DE SPECTACULIS (Continued)
10) Let us pass on to the stage plays. Their origin we have shown to be the same, the divine titles they bear identical, since they were called (ludi) from the very beginning, and were exhibited in conjunction with equestrian displays. Their equipment on that side is parallel. The path to the theatre is from the temples and the altars, from that miserable mess of incense and blood, to the tune of flutes and trumpets; and the masters of ceremonies are those two all-polluted adjuncts of funeral and sacrifice, the undertaker and the soothsayer, So, as we turned from the origins of the games to the shows of the circus, now e will turn to the plays of then stage, beginning with evil character of the place. The theatre is, properly speaking, the shrine of Venus; and that was how this kind of structure came to exist in the world. For often the censors would destroy the theatres at their very birth; they did it in the interests of morals, for they foresaw that the great danger to morals must arise from the theatre's licentiousness. So here the Gentiles have their own opinion coinciding with ours as evidence, and we have the preliminary judgement of human morality to reinforce Christian law. So when Pompey the Great - and there was nothing except his theatre greater than himself - when Pompey had built that citadel of all uncleanness, he was afraid that some day the censors would condemn his memory; so he built on top of it a chapel to Venus, and, when he summoned the people by edict to its dedication, he called it not a theatre but a temple of Venus, "under which" he said, we have set seats for viewing the shows." So a structure, condemned and deservedly condemned, he screened with the title of a temple, and humbugged morality with superstition. But Venus and Bacchus do very well together, demons of drunkenness and lust, two yoke-devils sworn to either's purpose. So the theatre of Venus is also the house of Liber (Bacchus). For there were other stage plays to which they suitably gave the name Liberalia (Dionsia among the Greeks), not only dedicated to Liber and Venus, but instituted by Liber. And obviously Liber and Venus are the patrons of the arts of the stage, Those features of the stage peculiarly and especially its own, that effeminacy of gesture and posture, they dedicate to Venus and Liber, wanton gods, the one in her sex, the other in his dress; while that is done with voice and song, instrument and book, is the affair of the Appollos and the Muses, the Minervas and Mercuries.
You, O Christian, will hate the things, when you cannot but hate the authors of them.
And now we would add a word on the arts and the things, whose authors we execrate in their very names. We know that the names of dead men are nothing - just as their images are nothing - but we are not unaware who are at work under those names and behind the images set up for them, what joy they take in them, and how they feign deity, - I mean, evil spirits, demons. We see then the arts consecrated to their glorification, who usurp the names of the authors of those arts, and that the arts do not lack the taint of idolatry when those who instituted them are as a result called gods. Further, as regards the arts we ought to have entered our demurrer at an earlier point and pled that the demons from the very beginning took thought for themselves and among the other pollutions of idolatry devised those of the spectacles for the purpose of turning man from the Lord and binding him to their own glorification, and so inspired these ingenious arts. For no others but they would have devised what should turn to their profit; nor would they have given the arts to the world at that time through the agency of any other men than those by whose names and images and legends they determined they would negotiate the trick of their own consecration. To keep to our plan of procedure to deal with the contests.
11) Their origin is akin to that of the games. Hence they too are instituted as sacred or as funereal, and are performed either for the gods of the Gentiles or for dead men. Take their titles - Olympian games in honour of Jupiter (these at Rome are Capitoline games), Nemean for Hercules, Isthmian for Neptune; the rest are contests in honour of the dead. What is there then to wonder at, if the whole equipment is stained with idolatry - with profane crowns, priestly judges, attendants from various sacred colleges, and, finally, the blood of bulls? To add a supplemental word on the place [Uncertain passage, difficult to translate or read.] - a place held in common as a college of arts of the Muses, of Minerva, of Apollo, yes! And of Mars too, - in the stadium with war and with trumpet they imitate the circus. It too is a temple of the idol whose solemn rites are being performed. The gymnastic acts in their turn originated with their Castors and Herculeses and Mercuries.
