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August 5, 2020 / Fantelius

The Raw Saint

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“The devil dares not meet her because he’s afraid she’ll convert him.”
That’s what the people said about young Catherine. She spoke mildly from a contagious smile and her words had the power of cool water on a thirsty mind.

The sun shone with gentle warmth holding the breeze to an easy stride. Alexandria, a pearl among the decadent cities of the Roman Empire, seemed proud that Cate walked on its stone-clad streets. It was early in the year 305.

The sounds of the marching soldiers could barely be heard from the square where Catherine was helping to unload vegetables from a cart. Soldiers were a common feature of the city’s landscape, but as these marchers approached, the amplitude and tact of their steps sounded a threatening beat. They had come directly from the boat now rocking lightened in the harbor. They had come from Emperor Galerius.

Hate flowed through the veins of Galerius and the Christians caused the hatred to boil. Despite discrimination, harassment and oppression, not to mention the many martyrs, (those who suffered death rather then abandon their faith), Christian communities had grown in size and influence throughout the Empire. Enough! decided Galerius and initiated what would become known as The Great Persecution. The decision was formalized a little over a year earlier. The Christians would acknowledge obedience to Rome or reap the consequences. “They’ll obey me or feed the lions”, Galerius said.

Someone must have pointed Catherine out. Two of the soldiers grabbed and threw her violently into a cage on a wagon while the other soldiers formed a ring to keep the citizens, the “vulgari”, at bay. A man who took a step forward to protest was unceremoniously cut down.

Catherine was imprisoned. Her influential family could not do anything about it. When she would not disavow her god and acknowledge the emperor, she was tied to a large wagon wheel and tortured. For days. Her limbs were smashed. When it was evident that her spirit couldn’t be broken, she was beheaded. The Great Persecution had made it greatest example.

Six years later Galerius declared the Edict of Toleration. Christians were free to practice their religion. No further suppression, persecution or harassment would occur.

Whoa! What happened here? How could a man who but a year earlier was still spitting hatred suddenly turn tolerant? He didn’t. He was defeated and was trying to save face. The Edict of Toleration was a declaration of surrender. The Christians, the raw Christians, had defeated the Roman Empire. The Christians and their supporters had forced the emperor to back off.

Not only had the Christian communities been growing everywhere, they were surrounded by supporters, sympathizers and admirers. The communities of raw Cristians supplied each others needs, shared responsibility and helped the needy. As the persecutions spread, so did resistance. The Romans couldn’t get supplies. Services were unavailable. Ships couldn’t get loaded or unloaded. Repairs couldn’t be made and materials couldn’t be found. Many soldiers sympathized with the Christians and some even claimed to be Christian themselves. Orders were not obeyed. Garrisons mutinied. The rulers were fighting among themselves and could not count on logistics. Galerius was defeated. The Edict of Toleration formalized the capitulation. What began as an attempt to force the Christians to respect the authority of Rome ended with no one respecting Rome’s authority.

The other emperors or emperor pretenders were leaning toward the Christians for support. Constantine went all in. He moved the capital from Rome to Byzantium which he renamed Constantinople. It was closer to the main concentration of Christians, who he not only tolerated but supported, claimed to be Christian himself and eventually made it the official religion of the empire.

Saint Catherine was betrayed. Constantine not only helped the Christians, he helped himself take command of Christianity. For 300 years the raw Christians had turned their backs on the rulers of the empire and took responsibility to support each other. When they were at their strongest and could defeat the efforts of the empire to command their obedience, they gave their victory to the enemy, the emperor—because he was helping them—and began to subject themselves to royal authority.

The raw Christians were responsible to God alone. God now became something to believe in, but responsibility was delegated to the rulers. Proper Christianity could begin.

After note: The winners/rulers write history. Therefore the struggle and victory of the raw Christians doesn’t appear in history books and Galerius appears to be a saint of tolerance, while Saint Catherine doesn’t appear at all.

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”History shows us definite patterns hiding other patterns locked away with rusting steel.”

Dartwill Aquila

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PalestineMap

The West Bank is now the Judea-Samaria area.

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