Thursday, 20 March 2008

people most meticulous, endeared to the good

The day was Friday.

But it was quite unlike any other day.

It was a day when men went very grievously astray, so far astray in fact that they involved themselves in the utmost iniquity. Evil overwhelmed them and they were blind to the truth, though it was as clear as the morning sky. Yet for all that they were people of religion and character and the most careful of men about following the right. They were endeared to the good and none were given to profounder meditation. They were of all people most meticulous, tenderly affected towards their nation and their fatherland, sincere in their religious practice and characterized by fervour, courage and integrity. Yet this thorough competence in their religion did not save them from wrongdoing, nor immunize their minds from error. Their sincerity did not guide them to the good. They were a people who took counsel among themselves, yet their counsels led them astray. Their Roman overlords, too, were masters of law and order, yet these proved their undoing. The people of Jerusalem were caught that day in a vortex of seducing factors and, taken unawares amid them, they faltered. Lacking sound and valid criteria of action, they foundered utterly, as if they had been a people with neither reason nor religion.

They considered that reason and religion alike laid upon them obligations that transcended the dictates of conscience. They did not realize that when men suffer the loss of conscience there is nothing that can replace it. For human conscience is a torch of the light of God, and without it there is no guidance for mankind. When humanity has no conscience to guide, every virtue collapses, every good turns to evil and all intelligence is crazed.

On that day men willed to murder their conscience and that decision constitutes the supreme tragedy of humanity. The events of that day do not simply belong to the annals of early centuries. They are disasters renewed daily in the life of every individual. Men to the end of time will be contemporaries of that memorable day, perpetually in danger of the same sin and wrongdoing into which the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell. The same darkness will be theirs until they are resolute not to transgress the bounds of conscience.

Egypt: a Muslim reflects on the meaning of the crucifixion.
from "A Procession of Prayers : Meditations and Prayers from around the World" edited by John Carden; Cassell 1998

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