Pater noster

Muse, tell me the cause:  how was she offended in her divinity?  How was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man, noted for virtue, to endure such dangers, to face so many trials?  Can there be such anger in the minds of the gods?”   The Aeneid, Virgil 

Pater noster.  Our father. 


It is a papist sentiment and I never thought myself capable of one.  But here I am and here is the sentiment.  Staring me in the face of all that I consider to be sacrosanct.  Another papist thought.

They collect around me this morning in a dim and frosty light.  Anathema.  Now there is a religious sentiment with which I have some familiarity.  Outcast and pariah all carry the same meaning and weight.

There was a man who claimed much of his life’s inspiration came from this first reading in Latin of Virgil’s epic poem.  This man claimed as his most esteemed mentor the priest who unlocked the door to the magical reading room.

The Aeneid begins as quoted above.  It is the story of band of men in search of country…home…and ultimately God.  It is a tale of hardships shared, trials survived, and treacheries overcome.  It was a world much like our current one where heroes are made on a patch of turf 100 yards long.

Much the same as today’s tale, the Aeneid is a great love story.  A passionate affair of man to woman and hero to nation. 

Unlike our current tale, the Aeneid ends in triumph as Aeneas vanquishes his enemy and achieves his destiny.

Life rarely imitates art.  In this cold and bitter morning our tale’s would-be hero rests not on laurels but on criticisms from those who would be like Cassius:

“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves.  Men at some time are masters of their fates:  The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”  Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

I come not to bury Caesar, but to praise him.  My Pater Noster will dwell on recognition of goodness and valor, humor and strength.  It will speak to the legions of followers who like their dramas large and heroes free from stain.  And to the smaller numbers of those who believe that common humanity binds us all into forgiving frailty and imperfection.

Virgil’s Aeneas founded a dynasty that became the Roman Empire.  He was a mythological being crafted to support a reign of Caesars.  Our modern-day Caesar ruled a world where Brutus and Cassius played out their drama in the intensely bright light of moral scrutiny.  The battle lines were drawn across computer screens.  The armies were arrayed in blue and white and red. 
Virgil could never imagine an enemy of such scope and reach.  And then again, perhaps he did.  In Virgil’s age, the enemy was most often defined as “The Gods!”
Today we are much too civilized and God is silent.
Pater Noster.