to scripture and authors the Saint may be referring to. To view other posts in this series click on the heading “Dialogue of Comfort” listed in the Categories Box at the left.

In the last post we saw that the aged and wise Anthony had agreed to give his younger cousin Vincent words and advice concerning comfort in a time of  spiritual tribulation.  Anthony had noted that some such comfort could be found in “the natural wise men of this world, the old moral philosophers.”  However, he also noted that such wisdom as they contained was not enough to cure the malady and affliction of spiritual tribulation completely.  The real physician of souls who can remedy the affliction is Christ, hence the last section ended with Anthony saying: “We shall therefore neither fully receive these philosophers’ reasons in this matter, nor yet utterly refuse them. But, using them in such order as may beseem them, we shall fetch the principal and effectual medicines against these diseases of tribulation from that high, great, and excellent physician without whom we could never be healed of our very deadly disease of damnation. For our necessity in that regard, the Spirit of God spiritually speaketh of himself to us, and biddeth us give him the honour of all our health. And therein he thus saith unto us: “Honour thou the physician, for him hath the high God ordained for thy necessity.” Therefore let us pray that high physician, our blessed Saviour Christ, whose holy manhood God ordained for our necessity, to cure our deadly wounds with the medicine made of the most wholesome
blood of his own blessed body. And let us pray that, as he cured
our mortal malady by this incomparable medicine, it may please him
to send us and put in our minds at this time such medicines as may
so comfort and strengthen us in his grace against the sickness and
sorrows of tribulation, that our deadly enemy the devil may never
have the power, by his poisoned dart of murmur, grudge, and
impatience, to turn our short sickness of worldly tribulation into
the endless everlasting death of infernal damnation.”
One cannot enjoy the benefits of the healer if one has not faith in him as a doctor.  Anthony, in the present excerpt, talks about the importance and necessity of faith.


Since all our principal comfort must come from God, we must first
presuppose, in him to whom we shall give any effectual comfort with
any ghostly counsel, one ground to begin with, on which all that we
shall build may be supported and stand; that is, the ground and
foundation of faith (see Col 2:4-8). Without this, had ready before, all the spiritual comfort that anyone may speak of can never avail a fly.

For just as it would be utterly vain to lay natural reasons of
comfort to him who hath no wit, so would it undoubtedly be
frustrate to lay spiritual causes of comfort to him who hath no
faith. For unless a man first believe that holy scripture is the
word of God, and that the word of God is true, how can he take any
comfort in that which the scripture telleth him? A man must needs
take little fruit of scripture, if he either believe not that it be
the word of God, or else think that, though it were, it might yet
for all that be untrue! As this faith is more strong or more faint,
so shall the comforting words of holy scripture stand the man in
more stead or less.

This virtue of faith can no man give himself, nor yet any man to
another. But though men may with preaching be ministers unto God
therein; and though a man can, with his own free will, obeying
freely the inward inspiration of God, be a weak worker with
almighty God therein; yet is the faith indeed the gracious gift of
God himself (See Rom 10:14-15; Phil 2:12-13). For, as St. James saith, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is given from above, descending from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Therefore, feeling our faith by many tokens very faint, let us pray to him who giveth it to us, that it may please him to help and increase it. And let us first say with him in the gospel, “I believe, good Lord, but help thou the lack of my belief” (Mark 9:24). And afterwards, let us pray with the apostles, “Lord, increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). And finally, let us consider, by Christ’s saying unto them, that, if we would not suffer the strength and fervour of our faith to wax lukewarm–or rather key-cold–and lose its vigour by scattering our minds abroad about so many trifling things that we very seldom think of the matters of our faith, we should withdraw our thought from the respect and regard of all worldly fantasies, and so gather our faith together into a little narrow room (See Matt 6:5-8 and note at the end of this post). And like the little grain of mustard seed, which is by nature hot, we should set it in the garden of our soul, all weeds being pulled out for the better feeding of our faith. Then shall it grow, and so spread up in height that the birds–that is, the holy angels of heaven–shall breed in our soul, and bring forth virtues in the branches of our faith (The saint is clearly basing his images on the parables in Matt 13:24-32). And then, with the faithful trust that through the true belief of God’s word we shall put in his promise, we shall be well able to command a great mountain of tribulation to void from the place where it stood in our heart, whereas with a very feeble faith and faint, we shall be scantly able to remove a little hillock (see Matt 21:21).
And therefore, as for the first conclusion, since we must of necessity before any spiritual comfort presuppose the foundation of faith, and since no man can give us faith but only God, let us never cease to call upon God for it.

VINCENT:  Forsooth, good uncle, methinks that this foundation of
faith which, as you say, must be laid first, is so necessarily
requisite, that without it all spiritual comfort would be given
utterly in vain. And therefore now shall we pray God for a full and
fast faith. And I pray you, good uncle, proceed you farther in the
process of your matter of spiritual comfort against tribulation.

ANTHONY:  That shall I, cousin, with good will.

Posted in Dialogue of Comfort, Quotes | Leave a Comment »

St Thomas More’s Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation (Post # 6)

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 23, 2008

Note: What follows is the continuation of St Thomas More’s wonderful work. I have provided in italics what I hope are useful introductory and guidance notes, along with references to scripture and authors the Saint may be referring to. To view other posts in this series click on the heading “Dialogue of Comfort” listed in the Categories Box at the left.

