REFLECTIONS ON THE 1700TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE EDICT OF MILAN
1700 years ago, in the year 313, the Caesar Constantine legalized Christianity after a victorious battle on the Mulwijski Bridge against his opponent Maxentius. In this battle he won a victory, thanks to the advice of his mother, the Empress St. Helen, who after a prophetic dream had advised her son to set off to the decisive battle about the rule over the Empire Romanum with a cross, hated by the Romans as a symbol of such a disgraceful and terrible Passion, that Roman citizens were being protected from it.
In hoc signovinces
So, at the threshold of the 4th century after the birth of Christ, terrible persecutions of His followers, lasting for three centuries, were finishing; His followers had been crucified, burned alive, thrown to the wild beasts to be devoured, rotated on the barbecue and murdered in many other unimaginable ways. Despite the fact that the persecutions had lasted since the times of Christ, gaining their apogee during the rule of Neron, Domicjan and Dioklecjan, Christianity turned out to be more permanent from the powerful empire in the history of the world. And the Christians, like in the times of the Empire, also used to build civilisation based on the Gospel and the commandment of love towards the neighbour.
However, the triumph of Christianity in Rome, which took place very soon, did not mean the end of the persecutions of the Christians. But, on the contrary, for many centuries, the Sign to which many will oppose raised the feeling of aggression and fear: and towards the Saviour and towards His followers. The Christian world had to face the invasions of Huns and Genghis Khan, and for many centuries – from the year 711 the invasions of the Muslims dreaming about the invasion of Europe. However, Christian Europe won those battles, first of all, thanks to papacy which was organizing and financing the defence of the Christian world against the militant Islam, for centuries, till the victory of King John III Sobieski at Vienna in 1682.
During that time, the Christian civilisation on the Old Continent, full of dynamism, was spreading its horizons, undertaking newer challenges and reaching out to further parts of the world.
No matter how many European rulers and conquistadors greedy for gold and rule rejected the principles of the Gospel easily, the Church was fighting in the defence of the weaker and the tormented all the time. It was pope Alexander VI who stated in response to the statements of colonizers that the Indians are not people, that the Indians are people and have a soul; as a result, he exposed himself kings of Spain and Portugal. So, the teaching of the Church and Decalogue should be complied with also in relation to them. It was the Catholic Church which was fighting slavery in South America.
These were excellent Spanish scholars, Jesuits and Dominicans from the University in Salamanca, who had created the basis of economic liberalism and capitalism, based on honest competition, where one of the basic rules was the prohibition of exploitation and a duty of fair pay for work. These were Jesuits who, establishing famous ‘reductions’ in South America, proved the right of reflection of theorists from Salamanka and were successfully conducting economic activity, based not on exploitation, but on the rules of the Catholic social doctrine. It is the Catholic Church, which has not only fought usury consequently for centuries, but by establishing ‘pious banks’ it proved that it is possible to pursue financial operations successfully, without exploiting a neighbour.
New order of the world?
No matter how building of the Christian civilisation based on the principles of the Gospel was successful, and at the times of building ruthless colonial empires Francisco de Vitoria, Francisco de Suarez, or Juan de Mariana proclaimed a theory of the natural law in Salamanca, teaching about the right of nations to self-determination (Hugo Grotius took example of them), as well as the rights of subjected people to restrict the absolute authority for the sake of the common welfare, in the period of the Renaissance, since the times of Machiavelli’s Prince, there is a breakage in the previous look at the world. In the place of civilisation based on the Decalogue and referring to the excellent and merciful Creator new ‘prophets’ of the new order are suggesting putting the man in the first place – and arranging the world for others, according to better rules in their opinion.
The road from the theory to the practice was not far. These attempts of placing the man in the place of God and creating a new order oneself, was first the French revolution, later the epoch of XX-century totalitarianisms, and, finally, last but not least epoch contemporary to us. No matter the creators of the new order had been proclaiming mottos of equality, freedom and brotherhood since the times of the French revolution, it must be said that their vaunted realisation left much to be desired.
In fact the French guillotine introduced the equality among the sentenced, similarly as the pacification of the Catholic Wandea freedom, but only for those thinking in a similar way, like Parisian Jacobins. Those who thought differently, were sentenced to death.
The XX-century totalitarianisms also created a ‘new, better world’ and Adams of new times, but neither the bloody Bolshevik terror, nor crimes of the president Plutarco Callesa in Mexico, reminded Cristiada by Bean Wright today, nor madness of Spanish communists (and not only: logistically ‘Spanish Katyń’ mass executions organised by ‘an advisor’ from NKWD Alexander Michajłowicz Orłów, that is, Lejba Feldbin in Paracuellos de Jarama in 1936 ), or German fascists, among the others, against Catholic priests in Poland did not bring a new order of permanent successes to the builders.
The reason of their defeat was lying, among the others in the fact that wide social classes, which they were governing, did not agree onto their murderous enthusiasm for creating ‘a new order’ and hatred to God and His works – not mentioning those who fell victims to their repressions.
Therefore, at the contemporary times, when the XX century is left behind us, which was full of martyrs for their faith, we are the witnesses of a new ‘opening’ good and the empire of evil in the war. Now the war is about the fundaments of the Christian civilisation - about family, truth, social and moral order; about culture which has been building the face of Europe and other continents for the last two thousand years. If the old order is overthrown, and people generally accept new rules, then introducing the new order will be easier. Therefore the armed fight was replaced by a fight of civilisation, in which the voice of the Christians is often hardly audible and they are often passive, and do not react to the frontal attack against their religion, culture and the system of values. We often hear also doubtful voices. And what can we say in this situation to somebody who is full of doubts: we can remind him about the motto of Constantine: In hoc signovinces!