From the Editor—Friday Reflections

Crying for a Pacifier?

The Friday Reflection by James M. Kushiner

January 8th, 2021

Severinus of Noricum


imes of unrest surely outnumber times of peace. Of course, not every age has Attila the Hun. But one of them did. January 8 is the commemoration of Severinus of Noricum, who lived in the fifth century at a time of great upheaval in Pannonia (Austria).

His Life was written by his disciple Eugippius after Severinus' death in 482. Eugippius wrote what he called a memoir of Severinus and sent it to the Deacon Paschasius, imploring him: "Illustrious minister of Christ, thou hast the memoir. From it make by thy editorial care a profitable work." Paschasius read it and replied: "Thou hast sent me a memoir to which the eloquence of the trained writer can add nothing." The Life begins:

"At the time of the death of Attila, king of the Huns, confusion reigned.... Severinus, most holy servant of God, came from the parts of the East to the marches of Riverside Noricum and the Pannonias, and tarried in a little town which is called Asturis. There he lived in accordance with the evangelical and apostolic doctrine, in all piety and chastity, in the confession of the Catholic faith, and fulfilled his reverend purpose by holy works... [O]ne day, as was his wont, went forth to the church. Then the priests, the clergy, and the citizens were fetched, and he began in all humility of mind to prophesy, how they ought to ward off the threatening snares of the enemy by prayers, and by fastings, and by the fruits of compassion. But their stubborn hearts, defiled by fleshly lusts, proved the oracles of the prophet by the decision of their unbelief. Yet the servant of God returned to the lodging where the sacristan of the church had received him, and made known the day and hour of imminent destruction. 'I go in haste,' he said, 'from a stubborn town that shall swiftly perish.'"

He did, and it did. Yet in the wake of invasion and refugees, he organized famine relief, aided the poor, and ransomed captives. He sought peace and healing.

Another politically involved saint is commemorated today in some Orthodox calendars, and on Jan. 9 in other sources, including our St. James Calendar of the Christian Year. First, imagine the context:

A transition from one leader to another. Brewing resentment of those feeling oppressed by the former. Appeal is made to the new leader for relief, to keep the nation together. He ignores wise counsel and listens to young hotheads, urging him to shove his agenda down their throats. He does. A government official is killed by an angry crowd. Civil war looms. The aggrieved population chooses its own leader, repudiating the other. The first leader sends for troops. A prophet intervenes:

'Thus says the LORD, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.'"

Civil war was averted: "So they listened to the word of the LORD and went home again, according to the word of the LORD."

God's word came to the Shemaiah (1 Kgs. 12:22), and he spoke it to King Rehoboam, who ended the peace of Solomon and was preparing to keep the Twelve Tribes united by force. He refused to listen to his father Solomon's older advisors and deal kindly with those who sought relief, and followed instead the urging of his young peers to double down on them.

Yet, the Lord said, "This thing is from me." What did He have in mind? Some secret plan that would end well for the Northern Kingdom? Its Ten Tribes were eventually conquered, and they disappeared.

We are eager to take the measure of current events, but we can't. The Lord's ways are often hidden from us.

Leaders think they know what they're leading us. Neville Chamberlain trumpeted the achievement of "Peace for our time!" on September 30, 1938, less than a year before Germany invaded Poland, starting a world war, as Hitler promised a new German reich. Both men were spectacularly wrong.

Blessed are the peacemakers, who humbly look for the truth of things and are obedient to the word of God. (Are there any in sight?) Anything built on falsehood or willful ignorance—the decision of unbelief—is a house on sand. Our hope is in the Name of the Lord who made us all.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

—James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.