HE TODAY THAT SHEDS HIS BLOOD WITH ME SHALL BE MY BROTHER, BE HE NE’ER SO VILE

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I have had many loves in my long life.  First and foremost has been my love our  our Lord, Jesus Christ and his Church.  Among the many lesser loves I can count my love of the English language, complex and rich in its roots in so many other languages of the world.  I love the content and style of the writings of one of its greatest masters, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (aka William Shakespeare).  I love the intellect and wit of Father George W. Rutler.  His reflection on the feast of Saints Crispin and Cripinian today has prompted this confession.  Here it is:

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The late Danish pianist and wit, Victor Borge, said that his father and uncle were identical twins, but he was not sure which was the identical one. Of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, we know only that they were twins, possibly only fraternal. They preached the Gospel to the Gauls, supporting themselves by working nights as shoemakers. Around the year 286, the governor Rictius Varus tried to drown them, and when that failed they were beheaded. Shakespeare put their names on the lips of the 29-year-old King Henry V rallying his outnumbered troops at Agincourt:

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.

In life’s daily spiritual battle, Christ promises to ennoble us as his brothers, once we offer our lives to Him. To initiate this process, He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). We speak with deceptive ease of the Word becoming flesh, but it was an astonishing condescension. In 1915 Franz Kafka published a story, Die Verwandlung, or The Metamorphosis, about a salesman who turns into an insect. His agony is that his words cannot be understood by those around him. The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was more degrading than that, though the divine Love made it an act of beauty. Only love can understand the voice of the Incarnate Word: “His own people did not accept him, but to those who did accept Him, He gave power to become children of God” (John 1: 11-12). In various expressions, the early Fathers taught what Clement of Alexandria said in a startling way: “The Logos of God became man so that you might learn from a man how a man may become God.” Lest this be misunderstood, Athanasius explains: “We are sons, not as the Son, as gods, not as He Himself.” Our godliness is by grace, not nature: “not in essence but in sonship, which we shall partake from Him.”

This month of All Saint celebrates holiness not as a spectator sport, like fans cheering the holy souls from the bleachers and then saying, “We won!” Those who only observe from the sidelines the spiritual battles in which our culture is now engaged, would be like those who were not at Agincourt.

(They) shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

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Not everyone is privileged to shed his blood in martyrdom in giving witness to Jesus Christ, but we all are given many opportunities to die to self in giving witness to Jesus Christ and thus merit becoming brother to Our Lord through his Grace.


About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
This entry was posted in JESUS CHRIST, MAN, MIRACLE OF GRACE, SANCTITY, WITNESS TO THE TRUTH and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to HE TODAY THAT SHEDS HIS BLOOD WITH ME SHALL BE MY BROTHER, BE HE NE’ER SO VILE

  1. Curt Stoller says:

    What you say about God’s amazing condescension is so true, your Grace! It is so easy to forget that God is Infinite. It is so easy to lose that sense. A theology teacher once asked me: “Are the sonnets in Shakespeare’s mind more real or less than the ones He put on paper?” Destroy the paper and the sonnets live on in the artist’s mind. God doesn’t need to create us in order to know us any more than Shakespeare needs the paper sonnets. Every perfection on earth is already in God. He calls us out of nothingness out of love. He keeps us from lapsing back into nothingness at each nanosecond because of love. He could create the universe, destroy it and recreate it in an instant. He held Adam and Eve above the abyss of nothingness when they said their “no” to Him. And as you say, the Incarnation, the Hypostatic Union…there are no words to convey: the Infinite taking on human flesh to save us. Sad that the sense of the Godness of God is being lost. Too many unbelievers teaching theology nowadays!

  2. Ignatius Martinus says:

    The metaphor here used, that of a salesman who becomes an insect and who discovers that he is unable to express to his fellow insects his thoughts and words using the insects’ “language”, made me think about God’s love for me, for us, and that there is no way we can fully grasp its sheer magnitude and intensity. Abyssum, bless you for this great post. Thanks!

    – Ignatius

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