12) It remains to examine the most famous, the most popular spectacle of all. It is called manus (a service) from being a service due, manus and officium mean the same thing. The ancients thought that by this sort of spectacle they rendered a service to the dead, after they had tempered it with a more cultured form of cruelty. For of old, in the belief that the souls of the dead are propitiated with human blood, they used at funerals to sacrifice captives or slaves of poor quality whom they bought. Afterwards it seemed good to obscure their impiety by making it a pleasure. So after the persons procured had been trained in such arms as they then had and as best they might - their training was to learn to be killed! - they then did them to death on the appointed funeral day at the tombs. So they found comfort for death in murder. This is the origin of the munus. But by and by they progressed to the same height in refinement as in cruelty; for the pleasure of the holiday lacked something, unless savage beasts too had their share in tearing men's bodies to pieces. [Here there are difficulties of translation, due to manuscript problems.] What was offered to appease the dead was counted as a funeral rite. This type of thing is idolatry, for idolatry too is a type of funeral rite; the one and the other are alike service to the dead. For in the images of the dead demons have their abode.
If we are considering names - though this class of public entertainment has passed from being a compliment to the dead to being a compliment to the living on entering office (I mean quaetorships, magistracies, flaminates and priesthoods), - still, since the guilt of idolatry sticks to the dignity of the name, whatever is done in the name of dignity must inevitably share the taint of its origin.
We must give the same interpretation to the equipments which are reckoned among the ornaments of office. The purple, the rods (fasces), the fillets and garlands, and then the harangues and edicts, and the dinners on the eve of installation, do not lack the pomp of the devil nor the invocation of demons.
Finally, what am I to say about that dreadful place, the amphitheatre? Even perjury could not face it. For it is dedicated to more names, and more awful names, than the Capitol itself; it is the temple of all demons. There are as many unclean spirits gathered there as it can seat men. And, by way of a last word on the arts concerned, we know that Mars and Diana are patrons of both types of games.
13) Enough, I think, has been said to complete our plan of procedure in proving in what ways, and in how many ways, the spectacles involve idolatry. We have dealt with origins, names, equipment, place and arts. So that we may be certain that in no aspect are the spectacles consonant with our twofold profession of the renunciation of idols. ["Twofold" as once before entering the baptistery and then again while in the water.] "Not that an idol is anything," says the apostle, "but what they do, they do in honour of demons," [1Cor.8;4. 10;19-20] who plant themselves in the consecrated images of - whatever they are, dead men or, as they think, gods. So on that account, since both kinds of idol stand on the same footing (dead men and gods are one and the same thing), we abstain from both kinds of idolatry. Temples or tombs, we abominate both equally; we know neither sort of altar; we adore neither sort of image; we pay no sacrifice; we pay no funeral rite. Now, and we do not eat of what is offered on sacrificial or funeral rite, because "we cannot eat of the Lord's supper and the supper of demons." [1Cor.8;4. 10;19-22] If then we try to keep our gullet and belly free from defilement, how much more our nobler parts, our eyes and ears, do we guard from the pleasures of idol sacrifice to the dead - pleasures not of gut and digestion, but of spirit, soul and suggestion [a free rendering] - and its purity of these far more than of the intestines that God has a right to claim of us.
14) We have now established the charge of idolatry, enough of itself to warrant our abstaining from the shows. But let us go a step further and look at it another way, chiefly for the benefit of those who flatter themselves that such abstention is not definitely prescribed - as if not enough were said about the shows, when the lusts of the world are condemned. For just as there is a lust for money, a lust for dignity, for greed, for impurity, for vainglory, so there is a lust for pleasure. The shows are a sort of pleasure. Lusts, named as a class, include, I would suppose, pleasures also; similarly pleasures, understood as a class, include the special case of the shows.
15) We have dealt above with the matter of the places, urging that the places do not of themselves pollute us, but through the things done in them - things from which the places imbibe defilement and then spit it out again on others.
So much, then, for the chief count in the indictment - idolatry. Let us now contrast the other characteristics of the shows with the things of God. God has instructed us to approach the Holy Spirit, - in its [His] very nature tender and sensitive, - in tranquillity, gentleness, quiet and peace; not in madness, bile, anger and pain to vex it [Him]. [Eph.4;30-31] What concord can the Holy Spirit have with spectacles? There is no public spectacle without violence to the spirit [Holy Spirit]. For where there is pleasure, there is eagerness, which gives pleasure its flavour. Where there is eagerness, there is rivalry which gives its flavour to eagerness. Yes, and where there is rivalry, there also are madness, bile, anger, pain, and all the things that follow from them, and like them are incompatible with moral discipline [Christian standards]. For even if a man enjoy the spectacles in modest and upright fashion, agreeably to his dignity, his age, and his natural character, still he cannot with a mind quite unstirred, or without some unspoken agitation of spirit. No one ever comes to pleasure without some feeling, no one has this feeling without some lapse; and lapses actually contribute to the feeling. But if this feeling flags, pleasure there is none; and the man may be condemned as an empty minded fellow, who goes where he gains nothing. But I think, the empty-minded is foreign to us. And, further, what of this? - that a man really condemns himself when he finds himself set among others, with whom he does not wish to be, - which means that he owns to himself he detests them? It is not enough for us to abstain ourselves from doing those things, unless we also keep clear of those who do them. "If thou sawest a thief," says Scripture, "thou didst consent with him." Oh! If only we had not to live in the world with them! Still, we are separated from them in all that is worldly. For the world is God's; what is worldly is the devil's.
