As we inch closer to the end of Lent, the stakes in our Lent Madness matchups get higher and the decisions get harder.
I missed writing on yesterday’s match of Blandina vs Brendan of Clonfert, and sad as I am to see an Irish saint of legend go down to defeat, I wasn’t surprised that he lost to Blandina. I just finished listening to an interview with Tom Holland, the historian who wrote a cracking book on the history of Christianity called Dominion (you should read this book this summer). I put the link to the interview below.
Holland cited Blandina as one of the most influential saints and models of holiness in the Christian faith. One point he made is that while Blandina’s noble Christian mistress also perished in the persecution, history doesn’t remember her name, whereas we know the name of her slave, Blandina. That says something about the appeal of Christianity to slaves, a class that through all of the ancient world, were considered more as livestock than as humans.
Holland’s second point, and this applies to Jonathan Daniels as well, is that suffering and pain in Christianity become meaningful, and even noble, when it suffering is considered an imitation of Christ. While we all hear sermons about the call to take up our cross and follow Jesus, only martyrs actually do it. So any Lent Madness matchup, however silly and educational they maybe, that features an actual martyr, triggers our most profound emotions as Christians.
Jonathan Daniels may not have started his Christian life choosing to seek a martyr’s crown, but he willingly put himself in a place and position where he received that honour. The Civil Rights era was a time when some American white churches, particularly Anglicans (Episcopalians), chose to stand beside their African American brothers and sisters. Some, like Daniels, could have made a token gesture of youthful solidarity and then spent the rest of their clerical careers in some privileged church. Daniels saw Christ in Selma and chose to follow his saviour and his cross to go back there.
With all reverence to Bakhtia, I think the martyr will win today’s match.
Blessed be their memories. Vote here.
51: Tom Holland on the Christian History of Pain
How did the crucifixion of Jesus change how humanity thinks about suffering? Peter Mommsen speaks with the well-known historian about the way that Christianity challenged and transformed classical ideas about suffering and the good life. They discuss the contrast between the story of Laocoön and of the crucifixion of Saint Peter, as portrayed in two contrasting artworks in the Vatican. Then they discuss the nature of crucifixion, how pain was seen by the Romans, and the utterly subversive way in which Christianity transformed the understanding of suffering in the West. They talk about why it took so long for it to become common to portray Jesus suffering on the cross in Christian art, and how late medieval understandings of the self and the body contributed to this, and explore the ways that contemporary political movements incorporate Christian ideas outside of the context of Christianity. Finally, they look at the lives of several exemplary Christians, whose lives of redemptive suffering in imitation of Christ make no sense except under the paradigm of the Christian transformation of the meaning of suffering.
Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-ploughcast/id1555276343?i=1000605273687