Friday, September 13, 2013

Invincible What?

There's  game show on TV--Family Feud, maybe?--where contestants had to come up with answers that matched  the answers of other contestants on their team. Being right was more a matter of consensus that absolute correctness.
If a question on this show was "Name three things that could be described as 'invincible' ", I could guess what some popular answers might be.  Things like "strength"  "armies" "power" or "fortress" would be high on the list.

Do you think anyone would pair "invincible" with words like "kindness", "gentleness" or "patience"? Not likely. But this morning's prayer at mass and at the conclusion of the Office of Readings refers to St. John Chrysostom's "invincible patience". The juxtapostion of these two words strikes me every year when I read it.

One tends to think of "invincible" as a word associated with the strength and action of a warrior. It means, more or less, "unconquerable".   Whereas patience is a virtue that strikes us as somehow passive. (The old translation calls it "patient endurance", which reinforces the passive aspect, compared to that wonderfully aggressive word, "invincible." One more reason in favor of the new translsation--it's vocabulary is just heftier.)  Anyway, this has given me one more insight about spiritual warfare. Like Jesus on the cross (and I should say, through and with Jesus on the cross, we frustrate the designs of Satan through virtues that might look like weakness to the world, but are really sources of great power.

O God, strength of those who hope in you,
who willed that the Bishop John Chrysostom
should be illustrious by his wonderful eloquence
and his experience of suffering,
grant us, we pray,
that, instructed by his teachings,
we may be strengthened through the example
of his invincible patience.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.