16) Seeing then that madness is forbidden us, we keep ourselves from every public spectacle - including the circus, where madness of its own right rules. Look at the populace coming to the show - mad already! Disorderly, blind, excited already about its bets! The praetor is too slow for them; all the same their eyes are on his urn, in it, as if rolling with the lots he shakes up in it. The signal is given. They are all in suspense, anxious suspense. One frenzy, one voice! (Recognise their frenzy from their empty-mindedness.)"He has thrown it!" [Dropping the handkerchief, or flag, to start the event.] they cry; everyone tells everybody else what every one of them saw, all of them in an instant. I catch at that evidence of their blindness; they do not see what is thrown - a handkerchief, they think; no! a picture of the devil hurled from heaven! [Cf. Milton, Paradise Lost, 1;45. "Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky."] So it begins and so it goes on, - to madness, anger, discord - to everything forbidden to the priests of peace. [Note, Tertullian, in contrast to the clergy, taught the priesthood of all believers. J.C.] Next taunts or mutual abuse without any warrant of hate, and applause, unsupported by affection. What of their own are they going to achieve who act there in that way - when they are not on their own? Unless it be merely the loss of their self-control; they are plunged in grief by another's bad luck, high in delight at another's success. What they long to see, what they dread to see, - neither has anything to do with them; their love is without reason, their hatred without justice. Or is it allowed us to love without cause any more than to hate without a cause? God, at any rate, forbids us to hate even with a cause, when H e bids us love our enemies. God does not allow us to curse even with a cause, when He teaches us to bless those who curse us. But what can be more merciless than the circus, where men do not even spare their princes of fellow citizens? If any of these forms of madness, with which the circus rages, is permitted to saints, then it will be lawful in the circus too; but if nowhere then neither in the circus.
17) In like manner we are bidden to put away from us all impurity. By this command we are cut off once for all from the theatre, the proper home of all impurity, where nothing wins approval but what elsewhere has no approval. Its supreme charm is above all things contrived by its filth - filth in the gestures of the actor of the farce - filth acted by the buffoon playing the woman, banishing all sense of sex and shame, so that they blush more readily at home than on the stage, [Excessive irony and an uncertain text together make meaning and translation doubtful] - filth that the pantomime undergoes, in his own person, from boyhood, to make him an artist. The very prostitutes, the victims of public lust, are produced on the stage, more unhappy in the presence of other women - the only class in the community whose notice they escape; they are paraded before the faces of every rank and age; proclamation is made of their abode, their price, their record, even before those who do not need the detail; yes and more (and say nothing of the rest) that ought to be kept hidden in the darkness of their dens and not pollute the daylight. Let the senate blush; let all ranks blush together. These women themselves, who have murdered their own shame, shudder (you can see it in their gestures) to find themselves in the light and before the populace, and blush once in the year.
But if all impurity is to be abominated by us, why should it be lawful to hear what may not speak, when we know that buffoonery and every idle word is judged by God? Why in like manner should it be lawful to see what it is sin to do? Why should we suppose that those things, which spoken by the mouth defile the man [Mark.7;20], should not defile the man when welcomed in by eyes and ears? Ears and eyes are the servants of the spirit nor can the spirit be clean whose servants are dirty. So you have the theatre prohibited in the prohibition of uncleanness. If we spurn the teaching of the world's literature, as convicted of folly before God, we have a clear enough rule as to those classes of public spectacles where the world's literature is drawn upon for the comic or tragic stage. If these tragedies and comedies, bloody and lustful, impious and prodigal, teach outrage and lust, the study of what is cruel or vile is no better than itself. What in action is rejected, is not in word top be accepted.
