Getting Out of the Catacombs
Reading the newspapers, talking to acquaintances, watching the news… It seems that my life takes place inside a catacomb. They still exist in the 21st century, but they are no longer physical but existential. Everyday less people visit them. They are almost empty. From those fractions of land built under the surface, hidden places of worship, labyrinthine cemeteries, community sites, from there truth must resurface, as before, as always. What is the truth?
The State Religion
Polytheistic and imperial Rome from Nero to Constantine persecuted the rebellious and illegal Christian sect to assassinate them or make them apostatize from their beliefs on pain of execution. The State was the highest moral and religious authority, and no superstition was welcome.
Christian monotheism collided head-on with Roman syncretism. Christians were accused of being stateless and traitors to the supreme good of the empire and its public religious expression.
The response of the seditionary brotherhood was to hide rather than face inevitable defeat against the political and military might of the largest empire known to History. Prudence and confidence regulated the furtive exchanges of the believers; the followers of that man called the Christ.
To the Lions!
The second century takes place in the Italian countryside. It is a Sunday of a closed winter night, without a moon. There are no torches in the streets. Only the glow of Rome in the distance. It’s cold and it’s snowing. Everything is complete darkness and utter gloom. The hearth of the house heats and lights. The family is together eating at the table. The father wants to go out to the catacombs. Everything around invites him to stay locked up. It is not necessary to go out, someone will tell him the next day who spoke and what he said. It is better to stay in the comfort of the Sunday home.
The father of the family, sitting near the warmth of the fireplace, ruminates on the concerns that keep him awake while he goes through the slow and warm night. He wonders to himself ‘Is it worth going out? Who would he do it for? Who do you serve? What is the truth?’ Those questions change everything and make him wake up from the drowsiness of warmth and comfort. He must get on his way, get out of his house, out of himself and go beyond the cold, the snow, the darkness and the uncertainty.
The way is the Via Appia. Being apprehended has an inexorable consequence, being devoured by beasts in the Colosseum.
Arise from the Earth
Every person needs to come back to the soil of the Earth. It is necessary to do it voluntarily before being carried away by loved ones in a funeral coffin. Returning to mud is returning to the origin. Restarting from the beginning requires humility (humilis which in turn comes from humus, clay). It seems that people must smear themselves with humility to find answers from the ground, the only and immutable truth that speaks from below, and walk on it with a trusting gaze and small steps.
The male and female were brought forth from the earth. The son of God was born from the bowels of the earth, among cattle and rocks. If the first peoples and God came out of the earth, isn’t that a clear reason to be reborn from humility?
To be reborn is not only to feel the caress of the soaked grass with bare feet, but to voluntarily bury oneself completely in the earth. Whoever wants to resurface needs to love it with soul, life and heart. To achieve purification, total cleansing from errors, we will first have to get completely dirty. We will have to go deep, without saving anything or sparing efforts.
The destination is Heaven, but the beginning seems to be on the way to and from the catacombs. The road is not without risks and dangers. Wild beasts, thieves and murderers, and Roman soldiers swarm the intermediate world between the bowels of the Earth and the gates of Heaven.
The world was always dangerous for one or the other. The pendulum keeps swinging back and forth. He who is safe today may be in danger tomorrow.
But when a person is at the service of the vital mission, of the truth, he does not fear anything and sets out resolutely in duty. But what is the truth?
Men were losing confidence of yesteryear that God sees everything they do, no matter how small. They stopped believing in the process to focus on the result. Hardly anyone wants to give their life for a job (or an ideal) that they may never see completed during their lifetime. Few show up every day to work on something that surpasses them and perhaps they don’t understand. Making personal sacrifices without expecting recognition day after day is no longer an option in life.
Showing up for a job they’ll never see finished, for something their names won’t be on. There are very few people left willing to sacrifice for something beyond themselves. Very few.
One certainty remains for those who still believe. God says: ‘I see you. You are not invisible. No sacrifice is too small for me. I see each and every one of your tiny efforts and I smile with each one of them. I see every tear, every smile, every failure, every joy.
To live is to build something that goes beyond oneself, of one’s own existence, which will not end during the years on Earth. But if each person builds it and does it well, enjoying the process, God will say: ‘That’s great, friend! I will live there with you.’
Humility, returning to earth, rising from it, always is and was the answer. Who do you work for? Who do you sacrifice for? For the Truth.
- *Inspired by The Invisible Woman (Nicole Johnson)