October 2018 Letter
Of the most brilliant and beautiful works of Christian Greek literature by the end of second century the epistle to Diognetus, which is an apology for Christianity composed in the form of a letter addressed to a high-ranking pagan, Diognetus. The best part of the epistle is the account which the author gives of the supernatural life of Christians:
“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind by either country, speech, or customs; the fact is, they nowhere settle in cities of their own; they use no peculiar language; they cultivate no eccentric mode of life. Certainly, this creed of theirs is no discovery due to some conceit or speculation of inquisitive men; nor do they, as some sects do, champion any doctrine of human origin. Yet while they settle in both Greek and non-Greek cities, as each one’s lot is cast, and conform to the customs of the country in dress, diet, and mode of life in general, the whole tenor of their way of living stamps it as worthy of administration and admittedly contrary to expectation. They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens; they take part in everything as citizens, and put up with everything as foreigners; every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land. They marry like all others, and beget children; but they do not expose their offspring. Their board they spread for all, but not their bed. They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their days on earth, but hold citizenship in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their private lives go beyond the laws. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown, yet are condemned; they are put to death, and are restored to life. They are poor, and enrich many, destitute of everything, they abound in everything. They are dishonored, and in their dishonor find their glory. They are calumniated, and are vindicated. They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted, and render honor. Doing good, they are penalized as evildoers; when penalized, they rejoice because they are quickened into life. The Jews make war upon them as men of a different tribe; the Greeks persecute them; and those who hate them can assign no reason for their enmity.
To say it briefly: what the soul is in the body, that the Christians are in the world. The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and the Christians throughout the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but is not part and parcel of the body; so Christians dwell in the world, but are not part and parcel of the world. Itself invisible, the soul is kept shut up in the visible body; so Christians are known as such in the world, but their religion remains invisible. The flesh, though not at all wronged by the soul, yet hates and makes war on it, because it is hindered from indulging its passions; so, too, the world, though not at all wronged by the Christians, hates them because they oppose its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and its members; so, too, Christians loves those that hate them. The soul is locked up in the body, yet is the very thing that holds the body together; so, too, Christians are shut up in the world as in a prison, yet are the very ones that hold the world together. Immortal, the soul is lodged in a mortal tenement; so, too, Christians, though residing as strangers among corruptible things, look forward to the incorruptibility that awaits them in heaven. The soul, when stinting itself in food and drink, is the better for it; so, too, Christians, when penalized, increase daily more and more. Such is the important post to which God has assigned them, and it is not lawful for them to desert it.”
May the blessing of St. Mary, St. Mercurius and all the martyrs be with us all. Amen.