After an introductory dialogue, treated of in my last five posts, St Thomas More begins giving his reflections and advice concerning comfort in tribulation. He begins by noting that even men who were wise according to nature saw that natural goods were fleeting, and not a solid basis for such comfort. Indeed, they are often sources of tribulation (first paragraph). In the second paragraph More makes it clear that man’s ultimate comfort is his last or final end,-God, and the Beatific Vision. Nonetheless, because God is operative even in nature, use can be made of the old moral philosophers, provided care is taken (third&fourth paragraphs)

1.  First shall you, good cousin, understand this: The natural wise men
of this world, the old moral philosophers, laboured much in this
matter. And many natural reasons have they written by which they
might encourage men to set little by such goods--or such hurts,
either--the going and coming of which are the matter and cause of
tribulation. Such are the goods of fortune, riches, favour,
friends, fame, worldly honour, and such other things: or of the
body, as beauty, strength, agility, liveliness, and health. These
things, as you know, coming to us, are matter of worldly wealth.
And, taken from us by fortune or by force or the fear of losing
them, they are matter of adversity and tribulation. For tribulation
seemeth generally to signify nothing else but some kind of grief,
either pain of the body or heaviness of the mind. Now that the body
should not feel what it feeleth, all the wit in the world cannot
bring that about. But that the mind should not be grieved either
with the pain that the body feeleth or with occasions of heaviness
offered and given unto the soul itself, this thing the philosophers
laboured very much about. And many goodly sayings have they toward
strength and comfort against tribulation, exciting men to the full
contempt of all worldly loss and the despising of sickness and all
bodily grief, painful death and all.

2.  Howbeit, indeed, for anything that ever I read in them, I never
could yet find that those natural reasons were ever able to give
sufficient comfort of themselves. For they never stretch so far but
that they leave untouched, for lack of necessary knowledge, that
special point which not only is the chief comfort of all but
without which also all other comforts are nothing. And that point
is to refer the final end of their comfort unto God, and to repute
and take for the special cause of comfort that by the patient
sufferance of their tribulation they shall attain his favour and
for their pain receive reward at his hand in heaven. And for lack
of knowledge of this end, they did, as they needs must, leave
untouched also the very special means without which we can never
attain to this comfort, which is the gracious aid and help of God
to move, stir, and guide us forward in the referring of all our
ghostly comfort--yea, and our worldly comfort too--all unto that
heavenly end. And therefore, as I say, for the lack of these
things, all their comforting counsels are very far insufficient.

Concerning all of this, see the Summa Theologica Ia-IIae, Q. 2, Art. 1-8

3.  Howbeit, though they be far unable to cure our disease of
themselves and therefore are not sufficient to be taken for our
physicians, some good drugs have they yet in their shops. They may
therefore be suffered to dwell among our apothecaries, if their
medicines be made not of their own brains but after the bills (ingredients) made
by the great physician God, prescribing the medicines himself and
correcting the faults of their erroneous recipes. For unless we
take this way with them, they shall not fail to do as many bold
blind apothecaries do who, either for lucre or out of a foolish
pride, give sick folk medicines of their own devising. For
therewith do they kill up in corners many such simple folk as they
find so foolish as to put their lives in the hands of such ignorant
and unlearned Blind Bayards (a bayard is a Bay Horse.  More is
Alluding to a famous English proverb which appears in a number
of forms, such as "jumping like a Blind Bayard").

4.  We shall therefore neither fully receive these philosophers'
reasons in this matter, nor yet utterly refuse them. But, using
them in such order as may beseem them, we shall fetch the principal
and effectual medicines against these diseases of tribulation from
that high, great, and excellent physician without whom we could
never be healed of our very deadly disease of damnation. For our
necessity in that regard, the Spirit of God spiritually speaketh of
himself to us, and biddeth us give him the honour of all our
health. And therein he thus saith unto us: "Honour thou the
physician, for him hath the high God ordained for thy necessity" (see Sirach 38:1).
Therefore let us pray that high physician, our blessed Saviour
Christ, whose holy manhood God ordained for our necessity, to cure
our deadly wounds with the medicine made of the most wholesome
blood of his own blessed body (More may be alluding to St Ignatius
of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians chapter 20.) And let us pray that, as he cured
our mortal malady by this incomparable medicine (see John 6:53-58), it may please him
to send us and put in our minds at this time such medicines as may
so comfort and strengthen us in his grace against the sickness and
sorrows of tribulation, that our deadly enemy the devil (1 Pet 5:8) may never
have the power, by his poisoned dart of murmur, grudge, and
impatience, to turn our short sickness of worldly tribulation into
the endless everlasting death of infernal damnation. 

"Poisoned dart" may be an allusion to Ephesians 6:16, where St Paul says the shield of
faith quenches the fiery darts of the devil.  I come to this conclusion because in the next
section of the Dialogue, Anthony lays down that faith is the only sufficient
basis for dealing with the subject in question.

Please Vote For This Post On Pickafig

Posted in Dialogue of Comfort, Quotes | Leave a Comment »

A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation: The Prologue with notes

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 22, 2008

Note: What follows is the introductory dialogue to St Thomas More’s wonderful work. I have provided in italics what I hope are useful introductory and guidance notes.
Though his uncle Anthony is nearing death, Vincent has come to him, not to give him comfort so much as to get comfort from him. He notes that even if he had come to give him comfort, he might very well do so by telling him that dying is more a comfort than living. Both these points are motivated by the state of tribulation into which the world has fallen. The reason he seeks comfort from his uncle rather than someone else is due to Anthony’s learning and holiness, and to the fact that many of the tribulations facing Vincent have been not only experienced, but endured by his uncle. What he has endured is imprisonment in Turkey at the hands of Muslims, and the looming tribulation Vincent fears is “the Turk.” Is the imprisonment a reference to St Thomas More’s suffering of religious persecution for his convictions? Is “the Turk” in reality Protestantism which is threatening England?

