Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Not Even Mahathir Can Bring Najib Down If He Refuses To Step Down

I have heard since the middle last year (2014) that Malaysia will have the new prime minister before the year end, or the latest, by early 2015.  

That was a year and a half ago.  Today, mid December 2015, Najib appears to be stronger than ever before.  Wrapping up the UMNO Annual General Meeting 2015 on Saturday afternoon a few days ago, he not only appeared confident, but managed to stage a dramatic closing, making many delegates and visitors wet in tears.

The picture was not a meek, uncomfortable man like he was a year ago, while delivering new year message, on the eve of January 1, 2015.  In all likelihood, this upcoming new year message, to be delivered in two weeks time, will be made by the same person, but not the same man.  Of course the person will still be Najib, and the man would also carry the same name.  But it will not be the meek and uncomfortable man bearing similar name a year ago.  It would be a man filled with confident and sure about himself.

Najib's resilience surprised everybody.  The one most surprised is probably his former mentor, now his number one nemesis, Dr Mahathir, former prime minister of Malaysia for 22 years, and the one who picked Najib to be his successor in waiting.  Successor in waiting because Mahathir did not give the seat straight to Najib, but to Abdullah Badawi, with the gentlemanly agreement, it was alleged by Mahathir himself, that Abdullah, affectionately called Pak Lah, would give the seat to Najib after a few years.

The transition from Pak Lah to Najib was not as smooth as Mahathir or Najib had wanted.  All the while under Mahathir's shadow, Pak Lah suddenly became his own man after assuming the prime ministership.  Mahathir was incensed that Pak Lah did not continue with the policy and programs he devised before stepping down.  Instead, he reversed many of these and devised programs and policies of his own. So Mahathir used all his power and influence to bring Pak Lah down.  There was bitter fight, but before long, Pak Lah did step down, leaving the mantle of leadership to Mahathir chosen's successor, Najib.

To begin with, Najib was the one Mahathir intended to be his successor, after his falling out with Anwar, the then prime minister in waiting, but is now residing in jail for his alleged sodomy excursion.  And Mahathir did publicly praise Najib during the first year of his prime ministership for his competence, as opposed to Pak Lah's incompetence.  Yet it was not long before the two fell out with one another.  The reasons had to do with the National Coalition's worst performance in the General Election, held in 2013, along with numerous alleged scandals, especially 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion "donation," plus the first lady alleged wasteful expenses using state money.

Like what he did to Pak Lah, Mahathir did the same to Najib.  He demanded Najib to resign.  When Najib refused, Mahathir publicly attacked Najib.  With the kind of scandals Najib are implicated, and knowing the kind of man Mahathir is, many predicted that Najib won't last before the year end.  That was last year.

Any observer could see that Najib was threading the worst period of his political life.  He appeared extremely uncomfortable giving speeches, no matter how hard he tried to keep his cool.  With his "soft" disposition, many thought that he would fall as easily as his predecessor.

But one and a half year later, it is his attacker, Dr. Mahathir, who appears to be on the losing side.  The story is still being written, but if the current trend continues, then this will be the first time Mahathir fails to bring down the PM of the day.  Already 90 years old, this will be his last as well.

Of course the only apparent PM he brought down was Pak Lah, his successor, but the fall of the first PM of Malaysia, Tunku, had to do, to some extent at least, with his Open Letter and his book the Malay Dilemma, along with his many other speeches and criticisms against the Father of Malaysia.  Mahathir was thrown out of UMNO for his attack on Tunku, but Tunku's political career did not last that long either after that.

Mahathir's predecessor, Hussein, resigned on health reason, but many know that the real reason was due to the "overwhelming presence" of his deputy.  Mahathir did not oust him, of course, but health reason could not have been the only factor.  The only PM that escaped Mahathir's involvement in the termination of his career was Abdul Razak, the father of Najib.  He died prematurely while still in office.  And supposed he lived longer, Mahathir would probably not force him out, for he was the one rescuing Mahathir from his political wilderness.

When he was the PM, Mahathir too was not free from attempts to oust him.  First by the group led by Finance Minister and  ex Deputy PM.  Second by his protege turned enemy, Anwar Ibrahim.  In both occasions he refused to budge and utilized the incumbent advantage, helping himself with the state apparatus to ensure that he continued to be in power.  He ended his prime ministership on his own accord after 22 years in office, in 2003, during the period whereby there was no threat to his throne.

Mahathir and Najib seem worlds apart.  The former is confrontative, the latter is evasive.  The former has no qualm about making enemies, the latter prefers to conciliate and accommodate all and sundry.

But one thing they seem to have in common.  Both know and will not mind using whatever apparatus and means available to them as the men in power in order to remain in power.

Learning from his former mentor and current nemesis, Najib seems to know that no one can force the PM of Malaysia to step down if he does not want to.  Mahathir had proven that during his time.  Najib seems to want to prove the same.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Chapter 10: The Empress and the Aged Priest

