Monday, January 9, 2017

Sticks and stones

Bishops carry crosiers, which is to say long hefty sticks, whose symbolic uses are to pull sheep out of ditches and to nudge them (sometimes, thwack!) back on to the right path.

Now, is it in Deuteronomy? Or Exodus? ... Stoning is the sentence prescribed for convicted adulterers — with, what ought to be famous, the Other Spouse and the principal witness (there had to be Two) casting the First Stones.

We don't literally do that anymore — which is a relief, to say the least (and I rather suspect the judicial/executive requirements were meant from the first as an invitation to the Other Spouse to forgive rather than condemn). Whatever Adulterous Israel had fallen into, first in Egypt and then wandering among the other Nations, even so now “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, that Her warfare is accomplished, and Her iniquity is pardoned”. It's not that adultery intrinsically merrited stoning before and now it doesn't: it's that adultery itself must be “stoned” out of the soul (as must wrath, and deceit, and pride and...), before and now. One can't be both aeviternally happy and divided in the soul's attachments.

And that's the difficulty I have with the phrasing (well-meant though I'm sure it was) of admonitions against “[treating] the Church’s moral commands as if they were stones [to] hurl”. On The Contrary: the Church's moral commands are the Stones she has to Throw; and She must throw them at iniquity. With Mary and Jesus, She must strike at the serpent's head. I'm sure the author of the phrase means: “it's no good trying to hurt eachother, and false sanctimony makes it worse”. I think I should agree with that contention; but if Peter's Successor once urged us to approach a mere Council assuming its continuity with Tradition, and if I am now to work at approaching that Successor's immediate Successor assuming the same continuity with Tradition — How Much More should I approach the words of the New Testament as being Continuous with the Old? So, Young Peter, God rest ye and preserve: but, please, can we put more care into our choice of words? Most of us will only know you in this passing World by your words.

For the rest, in short, are you attached to some adultery, whether with a strange woman or a strange god? Then know that there are stones in-coming now: so get you out of their way!


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