18) But if you urge that the stadium is mentioned in the Scriptures [1Cor.9;24], so much I concede you. But the things done in the stadium - you will not deny that they are unfit for you to see, blow, kick, cuff, all the recklessness of the fist, any and every disfigurement of the human face, God's image. [Note. This principle also applies to cutting, for other than medicinal reasons, piercing and tattooing. J.C.] You can never approve those idle feats of running and throwing, idler still of leaping. You can never be pleased with injurious or useless displays of strength, nor with the care that develops an unnatural frame (outdoing God's handiwork). You will hate the type on man bred [Or fed a specialised diet. Ancient medical science condemned this high (protein) feeding.] to amuse the idleness of Greece. Wrestling is the devil's own trade; the devil first crushed men. Its very movements are the snake's, the grip that holds, the twist that binds, the suppleness that elude. You have no use for garlands, why seek pleasure from garlands?
19) And are we to wait now for a scriptural condemnation of the amphitheatre? If we can plead that cruelty is allowed us, if impiety, if brute savagery, by all means let us go to the amphitheatre. If we are what people say we are, let us take our delight in the blood of men. "It is a good thing, when the guilty are punished." Who will deny that, unless he is one of the guilty? And yet the innocent cannot take pleasure in the punishment of another, when it better befits the innocent to lament that a man like himself has become so guilty that a punishment so cruel must be awarded him. [This is a case where 'man' is mankind, and is gender free. J.C.] But who will pledge himself that it is always the guilty who are condemned to the beasts, or whatever punishment, and that it never inflicted on the innocent too, through the vindictiveness of the judge it may be, the weakness of the advocate, the severity of torture? How much better then it is not to know when the bad are punished, that I may not have to know when the good perish - that is, if savour of good is in them at all. Certain it is that innocent men [Again gender free, for women were also used as gladiators. J.C.] are sold as gladiators for the show, to be victims of public pleasure. Even in the case of those condemned to the games, what can you say to the fact that punishment for the smaller offence should carry them on to murder? That is my reply to Gentiles. [This appears to be a rhetorical device. Tertullian is calling those who are not Christians Gentiles. J.C.] As for the Christian, God forbid he [and she] should need further teaching to hate the spectacle. No one however can fully set out the whole story here, unless he be still a spectator. I prefer to leave it incomplete than to remember. [Tertullian was drawing on his Pagan experience, and perhaps on his clergy-church period too!, he preferred not to update, or recall, his experience. J.C.]
20) How vain, then - yes! How desperate is the reasoning of those who, obviously to dodge the loss pleasure, put forward the plea that no mention of such self-denial is made in Scripture, in definite terms or definite passage, directly forbidding the servant of God to push himself into gatherings of that kind! But the other day I heard a novel defence from one of these play-lovers. "The sun," says he, "yes! And God Himself from heaven looks on, and are not defiled." Why, yes, the sun sends his rays into the sewer and is nor polluted. Would that God looked on at no sins of men, that we might all escape judgement! But God looks on at brigandage, God looks at cheating, adultery, fraud, idolatry, yes, and the spectacles too. And that is why we will not look at them, that we may not be seen by Him who looks on at everything. [This also applies to 'distant viewing' in supposed secret. J.C.] Man! You are putting defendant and judge on one level! - the defendant who is a defendant because he is seen, the judge because he sees is judge. Do you then really suggest that outside the circus as well as inside it we should practise frenzy? Outside the theatre stimulate lust as well as inside? Outside the stadium as well as inside give the reign to bad manners, to cruelty outside as well inside the amphitheatre? All because God has eyes outside has eyes outside the portico, the tier and the curtain? No, we are all wrong! Nowhere and never is that permitted which is not permitted always and everywhere. Here is the perfection of truth - and hence the full discipline, the uniform fear, the obedient faith due to truth - here, in that it never changes its decision, never wavers in its judgement. What is good, really good, cannot be anything but good; nor what is evil anything but evil. In God's truth all things are definite.
