Telemachus was a monk who lived in Asia Minor about the year 400 AD. During his life, the gladiatorial games were very popular.  The gladiators were usually slaves or political prisoners who were condemned to fight each other unto death for the amusement of the spectators.  People were fascinated by the sight of blood and gore upon the arena floor.

Western Roman Emperor Honorius, depicted on th...

Western Roman Emperor Honorius, depicted on the consular diptych of Probus (406, Aosta, CIL 1, 6836) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Telemachus was very much disturbed that the Emperor Honorius, who was a Christian, sponsored the games and that so many people who called themselves Christian went to see them.  What, he wondered, could be further from the Spirit of Christ than the horrible cruelty of the gladiatorial games?  The bishops and priests spoke against them, but most people were deaf to their message.

Telemachus realised that talking about this evil was not enough.  It was time to do something.  But what could he actually accomplish – one lone monk against the whole Roman Empire?   He had no power.  And the games had been part of Roman life for centuries.   Nothing that he could possibly do would ever make a difference.

For a long time, Telemachus agonised about the problem.  Finally, he could not live with himself any longer.  For the sake of his own soul he decided he had to obey the voice of Christ within him – regardless of the consequences.   He set out for Rome.

When Telemachus entered the city, the people he met had gone mad with excitement.  “To the Coliseum!”, they cried out.  “The games are about to start.!”

Telemachus followed the crowd.  Soon he was seated among all the other people.  Far away in a special place he saw the emperor.

The gladiators came out into the centre of the arena.  Everybody was tense.  Everybody was silent as the two men faced each other.   The men drew their swords.   The fight was about to be on!   One of them would probably die within a few minutes.  Who would it be?

At that moment Telemachus rose from his seat and ran down onto the arena floor.   He held high the cross of Christ that he carried and threw himself into a position between the two gladiators.

“In the name of our Master,”, he cried, “Stop fighting!”

The two men hesitated.  Nothing like this had ever happened before.  They did not know what to do.  They put up their swords for a moment.

The spectators were furious.  Telemachus had robbed them of their entertainment.  They yelled wildly and stampeded toward the centre of the arena.  They became a mob.  With sticks and stones they beat Telemachus to death.

Far down in the arena lay the battered body of the monk.  Suddenly the mob and the spectators who had remained in their seats grew quiet.  A feeling of revulsion at what had been done swept over them.  Emperor Honorius rose and left the Coliseum.  The people followed him.  Abruptly the games were over.

Emperor Honorius sensed the mood of the crowd that day.  His ears were opened by the death of Telemachus.

His tongue was loosened as well.  He issued an edict forbidding all future gladiatorial games.  And so it was, that in about the year 404 AD, because one individual, filled with the love of Christ, dared to say, “No!”, all gladiatorial games ceased.

To hear we require a functioning organ of corti inside the ear.  defective corti will not produce sound that is audible

A similar thing might be said about the sense of sight. To see properly we require not only a well formed and clear lens, we require an optic nerve that is undamaged, one that is able to translate the complete signal from the eye to the brain.

Jesus is able to heal all these things when they are damaged  – indeed the gospels tell us of so many of his miraculous acts of healing

And as it is for the physical senses of sight and hearing, so it is for the spiritual senses of sight and hearing.  He can make us look at those in need with the eyes of compassion; he can unstop our ears so that we hear the cries for help from the unloved and the unfulfilled.  He touches our spiritual senses that we might act in love with mercy and justice in our hearts.

He can open our ears and our eyes and make the sensory signals that come to us from every direction get through to our spiritual centre, to that place where they can be translated from meaningless words and visions to the words and deeds of a living faith.

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Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

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