From First Things:
What has just happened at Saint-Étienne du Rouvray can only arouse horror and even anger at a hatred which is as cruelly cowardly as it is stupidly suicidal. After the terrorist attacks in France and in Germany, it is permissible to observe that this time these lunatics have not killed at random. Until now (and with the exception of one attempt, fortunately thwarted, against a church in Ivry), the fanatics had attacked aspects of the flattering self-image that we “citizens” have of ourselves: the iconoclastic insolence of Charlie Hebdo, the pagan cult of sport at the French National Stadium, the carefree pleasure of the Bataclan and the boho outdoor cafés of the Eleventh Arrondissement in Paris, the 14th of July fireworks in Nice celebrating a Revolution that has promoted great ideals but also the guillotine …From Dr. Taylor Marshall:
This, today, was something else altogether. The target of this revenge was not the West in general, nor its complacent and egotistical prosperity, which can seem insulting to the penniless inhabitants of the world beyond. The target of this revenge was the root of the West, the West’s living source, even when it is unremembered—namely Christianity, in the time and the place where, tacitly but invincibly, it becomes most explicitly and intensely real: the celebration of the Mass. (Read more.)
It is helpful to remember that from AD 60 till AD 313, receiving sacramental baptism meant that you were enrolled for martyrdom. Every parish and every diocese on the planet during those years could name martyrs from their midst. Every Christian community possessed martyrs: Jerusalem, Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Carthage, Lyons, etc.(Read more.)
Martyrdom was so common that Christianity underwent a crisis of identity after Constantine legalized Christianity: Can Christians truly be Christian without the reality of impending martyrdom? The monastic revolution of the 4th and 5th centuries was a response to this identity crisis – the monastics sought to regain the danger and asceticism of carrying the cross.
For me personally, this is a moment of personal crisis. I wrote books about Christ. I record podcasts and videos about Christ. I talk about Christ frequently. But am I ready for this to happen to me:
…two Islamic State knifemen who cut the priest’s throat after bursting into a French church and taking nuns and worshippers hostage before being shot dead by police.
For Christians in the Middle East, such horrors are a part of daily life. From the Catholic Herald:
An 85-year-old priest has had his throat cut by an Islamic fanatic while saying Mass in a church in Normandy. For people in the West, this is a scene of almost unimaginable horror. Catholics in particular will be revolted and profoundly disturbed by a bloody killing perpetrated during the act of holy sacrifice around which our faith is built.Share
Catholics in the West, that is. For Catholics and other Christians in the Middle East, the atrocity at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray is far from unimaginable. They have been living with this sort of terror for years, while Western politicians and the liberal commentator looked away.
If I were to mention the Baghdad church massacre of October 31, 2010, how many of them would know what I was talking about? Come to that, how many Catholics are familiar with the details? On that Sunday evening, Mass in the Syrian Catholic church of Our Lady of Salvation was cut short by Islamist gunmen who took the congregation hostage, screaming: “All of you are infidels… we will go to paradise if we kill you and you will go to hell.”
One priest, Fr Thaer Abdal, was shot dead at the altar. In total, 58 innocent people were murdered. Their killers were members of an Iraqi faction of Al-Qaeda that had declared war on churches, “dirty dens of idolatry”, and in particular “the hallucinating tyrant of the Vatican”.
The Baghdad massacre was one of countless atrocities that have reduced ancient Christian communities in the Middle East to shriveled and terrified ghettos or underground churches. (Read more.)