21) The Gentiles have not truth in its completeness, because their teacher of truth is not God; so they construe evil and good to square with their own judgement and pleasure; sometimes a thing is good that at other times is bad, and the same with evil, now evil now good. So it comes about that a man who will scarcely lift his tunic in public for the necessities of nature, will take it off in the circus in such a way as to make a full display of himself before all; That a man who guards the ears of his maiden daughter from every smutty word, will himself take her to the theatre to hear every smutty word, will himself take her to the theatre to hear words of that sort and to see gestures to match; that the man who when he sees a quarrel on the streets coming to blows will try to quiet it or express strong disapproval, will in the stadium applaud fights far more dangerous; that he who shudders at the body of a man who died by nature's law the common death of all, will, in the amphitheatre, gaze down with most tolerant eyes on the bodies of men mangled, torn to pieces, defiled with their own blood; yes, and he that he who comes to the spectacle to signify his approval of murder being punished, will have a reluctant gladiator hounded on with lash and rod to do murder; that the man who calls for the lion as the punishment for some notorious murderer, will call for the rod of discharge for a savage gladiator and give him the cap of liberty as a reward, yes! And the other man who was killed in the fight he will have fetched back to take a look at the face, with more delight inspecting under his eyes the man he wished killed at a distance; and if he did not wish it, so much the crueller he!
22) What wonder? These are the inconsistencies of men; it is thus they confuse and interchange the nature of good and evil, swayed by the fickleness of feeling, the wavering of judgement. Take those who give and who administer the spectacles; look at their attitude to the charioteers, players, athletes, gladiators, most loving of men, to whom men surrender their souls and women their bodies as well, for whose sake they commit the sins they blame; on one and the same account they glorify them and they degrade and diminish them; yes, further, they openly condemn them to disgrace and civil degradation; they keep them religiously excluded from council chamber, rostrum, senate, knighthood, and every other kind of office and a good many distinctions. The perversity of it! They love whom they lower, they despise whom they approve; the art they glorify, that artist they disgrace. What sort of judgement is this - that a man should be blackened for what he shines in? Yes, and what a confession that things are evil, when their authors at the top of their popularity are in disgrace."
23) Since then human reflection, in spite of the clamour and the appeal of pleasure, sentences these people to forfeit everything of dignity, to be banished as it were to some island rock of infamy, how much more will divine justice punish those who practise such acts? Will God be pleased with the charioteer, who disquiets so many souls of men, who ministers to such madness, such changes of temper, crowned like a priest, coloured like a pimp, a devil's parody of Elijah swept away in his chariot? Will God be pleased with the man who changes his features with a razor, faithless to his face - which, not content with remodelling it now after Saturn, now Isis or Bacchus, on top of that he offers to the indignity of slap and buffet, as in travesty of the Lord's commandment? Oh! Yes, the devil, sure enough, teaches to offer the cheek with all patience to the blow! In the same way the devil makes the tragic actor taller on his cothurni because "nobody can add a cubit to his stature"; he wants to make a liar of Christ. And then this business of masks, I ask if God can be pleased with it, who forbids the likeness of anything to be made, how much more His own image? The Author of truth loves no falsehood; all is that is feigned is adultery in His sight. [This is a relevant issue, bearing in mind the severity of the punishment in the Mosaic Law. J.C.] The man who counterfeits voice, sex or age, who makes a show of false love and hate, false sighs and tears, He will not approve, for He condemns hypocrisy. In law He denounces that man as accursed who shall go dressed in women's clothes; what then will be His judgement upon the pantomime who is trained to play the woman? And that artist in fisticuffs, will he go unpunished? That cicatrice of the caestus [Heavy boxing glove], that scar of the fist, that thick ear - he got them from God, did he? When God fashioned him? And God, no doubt, lent him eyes to have them blinded in boxing. I say nothing of him who pushes another in front of himself to the lion - in case he is not quite murderer enough when he cuts his throat afterwards.
24) How many lines of argument have we pursued to show that nothing connected with the games pleases God? But does a thing befit the servant of God, which does not please his Master? If we have established our point that the spectacles one and all were instituted for the devil's sake, and equipped from the devil's stores (for the devil owns everything that is not God's or does not please God), why, here you have that pomp of the devil that we renounce when we receive the "seal" of faith. [Immersion on profession of faith. J.C.] But what we renounce, we have no business to share, be it in deed or word, sight or anticipation. But by such acts we really renounce and unseal the "seal", by unsealing our witness to it. [This raises the interesting question whether Tertullian is here claiming that a backslider, or apostate, renounces baptism and thus becomes 'un-baptised'. This raises the question of when a backslider becomes an apostate; it is certainly worthy of note. J.C.] Does it remain for us to ask the heathen for an answer to our question? Let them inform us whether a Christian may go to the spectacles. Why, it is above all things from this that they understand a man to have become a Christian, that he will have nothing to do with the games! So he openly "denies", who gets rid of the distinctive mark by which he is known. [Immersion. J.C.] What hope is left for such a man? No man deserts to the enemy's camp, but he throws away his arms, but he deserts his standards but he breaks his oath of allegiance to his prince, but he pledges himself to death with the enemy to whom he deserts.