VINCENT:  Who would have thought, O my good uncle, a few years
past, that those in this country who would visit their friends
lying in disease and sickness would come, as I do now, to seek and
fetch comfort of them? Or who would have thought that in giving
comfort to them they would use the way that I may well use to you?
For albeit that the priests and friars be wont to call upon sick
men to remember death, yet we worldly friends, for fear of
discomforting them, have ever had a way here in Hungary of lifting
up their hearts and putting them in good hope of life.

But now, my good uncle, the world is here waxed such, and so great
perils appear here to fall at hand, that methinketh the greatest
comfort a man can have is when he can see that he shall soon be
gone. And we who are likely long to live here in wretchedness have
need of some comforting counsel against tribulation to be given us
by such as you, good uncle. For you have so long lived virtuously,
and are so learned in the law of God that very few are better in
this country. And you have had yourself good experience and assay
of such things as we do now fear, as one who hath been taken
prisoner in Turkey two times in your days, and is now likely to
depart hence ere long.

But that may be your great comfort, good uncle, since you depart to
God. But us of your kindred shall you leave here, a company of
sorry comfortless orphans. For to all of us your good help,
comfort, and counsel hath long been a great stay--not as an uncle
to some, and to others as one further of kin, but as though to us
all you had been a natural father.

We find that the dialogue is set in Hugary, the proverbial place
of battle in More's time due to constant Muslim incursions.
Anthony responds to his cousin's words about how comfort is given
And criticizes it, for a dying man (or, for that matter, a man in
the prime of his life!) ought to have his thoughts focused on death
judgement, heaven and hell.  For it is silly for an old man facing
death to focus on life to the extent that he leaves himself un-
prepared for the meeting of his maker.

ANTHONY:  Mine own good cousin, I cannot much deny but what there
is indeed, not only here in Hungary but also in almost all places
in Christendom, such a customary manner of unchristian comforting.
And in any sick man it doth more harm than good, by drawing him in
time of sickness, with looking and longing for life, from the
meditation of death, judgment, heaven, and hell, with which he
should beset much of his time--even all his whole life in his best
health. Yet is that manner of comfort to my mind more than mad when
it is used to a man of mine age. For as we well know that a young
man may die soon, so are we very sure that an old man cannot live
long. And yet there is (as Tully saith) no man so old but that, for
all that, he hopeth yet that he may live one year more, and of a
frail folly delighteth to think thereon and comfort himself
therewith. So other men's words of such comfort, adding more sticks
to that fire, shall (in a manner) quite burn up the pleasant
moisture that should most refresh him--the wholesome dew, I mean,
of God's grace, by which he should wish with God's will to be
hence, and long to be with him in Heaven.

Anthony then takes up Vincent's worry that he and the rest of
his family will be left as "a sorry company of comfortless
orphans."  He begins by humbly acknowledging that he did not
do half the job he should and could have done in giving help
and comfort to his own.  He then goes on to insist that he
ought never be considered as the chief comfort of anyone, for
that belongs properly to God, and exchanging one for the other
is like replacing a stout staff (walking stick) with a rotten reed.

Now, as for your taking my departing from you so heavily (as that
of one from whom you recognize, of your goodness, to have had here
before help and comfort), would God I had done to you and to others
half so much as I myself reckon it would have been my duty to do!
But whensoever God may take me hence, to reckon yourselves then
comfortless, as though your chief comfort stood in me--therein
would you make, methinketh, a reckoning very much as though you
would cast away a strong staff and lean upon a rotten reed. For God
is, and must be, your comfort, and not I. And he is a sure
comforter, who (as he said unto his disciples) never leaveth his
servants comfortless orphans, not even when he departed from his
disciples by death. But he both sent them a comforter, as he had
promised, the Holy Spirit of his Father and himself, and he also
made them sure that to the world's end he would ever dwell with
them himself. And therefore, if you be part of his flock and
believe his promise, how can you be comfortless in any tribulation,
when Christ and his Holy Spirit, and with them their inseparable
Father, if you put full trust and confidence in them, are never
either one finger-breadth of space nor one minute of time from you?

Vincent admits the truth of these words, and the fact that he
should have remembered them.  The fact that his uncle has
reminded him of the truth proves his continuing need for Anthony's
counsel. 

VINCENT:  O, my good uncle, even these selfsame words, with which
you prove that because of God's own gracious presence we cannot be
left comfortless, make me now feel and perceive how much comfort we
shall miss when you are gone. For albeit, good uncle, that while
you tell me this I cannot but grant it for true, yet if I had not
now heard it from you, I would not have remembered it, nor would it
have fallen to my mind. And moreover, as our tribulations shall
increase in weight and number, so shall we need not only one such
good word or twain, but a great heap of them, to stable and
strengthen the walls of our hearts against the great surges of this
tempestuous sea.

ANTHONY:  Good cousin, trust well in God and he shall provide you
outward teachers suitable for every time, or else shall himself
sufficiently teach you inwardly.

Vincent admits this ("very well, good uncle") but goes on to note
that were he to rely solely on God's inward teaching when outward
counsel was still available he would be tempting God.  Further,
he notes, he has little hope that new teachers of his uncle's
stature will rise up in his place.  Vincent thinks it is his
God given duty to ask for Anthony's counsel as long as his uncle
is available.

