Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Case for Traditional Principles, Part IX: Salt of the Earth

The principle I am going to cover today is important because it was through this principle that Christendom was built. Without this principle, Christendom would never have been established, and indeed the Church would not exist. The Christian has many callings, but none are more important than this calling. When Christ spoke the famous Sermon on the Mount, he says the following in Matthews Gospel:

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men. You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Our Lord here chooses a curious analogy, but one that is of course incredibly fitting. When one uses salt, they use it to add flavor to something, and in older days, preserve it. That is the job of Christians in this world. We make this world better, and we preserve that around us from that which defiles the Earth. This would make perfect sense to a Jewish audience. If we remember, God's role for Israel was that of bringing God to the nations. To instruct them in the ways of righteousness and the precepts of Yahweh. This was the very purpose of King Solomon's great wisdom, to teach others the ways of God. One of the ways this was done was by what is known as an Incarnational approach to the things of this world. It is an often missed concept in today's society, but it is what Christendom flourished on, since it applies the great mystery that is the Incarnation to this world.

In the early Church, there were those who believed matter was evil. That since man used the created world for great evil, the created world and all it's matter itself was evil. The Churches response to this idea (mainly pushed by heretical sects such as the Gnostics and the Docetics) was to point to the reality of the Incarnation, where God himself became man. If matter was evil, God could not become something evil. Rather, that matter is something good, and made for service to God, but it is just corrupted by sin. When the light of God's power shines upon that matter, however great things can come about it.

A way in which this was applied (though not necessarily with matter) was through what was known as "seeds of the word." What this involved was taking the concepts of the pagan philosophers and applying them to the coming of Jesus Christ. With men such as St. Justin Martyr, they used this knowledge, and believed that God was preparing the intellectual world for the coming of his son. Such an approach was rejected by men such as Tertullian, believing that the concepts of Christ should have nothing to do with the concepts of man, that man was unable to even reach the knowledge of God. St. Justin in many ways based his view of things according to the first chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice: Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.

For the Greeks (The Gentiles), according to St. Paul, certain things of God were manifested to them. They had some pieces of the puzzle, and it is with the fullness of the Gospel and the Catholic faith that all those pieces of the puzzle finally come into place. This interpretation eventually won over the Church, though the debate in many ways still rages on today.

One example of the early Church operating this way was through taking pagan holidays, and replacing them with Christian ones. The days which were used originally to serve false Gods were now transformed into service of the one true God. The Church sprinkled it's salt and the flavor increased. They took the matter of this world, the gold, the wood, the metal, and constructed magnificent churches and cathedrals from them. Gold that was originally used to fund wars of conquest and slavery were now used to fund the worship of the one true God, the God of true peace and freedom.

While we might not be able to build a cathedral or be a philosopher, we too can follow this principle by the simple things of this life. Did one ever think the job you labor at every day could prepare you for salvation? That job teaches you discipline and focus, acceptance of responsibility, and gives you property to provide for those around you. (that is money.) Those principles can then be used in service to God in many great ways. We should take ordinary things people pay little notice to, and use them in God's service. For those around us may see such dedication and sacrifice, and wonder just what it is they are sacrificing themselves for. While many nowadays frown on those grandiose cathedrals, preferring a "church of poverty and evangelizing, rather than money" they seem to forget that many times those cathedrals were tools of evangelizing! The majesty of such builds no doubt caught the interest of ordinary people of the world, and, knowing the principle of sacrifice already in their heart, came to learn to give sacrifice to the one true God.

In conclusion, whatever one does in life, one should always think "how can I take the things of this world and give glory to God with them. How can I take that little principle of good, and make it great in service of God?

God Bless,

Kevin M. Tierney