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« Re: Broken for you | Main | At some point, it just has to stop, doesn’t it? »

April 28, 2009

A Reading for Christian Pandemic Preparedness

Plague_of_rome While I'm skeptical that the swine flu will ever reach truly pandemic proportions, it's still a good time to stop and brush up on Christian emergency preparedness. I dusted off my volume of Eusebius' History of the Church, and give you excerpts here from the time of the reign of Maximin, who ruled between 286 and 305 AD. 

Notice that when pestilence and famine come, Christians do not a) run, nor b) hoard. Instead, they stay and tend the sick and dying. They also give of what they have. I know that if such times ever come to us, there will be a cloud of witnesses cheering for us to act with such self-sacrifice.

Hundreds were dying in the cities, still more in the country villages, so that the rural registers which once contained so many names now suffered almost complete obliteration; for at one stroke food shortage and epidemic disease destroyed nearly all the inhabitants. ... Some people, shrunken like ghosts and at death's door, tottered and slipped about in all directions till, unable to stand, they fell to the ground; and as they lay face down in the middle of the streets, they implored passers-by to hand them a tiny scrap of bread, and with their life at its last gasp they called out that they were hungry--anything else than this anguished cry was beyond their strength. ...No less terrible was the pestilence which consumed every household, particularly those which were so well off for food that famine could not wipe them out. Men of great wealth, rulers, governors and numberless officials, left by the famine to the epidemic disease as if on purpose, met a sudden and very swift end. Lamentations filled the air on every side, and in all the lanes, squares and streets there was nothing to be seen except processions of mourners with the usual flute-playing and beating of breasts.

Such was the reward for Maximin's loud boasts and the cities resolutions against us, while the fruits of the Christians' limitless enthusiasm and devotion became evident to all the heathen. Alone in the midst of this terrible calamity they proved by visible deeds their sympathy and humanity. All day long some continued without rest to tend the dying and bury them--the number was immense, and there was no one to see to them; others rounded up the huge number who had been reduced to scarecrows all over the city and distributed loaves to them all, so that their praises were sung on every side, and all men glorified the God of the Christians and owned that they alone were pious and truly religious; did not their actions speak for themselves? (p. 366-367).

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Comments

Marie St. Hippolyte

I only hope that modern Christians would react the same way. It seems that a favorite catchphrase within the church these days is, "If you don't take care of yourself, you can't care for others.

Catherine Larson

I know what you mean. It does seem that today in many circles caring for self has been held up as the ultimate high road. We used to call self-sacrifice a virtue. Today, we call it unhealthy.

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