Lent: Day 33 of 40 - Recared

Rounding out a century of Barbarian conversions…who converts whom?

The Visigoths were Arian barbarians, based in the Iberian peninsula. They had expanded as far as the Balkans in the 5th century, and in these days, still held much of what we would call the south of France. For Recared to convert to Trinitarian faith was as significant for Spain as was Clovis’ earlier conversion for France. He didn’t do it for Gregory, but with Gregory – for his own reasons and for his own people.

Filioque was Recared’s change to Nicene creed faith. The original creed said that the Holy Spirit ‘proceeded from the Father’. Recared insisted that the creed change to ‘proceeded from the Father and the Son’. He wanted to oppose Arians who demoted Jesus to demi-god heroic status, like barbarian animist visions of a world ruled by enchanted semi-divine figures. However, his solution seemed to demote the Spirit.

Filioque in the 500’s, like iota in the 400’s, seems esoteric or arcane to us. Anglicans in the 1980’s agreed to abandon the filioque clause, in a spirit of ecumenical reunion with the east. Who in our denomination notices, or understood, or took a side? In our barbaric pride, we thought we were too smart for either side. None of us is as astute as Recared.

Some say that Recared was anti-Semitic. Jews had lived in Iberia for centuries, and had enjoyed some freedom in the culture of competing gods. As Recared consolidated one Trinitarian faith, Spanish Jews were excluded from the new consensus. They would do better under Islam in the coming centuries. But Recared was not as anti-Semitic as Gregory. Like his filioque position, he opposed one sin, risking another – an amateur theologian, a heretic like us.

The Spanish Inquisition comes later – much later, no easier to tie to Recared than the Reformation or Wars of Religion can be pinned on Clovis. Heresy is like that – starting with sincere choices, a choice between good and better, bad and worse, not always tied to power and violence.

If you’re looking for clean choices, you’re not choosing for this world, but some other one. If you remain wilfully ignorant of the existence of choices, you are enjoying privileges won by somebody else – probably at the expense of somebody else in turn.

Who converts whom?

Dialogue changes both sides –

So does adversarial opposition –

Engagement transforms –

Disengagement stifles –

The opposite of love is not hate –

The opposite of love is indifference.

Give me more barbarians like Recared!