Sic transit gloria mundi

Publish date 22-06-2021

by Renato Bonomo

Thus the glory of the world vanishes. If I had to point out an element of history that has always fascinated me is the ability of time to transform human life. The Latins had already understood that human enterprises are not eternal. There are particularly illuminating examples. I am thinking of the extraordinary adventure of Alexander the Great who in the 4th century BC. it upset the geography of the ancient world, animated by the desire to build an empire capable of merging the Persian and Greek elements. That empire quickly dissolved at the end of its short life. I think of today's Turkey which, in the first centuries of our era, was one of the fundamental cradles of Christian theology with the Fathers of Cappadocia and the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire. From 1453, the empire was definitively wiped out by the Islamic conquest of the Ottomans and Christianity reduced to a minimum.

The case of Nazism is impressive. Hitler was convinced of giving rise to a new millennial political regime which however lasted only 12 years. A political system that lasted so short that it made a profound impact on world history. There are many examples of very solid civilizations that disappeared more or less quickly. The ruins of Athens, Sparta, Rome and the Inca cities should remind us that human societies are specific historical forms and that they are conditioned by time. One of the fundamental characteristics of our human nature is precisely time: we are time, we are in time. The consideration of the historicity of societies, therefore of their mutability, growth and decadence, is not only a romantic element but is a decisive factor in our understanding of reality, often overlooked. Our society in particular has lost the temporal perspective, it lives in an eternal present that has neither roots nor perspectives. Men, both in their individual dimension and in their social dimension, must admit unpredictability and historicity as the essential perimeter of their planning.

It is an attitude that believers should also adopt. Christians accept to live in time, fully aware of its changeability, like all men. However, they keep their gaze fixed on Jesus who has opened a glimpse of eternity in the becoming of time. Even St. Augustine knew this well. Faced with so many intellectuals who in the fifth century were shocked by the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Saint Augustine understood that Christianity could not be tied exclusively to a specific historical form such as Roman power. Christianity would have survived and would have fertilized the new times in any case. Then as today there are no good or bad times as such: it is our choices that determine the goodness or otherwise of the times.

Renato Bonomo
NP march 2021

This website uses cookies. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy. Click here for more info