Sunday, December 25, 2011

St John's Feast in Narnia

Ad ostendendam quandam veritatem

On december 27, Tuesday, Susan was still in Narni.

She went to the mass, and a sermon was spoken on the subject.

It was a sermon on St John the Gospeller. He had under Domitian been martyred by boiling in oil, and when that miraculously failed to kill him, he was exiled on Patmos. There he had the visions known as the Apocalypse. Emperor Nerva "who was from this very city, which back then was called Narnia" released him from the exile. He became bishop of Ephesus, where he wrote his Gospel because the three Gospels already written were being abusively interpreted by Ebionites (there were still a few around, they claimed to be Jews and Christians at one and same time although this was when the Rabbinic Synod of Jamnia - the priest pronounced it Giamnia in Italian - had excommunicated from the "people of Israel" or "Church of Israel" - Church really means people or people's assembly - everyone who wanted to be a Christian). Then he went on to speak about the Apocalypse a bit closer:

There are people who say that visions are part of nature, like dreams. Always, like dreams are always part of nature too. Visions would be part of human nature when challenged by great fatigue and other kinds of exhaustion. Just as dreams are part of human nature when sleeping or at least when sleeping certain periods of the night. But this is not true. Even for dreams it is not true, since dreams have been given inerring messages from God, like the dreams of Pharao or of Nebuchadnezzar, which Joseph and Daniel interpreted. So even for dreams this is not true, but still less of the vision of St John. This is reducing the vision of St John to a traumatic reflex, which it was not.

At least it was not only that, although after being boiled in oil, he had reason to be traumatised in body and soul. But if we believe he was boiled in oil and survived by miracle, we believe also that he was spared traumatism and that his visions were a gift of God, that they were without any error. Now, we also do not know whether he was taken in body to another world created by God for that purpose or to another dimension of this world, where his visions were physical reality, or whether only his mind was given the vision. But there are indications his body was or might have been concerned too.

Like when he tried to bow down to an angel - and since he was a priest the angel recognised him as a superior and refused to recieve his honour, as I already said on Corpus Christi a few months ago. Whether it was the one or the other, we know that it was for the showing forth of certain truths. Receiving a vision is not utilitarian as it is utilitarian to see the toasted bread you want to eat or the fire you do not put your hand in. But it is not a pathology, or not always, and in this case it was a rare gift of God.

You may guess who was listening extra intently in the benches to these words.

The priest went on to cite Sister Lucy from Narnia whose relics had been transferred to Narni in 1935. She was visited by another saint through bilocation, while isolated in a cell on penance - during 39 years, from 1505 to 1544. Also San Simeone della Colonna - "Stilita" in Greek - visited or was visited by Santa Genoveva di Parigi, and San Francesco di Assisi (Saint Francis of Assisi, thought Susan, quite correctly) and Santa Chiara (Saint Clare, whoever that was, equally correctly) met through heavenly intervention.

But this is supposed to remind us - said the priest - of the Eucharist. So does another miracle of St John: when he lay down in the grave he had digged for himself, on the day His Lord - who is in fact Our Lord - had told him so, there shone a light through all the room, and when it passed, the grave did not contain his body, but manna, the nourishing substance which during the Old Testament had prefigured the Eucharist.

And he set forth, after mass, the Sacrament, and it was adored. And Susan whispered: "Is that you, Aslan?" and somewhere in her heart, she heard a clear yes.