A Little Chrysostom on a Sunday Evening: Who We Really Are
[Hat tip: Tim Fountain]
As I read this fuller passage from Chrysostom this evening, I felt chill bumps; how rightly he is called “golden-mouthed.” In it, Chrysostom contrasts the reality of post-play, with the false life of the stage [stipulation—I don’t think he was dissing the theater, nor do I think his later comments point to a belief in works salvation]. That false life of the stage is a metaphor for our earthly lives, and the reality of post-play—when the actors all take off their masks and reveal themselves—is a metaphor for that reality after death, when we all become who we really are.
Centuries later, George MacDonald often picked up on this theme in his fiction—that our jobs on earth are, in part, to become more real, and that if we are not princes and princesses in this life, we are to allow God to form us into those people.
As usual—nobody can beat the church fathers for beauty and clarity of expression.
Both men, (Lazarus and Dives) departed to that place where everything is true. The stage sets were removed and the masks were taken off. In a theater of this world at mid-day the stage is set and many actors enter, playing parts, wearing masks on their faces, retelling some old story, narrating the events. One becomes a philosopher, though he is not a philosopher. Another becomes a king, though he is not a king, but has the appearance of a king for the story. Another becomes a physician without knowing how to handle even a piece of wood, but wearing the garments of a physician. Another becomes a slave, though he is free; another a teacher, though he does not even know his letters. They appear something other than what they are, and they do not appear what they really are. One appears to be a physician, another appears to be a philosopher by wearing a hairy mask, and another appears to be a soldier by bearing the equipment of a soldier. The appearance of the mask deceives us, but it does not falsify the nature, for it truly changes the character which is represented. As long as the audience remains in their seats, the masks are valid; but when evening overtakes them, and the play is ended, and everyone goes out, the masks are cast aside.
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