Saturday, June 8, 2019

Continuing temptation

Lead us not into temptation;  That brought up a memory, in my late teens I read a lot and rather than Tolstoy I read Dostoevsky.  There is a chapter in 'The Brothers Karamazov' the chapter may even have been called Auto-da-fe, the burning of heretics by the Catholic church.  The story is told here, basically Jesus has wandered into a city and been captured ready to be burnt.  The Grand Inquisitor though admonishes him for not giving way to the devil on the Mount, it would have been so much easier for the church......

 "Jesus begins performing miracles, and people recognize him for who he is—and he’s arrested, of course, by the Inquisitors, who sentence him to be burned to death.
The night before his sentence, the Grand Inquisitor visits Jesus in his cell. Jesus doesn’t speak, but the Grand Inquisitor speaks to him at length about how the church doesn’t really need Jesus anymore. And that, frankly, his return at this point is just disruptive to the overall meaning of the church. In other words, the Grand Inquisitor says that the church’s mission in preaching Jesus has become more important than Jesus himself."

Somehow this prose has resonated in many minds, the abduction perhaps of a good person in Jesus by the church and then manipulated for the purpose of power.  It must never be forgotten that the church ruled with fear and persecution, those powers are long gone.  But stop and look at the stonework of any church, or those faded paintings at Pickering church on the wall, and you realise they are there to strike terror in your heart.  Hell is a vivid image, now we play with vampires and gothic tales in our stories but in the middle ages it was a real story.  Except for the few that questioned it, but their fate was death. 
Pedro Burrugete - Saint Dominic presiding over an Auto-da-fe in the 12th century

We may well question his sainthood.  I have never looked for the saints of the Catholic church, my interest has always been in those early men of the Celtic church.  They wandered lonely with their bell and stick turning the population away from paganism towards Christianity.  The first letter that  Gregory The Great wrote in 596 AD from Rome to England, was tempered with a prudent hand...

Letter from Gregory taken to England by Mellitus;

When almighty god has brought you to our most reverend brother Bishop Augustine, tell him what I have decided after long deliberation about the English people, namely that the idol temples (fana idolurum) of that race should by no means be destroyed, but the idols in them. Take holy water and sprinkle it in these shrines, build altars and place relics in them. For if the shrines are well built, it is essential that they should be changed from the worship of devils (cultu daemonum) to the service of the true god. When these people see that their shrines are not destroyed they will be able to banish error from their hearts and be more ready to come to the places thaey are familar with, but now recognizing and worshipping the true god.

It is strange how  one sentence can bring back memories so quickly, but The Church has a lot to answer for today as well as yesterday.


  1. Your extract from Gregory the Great's letter made me think of the Rudston monolith near Bridlington. To me it represents a link to pre-Christian lives and belief systems and yet it was deliberately ensnared in a churchyard - as early Christians sought to feed upon the very lifeblood of the ancients.

    1. And yet ironically Rudstone monolith dominates the grave yard. Paul and I have discovered several churches where the 'pagan stone circle' was built atop of it. Tracing the pagan way into Christianity is interesting. Just down the road at St.Gregory's church at Kirkdale, a Saxon minster, but in the churchyard a fallen stone, which looks prehistoric.

  2. I have always felt all religions around the globe have been too misogynist. In the last few hundred years they have been captured by males with awful sexual predators or those who need their own jets to talk to God. I know this is not all religions and not all leaders within those religions, but too many for me.

  3. It all boils down to the patriachal nature of the world since the year dot. Misogny is the terrible offspring. I remember going into a church once and reading the bible which was open on the lectern. Most of the sentences included the word 'harlot', a distinct putting down of women - I was furious ;)


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