VINCENT:  Very well, good uncle, but yet if we would leave the
seeking of outward learning, when we can have it, and look to be
inwardly taught by God alone, then should be thereby tempt God and
displease him. And since I now see the likelihood that when you are
gone we shall be sore destitute of any other like you, therefore
methinketh that God bindeth me of duty to pray you now, good uncle,
in this short time that we have you, that I may learn of you such
plenty of good counsel and comfort, against these great storms of
tribulation with which both I and all mine are sore beaten already,
and now upon the coming of this cruel Turk fear to fall in far
more, that I may, with the same laid up in remembrance, govern and
stay the ship of our kindred and keep it afloat from peril of
spiritual drowning.

Anthony goes on to note his own inability to keep his family
comforted, especially now that "the Turk" is working such havoc
against the faith.  Such havoc included robbing, burning, the
separation of families by imprisonment and exile, slavery, and
the abandonment of the true faith by embracing a false one.  He
then expresses his fear that those who have embraced the false
faith may then turn on their former co-religionists "for their
is no Turk so cruel to Christian folk as is the false Chrisitian
that falleth from the faith."  For these reasons the words of
Anthony are sorely needed and sought for as long as they can be
had. 

You are not ignorant, good uncle, what heaps of heaviness have of
late fallen among us already, with which some of our poor family are
fallen into such dumps that scantly can any such comfort as my poor
wit can give them at all assuage their sorrow. And now, since these
tidings have come hither, so hot with the great Turk's enterprise
into these parts here, we can scantly talk nor think of anything
else than his might and our danger. There falleth so continually
before the eyes of our heart a fearful imagination of this terrible
thing: his mighty strength and power, his high malice and hatred,
and his incomparable cruelty, with robbing, spoiling, burning, and
laying waste all the way that his army cometh; then, killing or
carrying away the people thence, far from home, and there severing
the couples and the kindred asunder, every one far from the other,
some kept in thraldom and some kept in prison and some for a
triumph tormented and killed in his presence; then, sending his
people hither and his false faith too, so that such as are here and
still remain shall either both lose all and be lost too, or be
forced to forsake the faith of our Saviour Christ and fall to the
false sect of Mahomet. And yet--that which we fear more than all
the rest--no small part of our own folk who dwell even here about
us are, we fear, falling to him or already confederated with him.
If this be so, it may haply keep this quarter from the Turk's
invasion. But then shall they that turn to his law leave all their
neighbours nothing, but shall have our goods given them and our
bodies too, unless we turn as they do and forsake our Saviour too.
And then--for there is no born Turk so cruel to Christian folk as
is the false Christian that falleth from the faith--we shall stand
in peril, if we persevere in the truth, to be more hardly handled
and die a more cruel death by our own countrymen at home than if we
were taken hence and carried into Turkey. These fearful heaps of
peril lie so heavy at our hearts, since we know not into which we
shall fortune to fall and therefore fear all the worst, that (as
our Saviour prophesied of the people of Jerusalem) many among us
wish already, before the peril come, that the mountains would
overwhelm them or the valleys open and swallow them up and cover
them.

Therefore, good uncle, against these horrible fears of these
terrible tribulations--some of which, as you know, our house hath
already, and the rest of which we stand in dread of--give us, while
God lendeth you to us, such plenty of your comforting counsel as I
may write and keep with us, to stay us when God shall call you
hence.

Hearing all this, Anthony notes how heavy his heart is.  He then
goes on to rehearse the history of the quick advance of "the Turk."
In doing so he notes that "the Turk" has now "destroyed or noble
young goodly king., and now two of them strive for us--our Lord
send the grace that the third dog carry not away the bone from
them both!."  Are we to understand "two" as a reference to
"the Turk" and the King?  And who or what is "the third dog"
that he prays may not take the bone from the "two"?  Is the
third dog the spirit of dissension which exists among the
faithful, and which led to the advent of the "two"?

Greece feared not the Turk when I was born, and within a while
afterward that whole empire was his. The great Sultan of Syria
thought himself more than his match, and long since you were born
hath he that empire too. Then hath he taken Belgrade, the fortress
of this realm. And since that hath he destroyed our noble young
goodly king, and now two of them strive for us--our Lord send the
grace that the third dog carry not away the bone from them both!
What of the noble strong city of Rhodes, the winning of which he
counted as a victory against the whole body of Christendom, since
all Christendom was not able to defend that strong town against
him? Howbeit, if the princes of Christendom everywhere would, where
there was need, have set to their hands in time, the Turk would
never have taken any one of all those places. But partly because of
dissensions fallen among ourselves, and partly because no man
careth what harm other folk feel, but each part suffereth the other
to shift for itself, the Turk has in a few years wonderfully
increased and Christendom on the other hand very sorely decayed.
And all this is worked by our wickedness, with which God is not
content.

Shortly before Vincent came to him Anthony had been thinking upon
the Turk, but then his mind began to reflect on his impending death,
switched back to the Turk and then to thoughts of hell.  In light of
his thoughts on the last things the current trouble posed by the Turk
Struck him as being of little account.  Nevertheless, for the sake
of those whom he will leave behind at his death, he decides to provide
Vincent with comfort he can provide to the family once Anthony has gone. 

