Susan Sontag, 1963, on how each truth must have a martyr:
We measure truth in terms of the cost to the writer in suffering—rather than by the standard of an objective truth to which a writer’s words correspond. Each of our truths must have a martyr.
Susan Sontag: “Simone Weil,” a review of Selected Essays by Simone Weil, translated by Richard Rees, Oxford University Press, published in the New York Review of Books, February 1, 1963 (Premier) Issue, accessed 8/17/14.
St. Augustine of Hippo, 415, on how there are martyrs for charity, and martyrs for pride:
Et videte quanta opera faciat superbia; ponite in corde quam similia facit, et quasi paria caritati. Pascit esurientem caritas, pascit et superbia – caritas, ut Deus laudetur; superbia, ut ipsa laudetur. Vestit nudum caritas, vestit et superbia; ieiunat caritas, ieiunat et superbia; sepelit mortuos caritas, sepelit et superbia. Omnia opera bona quae vult facere caritas et facit, agitat contra superbia, et quasi ducit equos suos. Sed interior est caritas: tollit locum male agitatae superbiae; non male agitanti, sed male agitatae. Vae homini cuius auriga superbia est, necesse est enim ut praeceps eat. Ut autem non sit superbia quae agitet facta bona, quis novit? quis videt? ubi est hoc? Opera videmus: pascit misericordia, pascit et superbia; hospitem suscipit misericordia, hospitem suscipit et superbia; intercedit pro paupere misericordia, intercedit et superbia. Quid est hoc? In operibus non discernimus. Audeo aliquid dicere, sed non ego; Paulus dixit: moritur caritas, id est, homo habens caritatem, confitetur nomen Christi, ducit martyrium; confitetur et superbia, ducit et martyrium. Ille habet caritatem, ille non habet caritatem. Sed audiat ab Apostolo ille qui non habet caritatem: Si distribuero omnia mea pauperibus, et si tradidero corpus meum ut ardeam, caritatem autem non habuero, nihil mihi prodest. Ergo Scriptura divina intro nos revocat a iactatione huius faciei forinsecus; et ab ista superficie quae iactatur ante homines, revocat nos intro. Redi ad conscientiam tuam, ipsam interroga. Noli attendere quod floret foris, sed quae radix est in terra. Radicata est cupiditas? species potest esse bonorum factorum, vere opera bona esse non possunt. Radicata est caritas? securus esto, nihil mali procedere potest. Blanditur superbus, saevit amor. Ille vestit, ille caedit. Ille enim vestit ut placeat hominibus: ille caedit ut corrigat disciplina. Accipitur magis plaga caritatis, quam eleemosyna superbiae. Redite ergo intro, fratres; et in omnibus quaecumque facitis, intuemini testem Deum. Videte, si ille videt, quo animo faciatis. Si cor vestrum non vos accusat, quia iactantiae causa facitis; bene, securi estote. Nolite autem timere quando facitis bene, ne videat alter. Time ne propterea facias, ut tu lauderis: nam videat alter, ut Deus laudetur. Si enim abscondis ab oculis hominis; abscondis ab imitatione hominis, laudem subtrahis Deo. Duo sunt quibus eleemosynam facis: duo esuriunt; unus panem, alter iustitiam. Inter duos istos famelicos, quia dictum est: Beati qui esuriunt et sitiunt iustitiam, quoniam ipsi saturabuntur: inter duos istos famelicos, bonus operator constitutus es; si caritas de illo operatur, ambos miseratur, ambobus vult subvenire. Ille enim quaerit quod manducet, ille quaerit quod imitetur. Pascis istum, praebe te isti; ambobus dedisti eleemosynam: illum fecisti gratulatorem de fame interfecta; hunc fecisti imitatorem de exemplo proposito.
Miseremini ergo tamquam misericordes; quia in eo etiam quod diligitis inimicos, fratres diligitis.
S. Aurelii Augustini OPERA OMNIA – editio latina >PL 35> In Epistolam Ioannis ad Parthos tractatus decem, Tractatus 8; http://www.augustinus.it/latino/commento_lsg/index2.htm, accessed 8/17/14.
Consider now the works that pride may do: notice how they may resemble or even equal those of charity. Charity feeds the hungry, so does pride: charity, to the praise of God, pride, to the praise of itself. Charity clothes the naked: so does pride; charity fasts, so does pride; charity buries the dead, so does pride. All the good works that are willed and done by charity, may be set in motion by its contrary pride, like horses harnessed to a car. But when charity is the inward driver, pride must give place–pride which is not so much misgoverning as misgoverned. It goes ill with the man who has pride for his charioteer, for he is sure to be overturned.
How can we know or see that it is not pride that governs the good deed? Where is the proof? We see the works: hunger is fed by compassion, but also by pride; strangers are entertained by compassion, by also by pride; poverty is protected by compassion, but also by pride. In the works themselves we can see no difference. I would go further–though it is not I but Paul who says it: charity goes to death, a man (that is) who has charity confesses the name of Christ and becomes a martyr; and pride also may do both. The one has charity, the other has not; but let this other mark the Apostle’s words: “If I give all my goods to the poor, and if I give my body to burn, and have not charity, it profits me nothing (I Cor 13:3).” So Holy Scripture recalls us from all this outward showing, recalls us from the surface appearance displayed before men to the inward truth.
Come back to your own conscience, and question it. Pay heed, not to the visible flowering, but to the root beneath the ground. Is covetousness at the root? Then you may have a show of good deeds, but of works truly good there can be none. Is charity at the root? Be easy, for now evil can be the issue. The proud may speak fair words, love may show anger: the one may clothe, the other may smite: the one clothes for the pleasing of men, the other smites for the correction of discipline. The stroke of charity is more to be welcomed than the alms of pride.
Come back, then, my brothers, into the place within, and in whatsoever you do, look for the witness of God. See, as he sees, the intention of your acts. If your heart does not accuse you of acting for the sake of display, it is well, be easy. And when you do well, have no fear of another’s seeing. Fear only to act that you may have praise for yourself; let the other see, so that God may have the praise. If you hide what you do from man’s eyes, you are hiding it against man’s imitation, and robbing God of His praise. There are two parties for whose benefit you give alms: two are hungry, the one for bread, the other for righteousness, for it is written: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).” Between these two hungering ones you are set for the working of good: if charity is the worker, it has compassion for both, it seeks to give help to both. For while the one looks for food, the other looks for an example to follow. As you feed the first, offer yourself for the second, and you have given alms to both. You have enabled the one to give thanks for the ending of his hunger, the other to imitate the example shown him.
Let your works of mercy, then, proceed from a merciful heart; for then even in the love of enemies you will be showing love of brothers.
Augustine, Homilies on I John, Sermon 8, in Augustine: later works; John Burnaby, Editor, Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1955, pp. 322-323.
A martyr without a merciful heart may witness well, but may not witness to the bond between mercy and truth, and may instead witness to pride.
© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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