Monday, April 19, 2010

Reflection: The Diary of Anne Frank -- Complicity In Sin and Salvation

My family recently attended this season’s final performance of The Diary of Anne Frank at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. It is a play that demands reflection. How does the Jewish holocaust occur, or the Rwandan genocide, or countless mass acts of terrorism? Who is responsible for these unimaginable but all too real evils? I know for certain – with a certainty beyond reason – that I am, and you are, and we are – all of us together. Through our solidarity with all men – our kinship to Adam of which St. Paul makes much in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 – my sin and yours ripples outward through all space and time making each of us entirely complicit in the sins of all men, everywhere and everywhen. I must repent of the holocaust because the burden of my sin has contributed to the fallenness of a world in which not only is the holocaust possible, but well nigh inevitable. Time is no barrier against sin. Why should the effects of my sin be unidirectional – forward only, but not backward? If Christ was slain for my sins from before the foundation of the world, then past, present, and future have no power to imprison sin – or grace. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner, we pray and we cannot even begin – most of us – to comprehend the magnitude of the sin or the mercy for which we pray. Thanks be to God that he grants us only that degree of self-awareness that his grace makes it possible to bear.

But, if we are complicit in the world’s sin, so too are we complicit in the world’s salvation. Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us, we pray, invoking the prayers of those who were, who are, and who are yet to come. And our prayers are there, too. As others pray – long ago or yet far away – they bind their prayers to ours and our prayers to theirs for the salvation of the world. Who can know what affect my prayer this day had on the grace that allowed faith to survive through the holocaust and to triumph over it? Who can know what affect the prayer of one in generations yet to come has on my faithfulness this day? But that no man lives unto himself alone, that I know for certain.

Given the complicity of all in the sins and salvation of all, we see forgiveness as essential. When a brother sins against me, I must also accept responsibility for his sin; I contributed to the corruption of the world and the relationship in which the sin was possible. (If this is difficult to accept, put it aside. It is helpful only when you are truly convinced – when you experience – that it is true.) If I then am to be forgiven of my part in his sin, I must forgive and must pray for his forgiveness: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. If I do not forgive my brother how can God forgive me, since his sin and mine are inextricably intertwined?

A life in Christ is always personal – I and Thou – but never individual – I and Thou, alone. Sin and grace, fall and salvation: all is accomplished in the company of the other, for the life of the world. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

excellent points and the details are more precise than somewhere else, thanks.

- Norman