But now, whereas you desire of me some plenty of comforting things,
which you may put in remembrance, to comfort your company
with--verily, in the rehearsing and heaping of your manifold fears,
I myself began to feel that there would be much need, against so
many troubles, of many comforting counsels. For surely, a little
before you came, as I devised with myself upon the Turk's coming,
it happened that my mind fell suddenly from that to devising upon
my own departing. Now, albeit that I fully put my trust in God and
hope to be a saved soul by his mercy, yet no man is here so sure
that without revelation he may stand clean out of dread. So I
bethought me also upon the pain of hell, and afterward, then, I
bethought me upon the Turk again. And at first methought his terror
nothing, when I compared with it the joyful hope of heaven. Then I
compared it on the other hand with the fearful dread of hell,
casting therein in my mind those terrible fiendish tormentors, with
the deep consideration of that furious endless fire. And methought
that if the Turk with his whole host, and all his trumpets and
timbrels too, were to come to my chamber door and kill me in my
bed, in respect of the other reckoning I would regard him not a
rush. And yet, when I now heard your lamentable words, laying forth
as though it were present before my face that heap of heavy
sorrowful tribulations that (besides those that are already
befallen) are in short space likely to follow, I waxed myself
suddenly somewhat dismayed. And therefore I well approve your
request in this behalf, since you wish to have a store of comfort
beforehand, ready by you to resort to, and to lay up in your heart
as a remedy against the poison of all desperate dread that might
arise from occasion of sore tribulation. And I shall be glad, as my
poor wit shall serve me, to call to mind with you such things as I
before have read, heard, or thought upon, that may conveniently
serve us to this purpose.

				

Posted in Dialogue of Comfort | Leave a Comment »

Notes on St Thomas More’s Dailogue of Comfort Against Tribulation

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 12, 2008

Book 1, part 1, Prologue
Vincent comes to his uncle Anthony who is nearing death. He laments that the times are such that he has come to get comfort from his dying uncle rather than give it to him. If he were to give comfort to his uncle he would probably do it the way many do, giving them hope of recovery. But in fact, the world has become so bad that Vincent suggests that dying would be a better thing than remaining alive. This situation saddens Vincent, who wonders what he will do without the comfort of his uncle Anthony’s wisdom and counsel. Anthony responds by criticizing those who give a false comfort to the dying and insists that they should try to get them to focus on thoughts of death, judgment, Heaven and Hell. As for comfort in troubled times, Anthony insists he could have done better towards his kin and bids Vincent to take comfort in God, who ought to be their chief comfort.

VINCENT:  Who would have thought, O my good uncle, a few years
past, that those in this country who would visit their friends
lying in disease and sickness would come, as I do now, to seek and
fetch comfort of them? Or who would have thought that in giving
comfort to them they would use the way that I may well use to you?
For albeit that the priests and friars be wont to call upon sick
men to remember death, yet we worldly friends, for fear of
discomforting them, have ever had a way here in Hungary of lifting
up their hearts and putting them in good hope of life.
But now, my good uncle, the world is here waxed such, and so great
perils appear here to fall at hand, that methinketh the greatest
comfort a man can have is when he can see that he shall soon be
gone. And we who are likely long to live here in wretchedness have
need of some comforting counsel against tribulation to be given us
by such as you, good uncle. For you have so long lived virtuously,
and are so learned in the law of God that very few are better in
this country. And you have had yourself good experience and assay
of such things as we do now fear, as one who hath been taken
prisoner in Turkey two times in your days, and is now likely to
depart hence ere long.

But that may be your great comfort, good uncle, since you depart to
God. But us of your kindred shall you leave here, a company of
sorry comfortless orphans. For to all of us your good help,
comfort, and counsel hath long been a great stay--not as an uncle
to some, and to others as one further of kin, but as though to us
all you had been a natural father.
 ANTHONY:  Mine own good cousin, I cannot much deny but what there
is indeed, not only here in Hungary but also in almost all places
in Christendom, such a customary manner of unchristian comforting.
And in any sick man it doth more harm than good, by drawing him in
time of sickness, with looking and longing for life, from the
meditation of death, judgment, heaven, and hell, with which he
should beset much of his time--even all his whole life in his best
health. Yet is that manner of comfort to my mind more than mad when
it is used to a man of mine age. For as we well know that a young
man may die soon, so are we very sure that an old man cannot live
long. And yet there is (as Tully saith) no man so old but that, for
all that, he hopeth yet that he may live one year more, and of a
frail folly delighteth to think thereon and comfort himself
therewith. So other men's words of such comfort, adding more sticks
to that fire, shall (in a manner) quite burn up the pleasant
moisture that should most refresh him--the wholesome dew, I mean,
of God's grace, by which he should wish with God's will to be
hence, and long to be with him in Heaven.