25) Do you think that, seated where there is nothing of God, he will at that moment turn his thoughts to God? Peace of soul will be his, I take it, as he shouts for the charioteer? With his mind on actors, he will learn purity? No, in all the show there is nothing more sure to trip him up than the mere over-nice attire of women and men. That sharing of emotions, that agreement, or disagreement in backing their favourites, makes an intercourse that fans the spark of lust. Why, nobody going to the games thinks of anything else but seeing and being seen. But while the tragic actor declaim, he will think of crying aloud of one of the prophets! Amid the strains of some effeminate flute player, he will muse in himself upon a psalm! When the athletes are at work, he will say that blow for blow is forbidden! The he surely can be stirred by pity, with eyes fastened on the bear as it bites, on the squeezed nets of the net-fighter! May God avert from His own such a passion for murderous pleasure! For what sort of conduct is it to go from the assembly of God to the assembly of the devil? From sky to stye, as the proverb has it? Those hands have uplifted to God, to tire them out clapping an actor? With those lips, which you have uttered Amen over the Holy Thing, [Probably referring to the emblems of the Lord's Supper. J.C.] to cheer for a gladiator? To say for and ever to any other whatever but to God and Christ?
26) What is to save such people from demon possession? For we have in fact the case (and the Lord is witness) of that woman, who went to the theatre and returned devil-possessed. So, when the unclean spirit was being exorcised and was pressed with the accusation that he had dared to enter a woman who believed; "and I was quite right, too," said he boldly; for I found her on my own ground." It is credibly affirmed, too, that to another woman, on the night following a day when she had listened to a tragic actor, a linen sheet was shown in a dream, the actor was named, and she was rebuked; not was that woman alive in the world five days later. How many other proofs indeed can be drawn from those, who, by communion with the devil in the shows, have fallen from the Lord? "For no man can serve two masters." "What has light to do with darkness? What have life and death in common?"
27) It is our duty to hate these assemblies and gatherings of the heathen, were it only that there the name of God is blasphemed; that there, every day, the shout is raised to set the lion upon us; [See Apology ch.40] that from there persecution begins; that there temptation has its base. What will you do when you are caught in that heaving tide of guilty voices? I do not suggest that you run any risk there of suffering from men - nobody recognises you for a Christian; but think well over it, what it means for you in heaven. Do you doubt but that at that very moment when the devil is raging in his assembly, all the angels look forth from heaven, and mark down man by man, how this one has spoken blasphemy and that has listened, the one has lent his tongue, the other his ears, to the devil against God? Will you not rather fly the chairs of the enemies of Christ, "the seat of the pestilences," the very overhanging air defiled with sinful cries? Granted that you have there something that is sweet, agreeable and innocent, some things that are excellent. No, one mixes poison with gall and hellebore; no, it is into delicacies well made, well flavoured, and, for the most part, sweet things, that he drops the venom. So does the devil; the deadly draught he brews, he flavours with the most agreeable, the most welcome gifts of God. So count all you find there - brave and honest, resounding, musical, exquisite, as so much honey dropping from a poisoned bit of pastry; and do not count your appetite for the pleasure worth the risk in the sweetness.
28) Let his own guests batten on sweets of that sort. The place, the time, the host who invites, are theirs. Our feast, our marriage festival, is not yet. We cannot take our place at table [Or in fellowship] with them, because they cannot with us. [This is a difficult passage, the text is not that clear and the translator has some difficulty. However, this appears to be a reference to The Lord's Table, which stands in contradistinction to the table of demons and is not the 'two planks and four legs' on which the emblems of the Lord's Supper are placed. That is, we have a Temple, not made with hands, we have an Altar, not made of stone, and we have a Table, not built of timber. This is the same as the sign of the Cross, it is not two planks nailed together, it is not an arrangements of lighting tubes, it is not a printed or painted sign, it is not a metal structure or ornament; the Cross is a principle. J.C.] It is a matter of turn and turn about. Now they are happy, and we are afflicted. "The world," it says, "will rejoice; you will be sad." Then let us mourn while the heathen rejoice, that, when they have begun to mourn, we may rejoice; lest, if we share their joy now, then we may be sharing their mourning too. You are too dainty, O Christian, if you long for pleasure in this world as well as the other - a bit of a fool into the bargain, if you think this pleasure. Philosophers have given the name "pleasure" to quiet and tranquillity; in it they rejoice, take their ease in it, yes, glory in it. And you - why, I find you sighing for goal-posts, the stage, the dust, the arena. I wish you would tell me; cannot we live without pleasure, who must die with pleasure? For what else is our prayer but that of the apostle "to leave the world and be at home with the Lord."? Our pleasure is where our prayer is.
