One of the most intriguing passages of the Old Testament. Antiochus, king of Persia fails in his military campaigns. Having heard the news, he falls ill, and on his deathbed makes a striking confession. Actually, it is a striking apology for what he had done.
‘And I thought with myself, Into what tribulation am I come, and how great a flood, of misery is it, wherein now I am! For I was bountiful and beloved in my power. But now I remember the evils I did at Jerusalem, and that I took all the vessels of gold and sliver that were therein, and sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judea without a cause.’
Carl G. Jung speaks of a collective unconscious of humankind. In biblical terms, we can speak of collective relatedness and inter-dependence in salvation history. We (all) are part of a collective ‘sacred psyche’ in terms of responsibility. King Antiochus realised this, that he had sinned against God’s ‘sacred covenant of Israel’.
Saint Paul, from a Christian perspective, confirms this universal responsibility. God created us in the image of his son, Jesus Christ ‘neither Greek nor Jew’. This is a positive affirmation of our (all) participation in salvation history.
What conclusions can be drawn for today? First, our abuse of the sacred calls for conversion, to pay ‘compensation’ and make a repair. The ‘Sacred’ here stands for the values of life, the meaning of life itself.
There is a second conclusion, which we can draw on this universal perspective, which is worth meditating upon. We Christians, when facing the rapid growth of ‘secularisation’, the abandoning of organized religion and its effects, are trying to explain it. Without much success. Consumption, industry, secular politics, etc. are blamed.
King Antiochus’ story offers, perhaps, a deeper insight. The decline of faith in God (and Christ as Redeemer) has to do with violence. This is killing fellow human beings on a mass scale, what has been happening today, has the most devastating effect on faith. Killing leads to the inner destruction of the human (God-related) soul. It destroys the capacity to believe.
There seems to be a collective fall, a breaking down of our ability to the Sacred and Revelation in our culture. Let us take it seriously for a moment. What if it is killing (murder) that blocks our vision of God, our ability to pray and worship? And if this connection exists, what about remaining silent about ‘the Antiochus’ at the heart of our culture?
Serving a black community in Grahame Park more and more often makes me think about this connection. African people, have retained a vibrant faith. For them, believing is natural. I cannot exclude the connection, that the reason they managed to preserve their faith in the Sacred is that they, for generations, were not involved in the ‘violent colonisation’ of the world (based on murderous war-campaigns.) This was the ‘expertise’ of white people. The question is, how long can they persevere in their ability to connect with the Lord. As no one is an island.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..