Now, as for your taking my departing from you so heavily (as that
of one from whom you recognize, of your goodness, to have had here
before help and comfort), would God I had done to you and to others
half so much as I myself reckon it would have been my duty to do!
But whensoever God may take me hence, to reckon yourselves then
comfortless, as though your chief comfort stood in me--therein
would you make, methinketh, a reckoning very much as though you
would cast away a strong staff and lean upon a rotten reed. For God
is, and must be, your comfort, and not I. And he is a sure
comforter, who (as he said unto his disciples) never leaveth his
servants comfortless orphans (see Jn. 14:18), not even when he departed from his
disciples by death. But he both sent them a comforter, as he had
promised, the Holy Spirit of his Father and himself, and he also
made them sure that to the world's end he would ever dwell with
them himself (see Jn. 14:15-31; Mt 28:18-20). And therefore, if you be part of his flock and
believe his promise, how can you be comfortless in any tribulation,
when Christ and his Holy Spirit, and with them their inseparable
Father, if you put full trust and confidence in them, are never
either one finger-breadth of space nor one minute of time from you?
I find myself wondering if St Thomas didn't have the opening prayer of 2 Corinthians in mind
when he wrote the above words about comfort:
1:3 Blessed be the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all
comfort; cb(1,4); 1:4 who comforts us
in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any
affliction, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by
God. cb(1,5); 1:5 For as the sufferings
of Christ abound to us, even so our comfort also abounds through Christ.
cb(1,6); 1:6 But if we are afflicted,
it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your
comfort, which produces in you the patient enduring of the same sufferings
which we also suffer. cb(1,7); 1:7 Our
hope for you is steadfast, knowing that, since you are partakers of the
sufferings, so also are you of the comfort. (WEB Bible)
Vincent says the words his uncle has spoken to him concerning the comfort of God are themselves
 a comfort which he will sorely miss.
VINCENT:  O, my good uncle, even these selfsame words, with which
you prove that because of God's own gracious presence we cannot be
left comfortless, make me now feel and perceive how much comfort we
shall miss when you are gone. For albeit, good uncle, that while
you tell me this I cannot but grant it for true, yet if I had not
now heard it from you, I would not have remembered it, nor would it
have fallen to my mind. And moreover, as our tribulations shall
increase in weight and number, so shall we need not only one such
good word or twain, but a great heap of them, to stable and
strengthen the walls of our hearts against the great surges of this
tempestuous sea.

ANTHONY:  Good cousin, trust well in God and he shall provide you
outward teachers suitable for every time (see Eph 4:8-14), or else shall himself
sufficiently teach you inwardly (see 1 Jn 2:27).
While he has his uncle with him he thinks it both wise and God's will that he seek out good counsel and comfort from him.
Vincents family has already been troubled and the Turks (Muslims) are threatening Hungary (the setting of the Dialogue).
Christians forced to convert have turned against their fellow Christians to please their new, bloodthirsty overlords.
This was in fact the situation in More's day.
VINCENT:  Very well, good uncle, but yet if we would leave the
seeking of outward learning, when we can have it, and look to be
inwardly taught by God alone, then should be thereby tempt God and
displease him. And since I now see the likelihood that when you are
gone we shall be sore destitute of any other like you, therefore
methinketh that God bindeth me of duty to pray you now, good uncle,
in this short time that we have you, that I may learn of you such
plenty of good counsel and comfort, against these great storms of
tribulation with which both I and all mine are sore beaten already,
and now upon the coming of this cruel Turk fear to fall in far
more, that I may, with the same laid up in remembrance, govern and
stay the ship of our kindred and keep it afloat from peril of
spiritual drowning.

You are not ignorant, good uncle, what heaps of heaviness have of
late fallen among us already, with which some of our poor family are
fallen into such dumps that scantly can any such comfort as my poor
wit can give them at all assuage their sorrow. And now, since these
tidings have come hither, so hot with the great Turk's enterprise
into these parts here, we can scantly talk nor think of anything
else than his might and our danger. There falleth so continually
before the eyes of our heart a fearful imagination of this terrible
thing: his mighty strength and power, his high malice and hatred,
and his incomparable cruelty, with robbing, spoiling, burning, and
laying waste all the way that his army cometh; then, killing or
carrying away the people thence, far from home, and there severing
the couples and the kindred asunder, every one far from the other,
some kept in thraldom and some kept in prison and some for a
triumph tormented and killed in his presence; then, sending his
people hither and his false faith too, so that such as are here and
still remain shall either both lose all and be lost too, or be
forced to forsake the faith of our Saviour Christ and fall to the
false sect of Mahomet. And yet--that which we fear more than all
the rest--no small part of our own folk who dwell even here about
us are, we fear, falling to him or already confederated with him.
If this be so, it may haply keep this quarter from the Turk's
invasion. But then shall they that turn to his law leave all their
neighbours nothing, but shall have our goods given them and our
bodies too, unless we turn as they do and forsake our Saviour too.
And then--for there is no born Turk so cruel to Christian folk as
is the false Christian that falleth from the faith--we shall stand
in peril, if we persevere in the truth, to be more hardly handled
and die a more cruel death by our own countrymen at home than if we
were taken hence and carried into Turkey. These fearful heaps of
peril lie so heavy at our hearts, since we know not into which we
shall fortune to fall and therefore fear all the worst, that (as
our Saviour prophesied of the people of Jerusalem) many among us
wish already, before the peril come, that the mountains would
overwhelm them or the valleys open and swallow them up and cover
them.
Therefore, good uncle, against these horrible fears of these
terrible tribulations--some of which, as you know, our house hath
already, and the rest of which we stand in dread of--give us, while
God lendeth you to us, such plenty of your comforting counsel as I
may write and keep with us, to stay us when God shall call you
hence.
Hearing these words Anthony laments the spread of "the Turk" and attributes
it to religious and political dissension and a lack of charity among
the princes of Christendom.  Meditating on the horrors of "the Turk"
pales in comparison to the horrors of hell or the joys of heaven (the things
a dying man should be thinking of) but, nonetheless, Anthony agrees to give
comforting counsel to Vincent.  Here ends the prologue).    




				

Posted in Dialogue of Comfort | Leave a Comment »

Notes on St Thomas More’s Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 12, 2008

This is one of my favorite works. I’m currently working on notes to the prologue, and will post them, along with the text of the prologue itself, in the near future. Until then, here is a podcast of the prologue (Note: the podcast actually begins with a brief statement by the reviser who updated the text, but it only takes a minute or two).