29) But now, if you think we are to pass this interval of life here in delights, why are you so ungrateful as not to find enough in the great pleasures, the many pleasures, given to you by God, and not to recognise them? What has more joy in it than reconciliation with God, the Father and Lord, than the revelation of truth, the reconciliation of error, and the forgiveness for all the great sins of the past? What greater pleasure is there than disdain for pleasure, than contempt for the whole world, than true liberty, than a clean conscience, than life sufficient, than the absence of all fear of death? Than to find yourself trampling underfoot the gods of the Gentiles, expelling demons, effecting cures, seeking revelations, living to God? These are the pleasures, the spectacles of Christians, holy, eternal, and free. Here find your games of the circus, - watch the race of time, the seasons slipping by, count the circuits, look for the goal of the great consummation, battle for the companies of the churches, [Actually assemblies, companies of congregations. J.C.] rouse up at the signal of God, stand erect at the angel's trump, triumph in the psalms of martyrdom. If the literature of the stage delight you, we have sufficiency of books, of poems, of aphorisms, sufficiency of songs and voices, not fable, those of ours, but truth; not artifice but simplicity. Would you have fightings and wrestlings? Here they are - things of no small account and plenty of them. See the impurity overthrown by chastity, perfidy slain by faith, cruelty crushed by pity, impudence thrown into the shade by modesty; and such are the contests among us, and in them we are crowned. Have you a mind for blood? You have the blood of Christ. [this seems to be the setting for Prudentius' Holy War. and also for John Bunyan's Holy War. J.C.]
30) But what a spectacle is already at hand - the return of the Lord, now no object of doubt, now exalted, now triumphant! What exultation will that be of the angels, what glory that of saints as they rise again! What the reign of the righteousness thereafter! What a city, the New Jerusalem! Yes , and are still to come other spectacles - that last, that eternal Day of Judgement, that day they laughed at, when this old world and all its generations shall be consumed in one fire. How vast the spectacle that day, and how wide! What sight shall wake my wonder, what laughter, my joy and exultation? As I see those kings, those great kings, welcomed (we are told) in heaven, along with Jove, along with those who told of their ascent, groaning in the depths of darkness! And the magistrates who persecuted the name of Jesus, liquefying in fiercer flames than they kindled in their rage against Christians! Those sages, too, the philosophers blushing before their disciples whom they taught that God was concerned with nothing, that men have no souls at all, or that what souls they have shall never return to their former bodies! And, the poets trembling before the judgement-seat, not of Rhadamanthus, not Minos, but of Christ whom they never looked to see! And, then there will be the tragic actors to be heard, more vocal in their own tragedy; and the players to be see, lither of limb by far in the fire; and then the charioteers to watch, red all over in the wheel of flame; and next, the athletes to be gazed upon, not in their gymnasiums but hurled in the fire - unless it be that not even then would I wish to see them, in my desire rather to turn an insatiable gaze on them who vented their rage and fury on the Lord. "This is he," I shall say, "the son of the carpenter or the harlot, [A piece of Jewish polemic.] the Sabbath-breaker, the Samaritan, who had a devil. This is he whom you bought from Judas; this is he, who was struck with reed and fist, defiled with spittle, given gall and vinegar to drink. This is he whom the disciples secretly stole away, that it might be said he had risen - unless it was the gardener who removed him, lest his lettuces should be trampled by the throng of visitors! Such sights, such exaltation, - what praetor, consul, priest, will ever give you of his bounty? And yet all these, in some sort, are ours, pictured through faith in the imagination of the spirit. But what are those things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor ever entered into the heart of man? I believe, things of greater joy than circus, theatre, or amphitheatre, or any stadium.
For further reading,
on this subject, I suggest John Bunyan's Holy War.