Today is the feast day of St. Justin Martyr, also known by "Justin the Philosopher." Since I first encountered this man's legacy, handed down to us over more than 1,800 years, I have been fascinated by him. (I even did a brief podcast meditating on some of his thoughts back in 2007.) He is of course fascinating for having run the gamut of pagan philosophy and then finding what he called the "true philosophy," the life in Christ.
His central insight for us echoes Philippians 4:8, that we should always be meditating on whatever is good, true and beautiful. He wrote that he could see these things everywhere, in every philosophy, every religion, every person. He called what he saw the spermatikos logos, the Logos (Word) of God in seed form. Everywhere we look, there is Christ.
This is, I believe, a critical truth to keep in mind especially when engaging in evangelism. We seek not to change someone's mind or recruit them for our club, but rather to show them that they have been made according to Christ—for, if we are all made according to the image of God, and if Christ is the image of the invisible God, then He is our template. And if each of us is made according to Him, then we have a profound and driving need and often an unexpressed desire for Him. The seed needs only to be watered.
About a year ago, I scribbled out a quick poem as I was thinking about this fascinating time when St. Justin still walked this earth, when paganism was not so much being "defeated" by "Christianity" but rather fulfilled by Christ. I promptly filed it away somewhere and have forgotten about it until now. So, here's a small bit of what I mean. Forgive its poetic lackings.
Within these wizards' staves lies some dark power
that wills our eyes to deeply, deeply look
and see there some primordial flashing flint
that even in these pagan rites there shines
the gleam of Light of Light, of God of God,
the Logos, ancient of all kings on earth
or in the sky above, that in this ground
the Seed lies firmly rooted, waiting now.
Can it be true that warlocks' cants and spells
and witchery could lead us to the Son?
How could this blackness, thick with demon night
allow some light to glimmer forth with power?
How can the prostitutes of Artemis
seduce us to a chaste and perfect fire?
Can Dionysios ferment a drink
to wash away our sins and give us life?
Let me say yes, that He Who came to us
did not arrive with fire and fury-might,
destruction bent and condemnation's name
upon His brow, to wipe this world away.
No, I shall call His name Redeemer-God,
that He Who plants the Seed before all time
can water it and tend His garden great,
for even in our deviance, He's there.
Still further, all these evil rites of man
are naught but dry attempts at worshiping
the one true God, Beginning and the End,
Who so fills all throughout His universe
that there is left not one excuse for us,
that we must see Him everywhere revealed:
His face in life, in death, in anguished birth,
in ancient prophecy and modern words.
And so Redeemer, far from finding us
in deprivation total, sees the Seed
within each man, within each culture's life
and with the water purifies,
baptizing everything throughout the world,
that cleansed of incompleteness and disease
our deaths can be transfigured into trees
that stretch to Heaven, filled with holy fruit.
So if that power is dark, it's not from taint
but merely from this glass through which we look,
for in this Fall our incompleteness mars
our vision of eternal, perfect truth;
but intuition leads us subtly forth
to Incarnation and the blessed Cross,
of old we knew that God must be a man
and sacrifice would save the fallen world.