Thursday, September 16, 2010

Monkeying with Cornelius and Cyprian

Cornelius: Fine name for a monkey.
Today's Saints are Cornelius and Cyprian. Both men were Christian bishops and lived in the 3rd century. They worked hard to preserve the tradition of the Faith under Roman persecution. At that time, Rome had not recognized Christianity's validity so it was a continual battle of pope's popping up, emperor's knocking them down. Whack-a-pope.

Christians could only take so much and many under persecution left the Faith and became practitioners (under duress) of Roman religions. Most likely, they worshiped the same "god" the emperor worshiped. Later the emperor, Diocletian, was chased out by the Goths.

The Goths sorta helped save the Christians! Well met, Soulcry Faustus!
The Christians began to reform and the bishops had some decisions to make. Some bishops decided to let all the Christians back into the faith, no questions asked. Just come home. A gimme.
Others, most famously Novatian, decided that these Christians had no way back into the Church since they left it. The only remedy would be re-baptism, which was not popular among Christians (later a heresy).
Finally, Cornelius with the support of his friend, Cyprian had a middle path. The Christians could come back to the Church by practicing penance and receiving forgiveness from the Church.

The anti-Spock wore a goatee.
A synod (sort of a "chapter meeting") of bishops met and decided that Cornelius' plan was the best and they elected him pope. Novatian was outraged that his idea didn't fly, so he made himself the anti-pope. History doesn't say if the anti-pope was the evil mirror image of the pope or wore a goatee to show he's the DARK ONE.

But he did cause some problems. Later, rebaptism was decided to be against the principles of the Faith and we would many years later include "one baptism" in our creed. So there.
Unofficial depiction of Novatian's reaction to rebaptism's rejection
Oddly enough, we still have battles over the Church's exercise of mercy and forgiveness. We have some priests and bishops who don't attend to the lost and just let the church use a swinging door policy. In my opinion, it's a lazy approach and not much good.

There are others who think that coming back to the church should be a painful, humiliating process and hard to endure. Like Wipe Out. Mean, mean, mean.

Then there's the Church's normal path: Reconciliation, penance and return. Just think of anytime you've left someone you loved or something you cared for, you probably did penance to return. Like watching endless playings of "The Notebook" to makeup for the times you ignored your girlfriend to watch Monday Night Football or the dues you had to pay to get the boot off your car in front of the Union.
Even though the penance is tough, the return is worth it. And thank God our Church has always been heavier on return than penance!
Cornelius and Cyprian f'r reelz. Not monkeys.