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

CLICK HERE TO READ THE TEXT

Posted in Dialogue of Comfort | Leave a Comment »

St Thomas More’s Dailogue of Comfort Against Tribulation 2

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 5, 2007

(To see the first post on this dialogue click here)
Vincent: O, my good uncle, even the words by which you prove that we cannot be left comfortless because of God’s gracious presence make me see and feel how much comfort we shall miss once you are gone. For, although you tell me this , good uncle, and though I know it to be true, if you had not told it to me just now I would not have remembered it, nor would it have fallen to my mind. Moreover, as our tribulations increase in weight and number we shall need not just one or two good words, but a great heap of them to stable and strengthen the walls of our hearts the great surge of this tempestuous sea.

Anthony: Good cousin, trust well in God and he shall provide you outward teachers suitable for every time, or else he shall himself shall teach you inwardly.

God supplies teachers to his people: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) form among their own kinsmen, and I will put my own words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command (see Deut 19:9-20).

All power has been given me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded (see Matt 28:18-20. Jesus spoke these words in Galilee after he had been raised up-see also Matt 26:31-32).

Outward teaching, which takes place through the ministry of the Church in the Holy Spirit, is the primary way in which God teaches his people. Inward teaching can accompany, support and clarify the outward teaching (see Phil 3:15).

Vincent: Very well, good uncle, but if we leave off seeking the outward teaching when it is available to us and turn instead to be inwardly taught by God alone, we thereby tempt God and displease him. And since I now see that when you are gone it is highly likely that we shall be destitute of any teacher like you. I therefore think that it is my God-bound duty to ask you now, good uncle, in the short span of time we have, to teach me concerning good counsel and comfort against these great storms of tribulation with which I and all mine are already being sorely beaten; for, on top of all this, the coming of the cruel Turk causes me fear that we may suffer far more. Do this, that I may, remembering your counsel, govern and stay the ship of our family and keep it afloat, free from the peril of spiritual drowning.

The troubles facing the family of Vincent and Anthony were twofold: (1) King Henry VIII was in open rebellion against the Church and persecuting its faithful, like St Thomas, mercilessly. Almost all of the Bishops of England, the outward teachers mentioned above, had deserted the faith and sided with Henry. (2) The coming of the Turk refers to the threat of Muslim invasion under the leadership of Selim the Grim who was building the Turkish Empire. Not since Charles Martel had defeated the Saracen (Muslim) attack on France eight centuries earlier had Europe faced such a threat. More’s generation saw fall to the Turks two bastions of Eastern Europe: Rhodes, bastion of the sea, and Belgrade, bastion of the land. It saw the army of Hungary slaughtered on the fields of Mohacz. St Thomas considered the reformers to be a worse threat than the Turk. They had caused the disintegration of Christendom, deformed its doctrines, and confiscated the monasteries and abbeys. This confiscation was most intolerable to More since it brought to and end the financial, nutritional, bodily and educational aid being given to the poor. (See THOMAS MORE by R.W. Chambers, pgs 261-262)

Vincent continues: You are not ignorant, good uncle, concerning the heaps of heaviness that have fallen upon the people, including some of our own poor family, who have fallen into such despair that scarcely any comfort my poor wit can give cann assuage their sorrow. And now, since the tidings have come to us concerning the Turks excursion into these parts, we can hardly talk nor think of anything else than his might and our danger. There comes continually before the eyes of our hearts a fearful imagination of this terrible thing: his mighty strength and power, his high malice and hatred, and his incomparable cruelty, with robbing, spoiling, burning, and laying waste all that lays before his army; his killing or carrying away of the people, far from their homes, thereby severing couples and sundering kindred, everyone far from the other, some kept in thraldom and some kept in prison and some for a triumph tormented and killed in his presence; then, he sends his people forth and his false faith too, into the midst of those few Christians who remain, so that they might lose all, or be forced to forsake the faith of our Saviour Christ and fall to the false sect of Mahomet. Indeed, no small part of those who dwell around us are, we fear, fallen to him already, or at least confederated with him. If such be the case, then perhaps this part of the country will be spared the Turks invasion. Yet, if many have turned to his law, will they not leave us, their neighbors, destitute of belongings? Will they not have our belongings and our bodies too, unless we turn and forsake our Saviour as they did? And then-for there is no born Turk so cruel to Christian folk as is the false Christian who falls from the faith-we shall stand in great peril. For if we persevere in the truth we will be more hardly handled and die a more cruel death by our own countrymen here at home than if we were carried off into Turkey. These fearful heaps of peril lie heavy upon our hearts. Since we know not which way our fortune will fall, our fear is all the worse. Many among us wish already, before the peril even comes close, that the mountains would overwhelm them or the valleys open and swallow them up.

