Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Virtuous Pastor and Trials

Well, usually I begin a post with an excerpt from our Seneca's writings, but this time I'd like to preface the excerpt instead.

I am a pastor, but surely every Christian is beset on every side by trial and difficulty without and within. For Jesus himself said, "In this world you will have many troubles," and elsewhere, "no student is above his master... if the master of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!" Who isn't sorely tempted by every proffered escape from such struggle as we endure who would be faithful to our Lord? With such thoughts in mind I do not now presume to interpret or apply Seneca's wisdom, but only to commend the following to you in time of trial as a sort of discipline of reason alongside all encouragement of the true Faith.


Therefore let the highest good mount to a place from which no force can drag it down, where neither pain nor hope nor fear finds access, nor does any other thing that can lower the authority of the highest good; but Virtue alone is able to mount to that height. We must follow her footsteps to find that ascent easy; bravely will she stand, and she will endure whatever happens, not only patiently, but even gladly; she will know that every hardship that time brings comes by a law of Nature, and like a good soldier she will submit to wounds, she will count her scars, and, pierced by darts, as she dies she will love him for whose sake she falls - her commander; she will keep in mind that old injunction, "Follow God!" But whoever complains and weeps and moans, is compelled by force to obey commands, and, even though he is unwilling is rushed none the less to the bidden tasks. But what madness to prefer to be dragged rather than to follow! As much so, in all faith, as it is great folly and ignorance of one's lot to grieve because of some lack or some rather bitter happening, and in like manner to be surprised or indignant at those ills that befall the good no less than the had - I mean sickness and death and infirmities and all the other unexpected ills that invade human life. All that the very constitution of the universe obliges us to suffer, must be borne with high courage. This is the sacred obligation by which we are bound - to submit to the human lot, and not to be disquieted by those things which we have no power to avoid. We have been born under a monarchy; to obey God is freedom. (Seneca's On the Happy Life, xvi.5-7)

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