Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Some advice from St Bede the Venerable on dealing with those who would divert us from the cause

Apologies for the delay in posting a few comments received - blogger has changed its display making it harder to see any unmoderated comments when email alerts fail to occur (as they seem to have!).  I do appreciate them though, so will check more assiduously in future!

In the meantime, I'm still slowly working my way through the book of Nehemiah (or Esdras II) with the help of the wonderful commentary by St Bede.  Today's section elicited what seemed to me some excellent advice on what to do when confronted by seemingly friendly overtures from the enemy, so I thought I would share it with you.

The text he is commenting on is the first half of Nehemiah 6:
And now news reached Sanaballat and Tobias and the Arabian, Gosem, and the rest of our enemies, that I had finished building the wall, and never a gap was left in it; although in truth I had not yet been able to set up doors in the gateways. 
Thereupon Sanaballat and Gosem sent a message proposing that I should meet them in some unfortified town on the plains of Ono, and there make a treaty; it was their design to do me some mischief. 
But I bade my own messengers answer, It is a hard task I must perform here; I am not for the plain. There would be folk standing idle here, while I came down to meet you. 
Four times they sent word to the same purpose, and ever had the same answer from me; and once more Sanaballat repeated it, but this time the servant who brought it had a letter in his hand. And this was the tenor of it: The Gentiles will have it, and Gosem says the tale is true, that thou and the Jews are rebuilding the walls because you are plotting rebellion. It is said that thou wouldst be king thyself, and to that end hast put forward prophets to preach thee up in Jerusalem, and announce that Juda has a king. All this will reach the ears of Artaxerxes; come hither thou must, and we will devise measures between us. 
But I sent word back, There is no truth in the tale; it is of thy own imagining.
St Bede comments:
The enemies of the holy city are urging Nehemiah to go down to the plains and to enter a peace tact with them by together slaughtering calves  as testimony to the arranged treaty, but he perseveres in the mountains so that the devout work is not neglected.  So, too, heretics and false catholics want to have a fellowship of peace with true catholics, but with this stipulation, that they do not agree to ascend to the citadel of ecclesiastical faith or duty themselves, but rather they compel those whom they see dwelling on the peak of the virtues to go down to the lowest depths of wicked works or dogmas.   
And it is well that they want to enter a pact with Nehemiah on one plain, doubtless because they desire that all those whom they are able to seduce be relaxed in the same freedom of the broader life that the themselves follow; and it is well that they wish to enter into a pact with him by together slaughtering calves, because false brethren are eager to offer the sacrifices of their prayer and action to God together with true catholics, so that, when they are believed to be genuinely faithful, they might be able to corrupt these same true catholics through the proximity of their association.   
But Nehemiah, representing the person of faithful teachers, by no means agrees to go down to the impious nor to be defiled with their sacrifices but remains devout in the virtuous works he has undertaken...(On Ezra and Nehemiah, trans DeGregorio, pg 187)

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