Sunday, January 16, 2011

Corinthian Me.

God help me, too often I really think that I am the most interesting man in the world -I can not understand why someone might not vote exactly as I do, weep when I demand that poverty vanish, wealth be redistributed - to me - genocide end everywhere, famine vanish, and Rawhide get its own dedicated television network - with an odd treat of Have Gun Will Travel now and then. I am an American! I am a Corinthian!

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sos'thenes,
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:1-3

Today, is the first Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Catholic liturgical year. This 2011 secular year, started off as a real beaut - a tanked economy, a polarized government, two wars, understaffed police and fire departments, the reversal of Al Gore's warm planet, a mad man's slaughter of innocent people and the immediate libel of the facts by the media and political creeps.

Well, the liturgical year leads off with St. Paul's 1st Epistle to the Corinthians - Paul is said to have written four epistles to the folks in Corinth*, but only two are part of the orthodox canon. One is missing and the third letter to the Corinthians might be suspect.

Father Gallagher's homily at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on the south side of Chicago focused on Corinth. It was a luxuriously important port city on the peninsula that links Attic (capitol Athens) and Peloponnesian ( capitol Sparta) Greece in the Roman Empire of the Julio/Claudian Emperors. Corinth was a cross-road of cultures, commerce, criminals, cults, and courtesans - it was a port city and loaded with hookers: " Indeed, one of the Greek verbs for fornicate was korinthiazomai,a word derived from the city's name. Apparently this estimation was based on Strabo's report of 1,000 sacred prostitutes in the temple of Aphrodite on the Acrocorinth, an 1886-foot hill that rises above the city to the south." The Greek language was the lingua franca of the place and time and St. Paul was Greek speaking Roman Citizen Jew. He had the gold card of cultural and political authority.

Corinth was the San Francisco of the Roman World - anything went. The Emperor Cult dedicated to Nero was centered here and like our daffy dumbbells on MSNBC and the New York Times - the Chief Executive was worshipped as a Messianic Personality. The Cult of Personality and Celebrity was Corinthian before EXTRA and Vanity Fair. The Corinthians were chic and clever and wealthy - they had the universe by the short and curlies.

In fact, the Corinthians were much like Americans - they were "Well, who's to say-ers." American Jews and Christians since WWII, its seems to me, have been bending like pretzels to become Unitarians -nondescript secularists. Doctrine and tradition are too garlicky and Old World. We want to be Corinthians - Arugula eating Hep Cats.

We have turned our backs on Truths as being too "close-knit and ethnic" whether it be fish on Friday, same sex marriage, or the life of an unborn child. "Who's to say?"

I don't want to be a Corinthian, but I am often to cowardly to hand in my passport. I still believe that what I want is what matters. It ain't.

By the way, what did-in the ancient city of Corinth was a huge earthquake

* When Paul arrived in 51 CE, the Corinth he saw was little more than 100 years old, but was five times as large as Athens and the capital of the province. Ancient Corinth, the original Corinth, founded in the 10th Century BCE, had been the richest port and the largest city in ancient Greece. Strategically located guarding the narrow isthmus that connects the Peloponnesus (as southern Greece is called) to the mainland, it was a powerful commercial center near two seaports only 4 miles apart. Lechaeum, the western harbor in the Corinthian Gulf was the trading port to Italy and Sicily, and Cenchreae, the eastern harbor in the Saronic Gulf, was the port for the eastern Mediterranean countries. Periander (ca. 625-585 BCE) had constructed a five foot wide rock-cut tract (Gk. diolkos) for wheeling small ships and their unloaded cargo from one gulf to the other. By 400 BCE, a double wall ran from the city to Lechaeum to protect a two mile rock paved street, about 40' wide, leading to the port. . . .It's easy to see why Paul chose Corinth as headquarters for his mission to the west. The city was young, dynamic, not hidebound by tradition, a mix of dislocated individuals without strong ethnic identities seeking to shed their former low status by achieving social honor and material success. Paul was not intimidated by a big, bustling, cosmopolitan hub city, with no dominant religious or intellectual tradition, for Corinth shared many characteristics with Tarsus, his home town, and Syrian Antioch, his home church city. The heart of the city, the forum, was filled with temples and shrines to the emperor and various members of his family, built alongside temples to the older Greek gods such as Apollo. Apollo's son, Asklepios, the god of healing, had a shrine there as well as at Epidaurus, the ancient site of miracle healings, about 50 miles southeast.


Geezer said...

Bravo Patrick!
Excellent explanation of the times and street scenes the average parishoner is unlikely to get in a homily.
You might have selected Richardo Monteblan (sp?) (--Fine Corinthian leather-- a material hard to find),
but I howl at this guy too.
Stay thirsty, my friend!

The Powers That Be said...

You may notice Paul wrote "to those sanctified in Christ Jesus" not "to those made clean by a third party." Only Christ can make us clean and forgive our sin. Father Whomever, the Pope, and your neighbor Mr. Harris don't have that power.