Tag Archives: Plato

The Community of Believers

Pentecost

Today’s first reading at Mass describes the early Christian community in glowing terms: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own but they had everything in common. With great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.(Act 4, 32-37)

This description of community and an earlier one from Acts 2, 33-47 are important sources for Catholic social teaching and have influenced Christians over the centuries in their thinking  about community–whether it’s the world community, the community of the church, the parish, or the family. Religious communities especially are driven by this ideal. 

In a society like ours where so much wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of so few, where excessive individualism is so strong, this ideal is surely worth considering. 

A note in the New American Bible, however, cautions that Luke is painting a “somewhat idyllic” picture of the early Christian community. Idyllic means idealized, even unsustainable. In other words, given human nature, the early Christian community never measured up altogether to the picture Luke paints.

The commentator Luke Timothy Johnson suggests Luke’s glowing picture might be influenced by the Hellenistic writers of his time– like Plato–who describes the early days of Athens as a time when “none of its members possessed any private property but they regarded all they had as the common possession of all.” Early writers also also put great stock in friendship; people of “one heart and mind become builders of community. ” (The Acts of the Apostles. Sacra Pagina, Collegeville, Min 1992 p. 62)

In reading Luke’s description of the Christian community, then, we need to avoid the temptation to look for utopias. We can’t expect perfect communities anywhere. They don’t exist here on earth. Nor should we think they existed in the past and all has gone downhill since. That’s  “Golden Age” thinking.

At the same time, though, we can’t give up on the ideal Luke presents and say it’s unreal. It’s an ideal to be aimed at, a norm to measure ourselves and the communities we belong to. Not to strive for Luke’s ideal is to lose faith in the mystery of the resurrection. Jesus taught us to pray”Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” We have to pray for and work for God’s kingdom to come now, here and now.

Friday Thoughts: School of Athens

by Howard Hain
Raphael School of Athens Vatican Museum

Raphael, “School of Athens”, 1509-11, Vatican Museums, Raphael’s Rooms, Room of the Segnatura


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I see you there

Somewhere near the back

Hiding

Thinking no one can see

A priest

A prophet

A king to be

———

Socrates?

A profile

Like the head on a coin

Another good man

Snubbed for what he knows

Can’t see your face

Not fully

Say the least

Though perhaps

We too would die

A drop of hemlock

Is hard to swallow

———

Like that fine-feathered friend

All philosophers are

Little birds

Not too fat to fly

Aerial feeders

Circumventing the globe

Following truth

Wherever it go

———

Plato?

Yes

Now you

We see for sure

After all

Like a son

You and Socrates

Your father figure

Setting up shop

Hanging out

A common shingle

Hard to distinguish

In fact

The fiction

Son from Pop

One generation

Stumbles upon truth

The next

All about father’s business

Selling sovereignty

The sovereignty of Good

Not by peddling answers

By asking simple questions

———

Aristotle?

Yes

He made the frame

The third person

The younger brother of sorts

In some sense

Stealing the show

A third amigo

A sort of philosophic trinity

Aristotle the great

Teaching emperors to be

A bright bronze star

Mentioned last

Never least

A meta-physician

Looking not to the past

He expanded business

Once Plato left the scene

Pointing the way

He thought it should go

Down to earth

Keep it real

Hover low

Eyes on substance

On the truth below

———

Quite a team

These three musketeers

Sharp whiskers

Well-trained tongues

Doubled-edged swords

Wielded about

In universal hands

Yet many others

Names we might know

The great wall of knowledge

An army

To remain

The great unknown

———

Truth

Beauty

The noble pursuit

Lady Wisdom

Her many lovers

And each takes her as his own

A cloud of witnesses

Testifying one truth

The Communion of Saints

Under a different kind of roof

———

Look at that structure

Who built the arch?

It overrides

Every branch of the tree

If colored

It’d be a rainbow

Yes

That once great sign

Now brought so low

Meant so much

Primary color

Fragmented light

Quite a choice

Magic marker

Cross the sky

God’s endless love of life

A sacrament

One might say

A sign

As natural as natural can be

The offspring of union

A pledge

A covenant

A promise

The kind that brings new life

Adam

Then Eve

Woman created

From the lonely side of man

To lovers

Of such wisdom

Truth is clear

The rainbow redeemed

It will once more

Point to the sun

After yet another storm

The fullness of noon

Its rightful place

Where nothing disordered

Continues to loom

———

Welcome home

Child of wonder

Come on in

The water’s warm

Jump high

Up over the frame

Roman columns

Marble floor

Robes in many shades

Your heart

Away from home

Bring nothing more

Leave your sandals

At the door

A burning bush

Holy ground

Children at play

A clubhouse of truth

Safe and sound

Slides and swings

Monkey bars

Hang on tight

Hold on loose

No possessions

Got to share

Acts

Appreciation

Sons of liberty

Daughters of revolution

The mulberry tree

What’s that?

Your degree?

Of such things

We just don’t care

———

Poetry

Completely still

Motion

In dialogue

Statues

Alive

Silent features

Arch

And texture

Every detail

All one view

Did you hear?

Have you seen?

The latest

No not the news

What’s truly new

Not the fleeting

Nor the slice

Not cutting edge

What’s new is old

All under the sun

Originality

Yesterday

Genesis just begun

Just a few rules

Keep perspective

A frame

If you will

A type of kind

Boundless

Creativity

Yes

But not for sale

Bring what’s prized

Not the least

Only one item

The book of life

———

God became man

Truly human

Not veneer

Truth among us

Not to abolish

Bring to fullness

Humanistic pursuit

The glory of God

Made manifest

In man’s pursuit

Of God Himself

———

Jesus

In disguise

The philosopher’s cloak

Reaching upward

To shake His own hand

At the right side

God the Father


Raphael School of Athens 1509-1511.jpg

Raphael, “School of Athens”, 1509-11, Vatican Museums, Raphael’s Rooms, Room of the Segnatura

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http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/stanze-di-raffaello/stanza-della-segnatura/scuola-di-atene.html