The Idea of Sacrifice
This age old concept has been adapted in our modern world to greater humanly but when the chips are down the call of sacrifice is unmistakeably loud.
The sacrifice offered by Abraham so nearly which he made of his own son and the pagan rites. The sacrifice of God the Father in sending His Son in to this world to suffer and die upon the Cross. Then the repeat of that sacrifice in the daily offering of the sacrifice of the Mass by the Catholic priesthood. Sacrifice is at the heart of our lives and belief: The Sacrificial acts of warriors in battle. The skill of the bomb disposal expert which can go wrong if the bomb is booby trapped e.g.: IRA bomb (provisionals) 1990’s in Oxford Street, London leading to death of the British bomb disposal operative when the bomb concerned exploded. That operative took that severe risk for others – he gave his own life and cleared everyone else away as he went about his task. It was him and the bomb – such was his concentration and sacrificing dedication (a metropolitan police disposal expert).
2. How does a man or woman come to accept sacrifice in their lives?
The best example is parenthood which naturally leads to self-sacrificing love for their young and vulnerable children. Each parent learns from the other. By military discipline and training and camaraderie – comrades in arms. By religious instruction and practise of that religion Islam, Judaism and Catholicism including non Catholic Christians. This military training and religious upbringing inculcates the ethos of “others first- me second” to lead on to the self-sacrificing approach to the military profession and the life practising religion in society. Is this training and upbringing being neglected in modern England? There is no doubt the British military make sacrifices e.g. Afghanistan since 2000 and the American military as well. Has the psychology of sacrifice changed in the military? Yes probably to accommodate the duty of care owed by the Crown to her soldiers on duty enforced by the English Courts. The cost of compensation to English and Welsh military personnel injured on active service has soared. The personal sacrifice of a soldier is qualified by this forethought of financial gain. Clearly the injuries may be grievous and the deaths traumatic. The old idea of pure military sacrifice is still present if a little diminished by this philosophy of compensation and no expenses spared medical treatment and rehabilitation not to mention the highly effective military rescues for servicemen on duty.
3. How has the religious notion of sacrifice changed and developed?
We live in a British Society where Christians are not persecuted but tolerated and left free to pursue the practice of their religions Catholic, non-Catholic Christian, Islamic, Judaist, Sikhism and Hinduism and Buddhism to name the main religions. Christianity pervades all these religions as the lead faith in England and Wales. What tune does Christianity play in England? Essentially the loving God the Father and Compassionate Christ. His bloody and extremely painful sacrificial death on the Cross for us men and women 2000 years ago is not stressed. Nor is his passion leading to that ultimate sacrifice properly alluded to as it is thought infra dig by most Christians and non Christians. The Catholics themselves don’t universally say the Stations of the Cross as used to be done. Painfulness is not acceptable in body or mind to modern Britain. Pain must be relieved at all costs – no one should suffer in silence or at all. I quite agree. But pain cannot be eliminated from our lives eg: the emotional bereavement, the trauma of marital and relationship breakdown, the loss of a metier and job, professional embarrassment and impropriety, criminal process and financial damage, mental trauma of accidents and injuries in civilian life and military life, disappointment perceived within a family and falling away from proper religious observance. All these examples centre on mental pain which no doctor, therapist or medication will totally alleviate however much help the medical profession may be. Medical help should always be accessed even though traditionally religions did not follow that route. Modern religions support the medical arm and defer to its considerable acumen and understanding. We are not Christian Scientists! Yet religious thoughts are distrusted by medicine and regarded as a little deranged. Medicine knows very little of religion and thus the iceberg beneath the surface is invisible. Certain traumas and mental conditions are never picked up by the mental health clinics.
4. How can the religious/medical axis be made more effective?
Sympathy is at the heart of compassion namely sympathy for the injured individual in mind and spirit. That individual is suffering which suffering is at the heart of sacrifice. We need to ask ourselves the question for whom and what is this individual suffering? No one suffers for the sake of it. God and His Son would not permit that terrible pointless agony. It is the purpose which brings out the suffering and “the cure” in conjunction with medicine and stout religion. The knowledge of this aim helps the afflicted to come to terms with their condition. The purpose I speak of may only be dimly perceived and religion may give the answers medicine may be searching keenly for. What about the young victim of terminal cancer? Is there any meaning in such pointless suffering? Yes in his composure, courage and stoicism so encouraging to others and those qualities the sign of his calibre and the foretaste of the life to come for him. With any terminal illness the suffering person is close to Heaven and thus reflects back to us around him what they are about to enter upon believer or non-believer. You cannot shut out God however hard you try.
Words are words but they are all we have to communicate with and it is our solemn duty to speak out. I have tried to write of the nature of modern sacrifice. I am an old fashioned Roman Catholic who believes in the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ in all its gore and macabre detail from His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane onwards. Christ really suffered death and pain of death – Why? For our sake – his flock. He had no hesitation save in the Garden I refer to – even He had to be a little reluctant to accept His Father’s Will. What an example to you Richard! I have hesitated but no longer – Christ will save and recover all his sheep and lambs. Where does this leave the pain debate? Undoubtedly society has developed sophisticated therapeutic and medical tools and the real core of religion is being brought out year in year out like the heart of the artichoke. The meaning of and effect of religion does not stay the same – it is changing as we gain new insights in to the indivisible and invisible Trinity, the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Glorious Mysteries, the Joyful decades and the mystical sacrifice of the Mass itself. Modern Christianity and 21st Century medicine go well together. They both speak the same language and take the tedious pain out of life and replace it with the pleasures and fulfilment of lives released from darkness in to positive thinking. May they go forward as equal partners pulling the coach of humanity along the road of life.