Dream of Life

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week, a week imbued with immense solemnity and significance. However modern Western society has neglected the significance of Christianity, despite the fact that it owes its entire identity to religious foundations. In recent times though, history has been warped by progressivists, it has turned into a vehicle of ideology.

The real history of Christianity is astonishing and remarkable; it is almost unbelievable that a carpenter’s son from ancient Israel could have ascended to divine status. He was a man who embodied magnanimity, courage and meekness, an almost unearthly and impossible combination.

Jesus Christ was all of these things because He was the Son of God, a messenger from Heaven who sought to save all of mankind. He was willing to endure a humiliating death to fulfil His purpose. It is a misfortune that this simple but spare story fails to resonate in a society which has become irrevocably altered by secularism. The complacency of the secularists derives from ignorance.

Europe in the years before Christianity was violent and tribal, the universalist message that all modern Europeans take for granted was a uniquely Christian doctrine. The first missionaries to the continent also impressed other strange creeds, namely to love neighbours, enemies and to always turn the other cheek whenever insulted or mocked.

These enlightened ideas were taken to the darker edges of the continent. The further corners of Northern Europe were inhabited by a bewildered populace struggling to comprehend the true meaning of their existence. These inhabitants soon found parallels with their ancient ideas and this new belief from the Middle East. The pagan goddess of spring, Eostre was transformed into a celebration of the resurrection, and the promise of new life.

It is important to point out that the change in belief wasn’t revolutionary, it was organic. When the missionary Boniface arrived in Germany, he cut down a tree dedicated to the pagan god Thunor and used the wood to build his first church. The social and cultural impact of Christianity was a defining factor in shaping European civilisation. It helped to unify and stabilise a once fractious continent.

However the misguided motives of mortal men who only sought rewards upon earth threatened to destroy the stability of this early civilization. The self-righteous hypocrites that Jesus once warned about, the pious and duplicitous fakes in the temple that enraged Him so much that He brought a whip to turf them out were alive and well in the churches and monasteries.

These shady characters were especially prevalent in the mediaeval period, an era of deprivation and inequality. In England, it was observed that monks and priests lived in comparative luxury while the peasants who toiled the land lived in austerity. The mediaeval poet William Langland opined this dire situation in his alliterative poem “The Vision of Piers the Plowman”.

Alliterative verse had a purely didactic function, it was written to convey moral truths. Langland’s poem is narrated by a peasant from Worcestershire. This peasant “Piers” recounts a dream he experienced while resting beside a lake in the Malverns. The dream is figurative, the characters are representations of virtue and vice, the setting is eternal along with the truth that gradually unfolds. It is a revelation that gives meaning to the confusion and chaos that would dominate everyday existence. Consequently this paean to goodness and truth triumphing over evil and mendacity continues to speak to us and remind us that we once lived in terrible circumstances but moral fortitude ultimately helped us to transcend the most dire of situations.

Langland would have been acutely aware of the corruption endemic in the religious and political institutions during his lifetime. At the time of the poem’s composition the country experienced the Black Death, then the Hundred Years War with France. The elites emerged unscathed but the lowest orders of society were plunged into further poverty.

He knew that a society built on inequality could not function, and the church that pretended to maintain that all men were equal could not command any more respect. This led to the Peasants Revolt. This was the clearest indication to the rulers who were invested with moral leadership that Christ’s compassion and humility were of the utmost importance beyond any material glory.

However just as the mission to evangelise the barbarians was brought by men of peace who sought conciliation rather than carnage, the King and his barons acceded to the peasants’ demands. In this country, the Church and its figurehead, the Monarch has ensured cohesion by acknowledging a shared moral value. This moral value is cultural Christianity which unites all of us in spite of our differences in society. This is a lesson that we must never forget, that we are all equal brethren in the sight of Christ.