The policy of Selim the Grim was to depopulate his conquered territories of Christians and move Muslims into the land. Islamic law would then be enacted. This enforced a special tax on non-Muslims and, apparently, confiscation of property was allowed as well. Women of conquered territories could be declared “possession of the right hand” and forced into concubinage or marriage, whether they were already married or not. The focus of More’s writing here is, however, upon the fallen away Christian who embraces the Muslim sect. That they are more cruel towards Christians than “the born Turk” or any other enemy of the faith is a statement not hard to justify. One only needs to think of the pseudo-Catholic politicians of today who, while making claims and pretensions to being faithful, push, support, and enact laws seeking to force Catholics and the institutions they belong to, to act against their conscience. This they do in the name of sexual deviancy, baby killing, suicide, and euthanasia; and they call it liberty, when in fact it is licentiousness; they call it democracy, when in fact it is tyranny; and they call it progress and modernity, but in fact it is merely a reversion back to the tired old whore called paganism. The dogs have returned to lap up their vomit: ” But these, as unreasoning creatures, born natural animals to be taken and destroyed, speaking evil in matters about which they are ignorant, will in their destroying surely be destroyed, cb(2,13);2:13 receiving the wages of unrighteousness; people who count it pleasure to revel in the daytime, spots and blemishes, reveling in their deceit while they feast with you; cb(2,14);2:14 having eyes full of adultery, and who can’t cease from sin; enticing unsettled souls; having a heart trained in greed; children of cursing; cb(2,15);2:15forsaking the right way, they went astray, having followed the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of wrongdoing; cb(2,16);2:16but he was rebuked for his own disobedience. A mute donkey spoke with a man’s voice and stopped the madness of the prophet. cb(2,17);2:17These are wells without water, clouds driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness has been reserved forever. cb(2,18);2:18 For, uttering great swelling words of emptiness, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by licentiousness, those who are indeed escaping from those who live in error; cb(2,19);2:19 promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for a man is brought into bondage by whoever overcomes him.cb(2,20);

2:20 For if, after they have escaped the defilement of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in it and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. cb(2,21); 2:21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. cb(2,22); 2:22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb, “The dog turns to his own vomit again,”* and “the sow that has washed to wallowing in the mire.”” (2 Peter 2:12-22)

Posted in Dialogue of Comfort | Leave a Comment »

St Thomas More’s Dailogue of Comfort Against Tribulation (1)

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 3, 2007

The Dialogue was written by St Thomas More as he sat in the Tower of London awaiting a possibly gruesome death for his fidelity to the faith. The main characters are a young man named Vincent and his uncle Anthony, an aging man of wisdom and intelligence and faith who is on his death-bed. Vincent begins the Dialogue by noting that normally people approached the dying in order to give them comfort. The situation of the world has become such, however, that they, and he, now approach the dying to receive comfort from them. He then speaks about all the comfort his uncle has given him over the years and his anxiety at losing such comfort with Anthony’s death. Anthony responds by rejecting both the comfort the worldly give, and the idea that his death will mean a lack of comfort for Vincent, since God is the chief comfort of all who believe.

Vincent: Who would have though, O good uncle, a few years past, that those in this country who would visit their friends lying in disease and sickness would come, as I do now, to seek and fetch comfort from them? Or who would have thought that in giving comfort to them they would use the way that I may well use with you? For albeit that priests and friars be wont to call upon the sick men to remember death, yet we worldy friends, for fear of discomforting them, have ever had a way here in Hungary of lifting up their hearts and putting them in good hope of life.

But now, my good uncle, the world has become such, and so great perils appear to fall at hand, that I think the greatest comfort a have is when he can see that he shall soon be gone. And we who are likely to live long here in wretchedness have need of someone like you to give us some comforting counsel against tribulation. For you have so longed lived virtuously, and are so learned in the law of God that very few are better in this country. And you have had much experience and trials concerning the things we now fear, having been taken prisoner two times in Turkey, and now likely to depart before long from this life.

That may be your great comfort, good uncle, since you depart to God. But those of us who are your kin you shall leave behind as sorry comfortless orphans. For to all of us your good help, comfort, and counsel have long been our great support. You have not been like an uncle to some, and to others a kin farther removed; rather, to one and all you have been as a father.

Anthony: My good nephew, I cannot hardly deny that there is indeed, not only here in Hungary, but also in almost all places in Christendom, this customary and unchristian manner of comforting. And in any sick man such does more harm than good, by enticing him in time of sickness to look and long for life and leave off meditating on death, judgement, heaven and hell-the very thing that should occupy much of his time, not only in sickness but also his whole life long. Indeed, this manner of comfort which you spoke of seems to my mind to be madness when directed towards a man of my years. For as we well know a young man die soon, just as certainly as an old man will not live long. And yet there is (as Tully says) no man so old but that, for all that, he nonetheless hopes that he may live one year more. Upon this he thinks in his frail folly, and with this though he gives himself that manner of comfort of which you spoke. Then other men come along with like words of comfort thereby adding sticks to the fire which burns up the pleasant moisture which should most refresh him–the wholesome dew of God’s grace, by which he should wish that it be God’s will to be gone from this life, and to be with him in heaven.

Now, as for you taking my departing from you so heavily, basing it as you do, in your goodness, upon the help and comfort I have given in times past…I say that I wish to God that I had done to you and to others twice as much more as I reckon it was my duty to do! So you see, to reckon yourselves comfortless when God takes me hence from this world, thinking that your chief comfort stood in me-this is, I think to cast away a strong staff so as to lean upon a rotten reed. For God is, and must be your comfort, and not I. And he is a sure comforter who (as he said to his disciples) never leaves his servants as orphans, not even when he departed from them in death. But he sent them a comforter as he had promised; the Holy Spirit from his Father, and also himself. And he gave them assurance and made them sure that he would forever dwell with them. Therefore, if you be part of his flock and believe his promise, how can you be comfortless in any tribulation, when Christ and his Holy Spirit, and with them their inseparable Father, if you put full trust and confidence in them, are never either one finger-breadth of space nor one minute of time from you?

To be continued

Posted in Dialogue of Comfort | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: