6 Comments

  1. I am really happy to see you dealing with these issues. There are so many problems when we compare the 19-20th century historical approach to the traditional way of dealing with the past. It is imperative to notice that modern science cannot accept difference of quality between spaces or between moments in time, cannot weigh an ontological difference between the truth of the crucifixion and the truth that I put on grey socks this morning. For the scientific mind, one is no more true than the other. For a Christian, the crucifixion is more true, not because it is more factual, but because it is a “higher” event, one which makes the Logos more visible. And this qualitative difference is not in the “fact” but rather in how it is part of a story, a story which is bound with the human demiurge and the capacity to see/put meaning in chaos. And so the tropes, the patterns, the “mythology” is a part, not only a part but the very essence of the “story” without which we would only have a million billion factoids like an ocean of sand blown by the wind. And the “higher” these events are, the closer they are to the Logos, the more these patterns and tropes appear. It is not just true of saints stories, but also of the Bible itself which also has dragons and heroes and babies put on rivers in baskets. And one of the reasons historians cannot believe the miraculous and the beauty of narrative patterns is because their own spiritual life is made of sock color and 2 sugars in my coffee please.

    1. Nicholas Kotar

      Thank you for the wonderful comment! It’s inspiring me to consider adding a little more in a future post about a proper Christian vision of history, taking the Crucifixion as the starting point, something Fr. John Behr does very beautifully in a recent book of his. I already got some flack for using the word mythology, and I hope that people will read your post and more fully appreciate how a Christian view of truth varies so radically from the way even many Christians think, unfortunately.

      1. I can understand why people don’t like the word “mythology”, but I think it can be used properly if explained, especially since many people today will use myth to discredit the Bible and Tradition. So since Sargon of Akkad is said to have been put on a river in a basket, then the story of Moses cannot be true since it obviously shares the same structure. Recapturing myth and the notion that the world actually unfolds and repeats those very patterns we see in stories, that the world is not, as historians would have us believe, a series of linear events connected to each other only “mechanically”. If I were to tell a historian that in the year 2013, the number of Christians who died for their faith doubled, and that at the beginning of 2014, when a boy dressed in blue and a girl dressed in red standing to the right and the left of the Pope of Rome let two doves fly away as a sign of peace, that those two doves were attacked by both a white and a black bird, the historian would tell me that it is a myth. And he would be right.

  2. Vladimir Saemmler-Hindrichs

    Dear in-XC Nicholas! An excellent article, and a topic I frequently have to explain by pointing out that biography and hagiography are two aspects of the same saint. They have differing missions, and it’s quite acceptable to work with both as long as we don’t get confused. I noticed the Cross Between the Antlers comments, and wanted to know if you were aware that the same legend is also repeated for Saint Hubert of the Ardennes? It is of course also the trademark of Jaegermeister, a German herb cordial, and recalls a tradition amon Germanic hunters, which I still had the privilege of participating in myself, of proffering your first kill to God by dipping your fingers into the wound and marking the sign of the Cross on the area between the antlers in blood. Anyway, may I have permission to republish this essay on our Antiquariat Hindrichs page on Facebook? Please look at it.

    In anticipation of Great Lent
    Vladimir

    1. Nicholas Kotar

      Dear Vladimir,
      Thank you! Feel free to republish it, absolutely.

  3. One of the best apologies I have read for the lives of saints is a quote attributed to Count de Maistre and is used as an introduction to “A Child’s Book of Saints” by William Canton (it is public domain and easily found online.)

    “A saint, whose very name I have forgotten, had a vision, in which he saw Satan standing before the throne of God; and, listening, he heard the evil spirit say, ‘Why hast Thou condemned me, who have offended Thee but once, whilst Thou savest thousands of men who have offended Thee many times?” God answered him, ‘Hast thou once asked pardon of me?’
    Behold the Christian mythology! It is the dramatic truth, which has its worth and effect independently of the literal truth, and which even gains nothing by being fact. What matter whether the saint had or had not heard the sublime words which I have just quoted! The great point is to know that pardon is refused only to him who does not ask it.”

    Or to paraphrase a contemporary author, Neil Gaiman, “all the stories of the saints are true, some just didn’t happen.”

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