Friday, 2 December 2016

Who will I send? St Jerome on the failure to teach.

Bible angels seraphim Isaiah 6 - Public Domain


Today's Matins readings are from Isaiah 6, which describes an awe-inspiring vision of  the heavenly temple:
In the year that king Ozias died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated: and his train filled the temple.  Upon it stood the seraphims: the one had six wings, and the other had six wings: with two they covered his face, and with two they covered his feet, and with two they hew. And they cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory. And the lintels of the doors were moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 
Isaiah then laments that he has failed to speak up in the face of the sin surrounding him: he has, St Jerome, explains, committed the sin  committed the sin of failing to teach.  Isaiah says:
And I said: Woe is me, because I have held my peace; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people that hath unclean lips, and I have seen with my eyes the King the Lord of hosts.
St Jerome comments:
Not because he had said anything that was contrary to the will of God, but because he had held his peace, deterred either by fear or modesty, and because he had not exercised the prerogative of a prophet, of condemning a sinful nation...if we keep silent about the truth, we are certainly committing a sin? (Against the Pelagians)
In Isaiah's vision, one of the seraphim touches a burning coal to his lips, cleansing him from his sins.  God then asks the key question, who will I send?
And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send? and who shall go for us? And I said: Lo, here am I, send me.  And he said: Go, and thou shalt say to this people: Hearing, hear, and understand not: and see the vision, and know it not.  Blind the heart of this people, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes: lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.
We don't need to have a vision of God in the heavenly temple to apply this to ourselves: it is a call to all to be converted, confess and do penance so that we are cleansed of our sins, and then speak up.

The obligation applies particularly, though, to those entrusted with the teaching Office in the Church.

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