            “YOU know who I am?”  Asked the young woman to the aged man.
“Of course!  My colleague had spoken a lot about you.  And I have been expecting you.”  The aged man answered.
“Then you must know the reason for my visit.”  The young woman said, as if to test what else did the colleague of the aged man said about her.
“As to that, your majesty, my colleague had been very frugal with words.” The aged man answered.
“Your colleague surely has been faithful in his service,” added the young woman.
“Perhaps not entirely,” said the old man.  The young woman posed a questioning look to the old man.
“My colleague didn’t tell me that your majesty is not only beautiful, but also graceful.”  Said the old man.
Lest the readers keep guessing, the young woman was none other than Constantia, and the aged man was the central figure of the controversy, Arius.  Constantia had asked Eusebius, the bishop of Nicomedia, for a meeting with Arius.  Eusebius was close to the court of Constantine, since Constantine at that time resided in Nicomedia.  Constantine later on moved his royal residence to Byzantium, and renamed it Constantinople, the city of Constantine, after Byzantium was massively rebuilt. 
Yet, close as he was to the royal court of Constantine, Eusebius did not have much influence upon the emperor at that time, as did Hosius.  Further, unlike Hosius who bitterly opposed Arius and his doctrine, Arianism, Eusebius was actually the supporter of Arius’ doctrine.  In fact, both Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia were colleagues.  They had been studied together under the great Lucian the Martyr, one of the illustrious Church Fathers.  Eusebius was to be the Royal Bishop later on.  He would have a degree of influence upon the emperor, and the one to baptize Constantine when the latter finally decided it was time to undertake the ritual making him fully Christian.  But as of that moment, in the year 325 AD, Eusebius was just one of those big town bishops.
In any case, because of his close relationship with Arius, Constantia had asked Eusebius to arrange a meeting with the latter a few weeks before the great universal gathering commenced.  As to the reason why Constantia wanted to meet Arius, this she did not disclose to Eusebius, and Eusebius, on his part, did not find it proper to ask.  It was a request from the emperor’s sister.  That was all Eusebius needed to know.  Thus, when Arius said that Eusebius did not disclose the intent for the meeting, Constantia knew that this respected patriarch of Nicomedia had carried his duty to the letter, without a slight alteration to it.
The meeting took place in a secret location.  All precautions were made on both sides to ensure that the meeting remained private and confidential.  To maintain such secrecy was no small feat, for both Constantia and Arius were very much public people.  However, with no help of modern mass media technologies, such as in the modern times, it was not exactly impossible either for that secret meeting to take place.  
It was the first time each met the other.  The young empress of the late co-emperor was beautiful and graceful; the aged priest was poised and wise.
“Don’t you want to know why I request for a meeting?”  Constantia asked.
“Any invitation to meet a royal family is a great honor, with or without reason,” answered the aged priest.
“Even if the meeting could endanger your life?”
“I am a man closer to meeting my Lord.  My days in this world are numbered.”
The young empress smiled.  The aged priest had a point.  He was already 75 years old.  Most of his contemporaries were already dead.
“How about endangering your reputation?”  Somehow the young empress felt drawn to tease the old man.  She was apparently amused by the way the aged priest viewed things.
“I am already a reputed troublemaker.  What can be worse than that?”
“Quite right.  You are quite right there, wise priest.  But are you not curious at all, as to why I asked for a meeting?”
“Curious?  Yes, but when you reach my age, your majesty, even curiosity loses its senses,” said the old priest, cheek in the tongue.  The young empress laughed at his wry sense of humor. 
“Yet you are not old enough to play havoc with your religion!”  The young empress provoked.
“Never old enough to speak the truth, your majesty.”  The aged priest corrected.  And never old enough to tease a younger woman, Constantia thought.  In later years, one of the things his opponents accused of Arius was that he had a way with the lady.  That of course had nothing to do with hanky panky.  Arius was a charming man, even when he was old.  He had a gift with words, and it is this gift that drawn people to him, not just the ladies.
There was silence for a moment.   
“I thought you should know that this universal council convoked by my brother is actually to get at you,” said the young empress.
“I thought as much already.  The question is, how to approach a situation like this,” muttered the aged priest and paused for a while before continuing, “you wouldn’t have any idea, I suppose, of how best to approach an episode like this?”
“Frankly, no,” the young empress replied, looking disappointed.  The aged priest also looked disappointed.
“You must forgive me, your majesty, but you have brought me the news I already know without giving me any direction as to where I should lead.  That doesn’t sound right.  Surely you have other reason for wanting to see me.”
“I don’t, except that I would rather my brother not have his way the way he wants it.”
“As a revenge for putting your husband into a grave?”
“No, not exactly a revenge, or at least not for that reason.”
“A revenge nevertheless.”
“If you insist, but not for having my husband executed.”
 “But for other reason that you would rather not disclose?”
“Pray tell me, your majesty,” said the aged priest, “what exactly do you want me to do?”
The question from the old priest jerked the young empress somewhat.  Truth be told, the only reason for her to meet the old priest was to tell him that Hosius and his cohorts were using his brother to nail Arius’ down.  She had naively expected that the old priest wouldn’t know about it.  Now that she found the old priest was well informed, the whole purpose of the meeting appeared to be unnecessary.  Further, there was something about the old priest that made her slightly uncomfortable.  It was something that made her felt drawn towards him, yet because of that, she also felt rather uncomfortable.  In any case, it was nothing sexual.
“If I say that the only reason I want to see you is to warn you that they are going to have you nailed, would that not be good enough reason?”  The young empress asked.
“It would, your majesty, but what good would it do to me?”
“Even after knowing that, you still want to attend the conference?”
“Pray tell me young empress, what other choice do I have?”
There was silence again.  This meeting was supposed to be brief and simple.  At the rate things were going, it was not all that simple.  Simple to the aged priest perhaps, but to the young empress, it made her looked like a fool. 
“All is not lost my young empress.  If your interest is to thwart your brother’s plan, which in a way is not really his plan, but of Alexander, Hosius and the gang, there are other means by which we can cooperate together.”  The aged priest broke the silence. 
“I am all ears, wise priest,” rejoined the young empress.
“I was thinking that you perhaps can be my eyes and ears in the court of the emperor.  I may lose the battle in this conference, which I think I will, but at least I can still fight for my cause.”
The young empress thought for a while.  The request did not seem difficult to grant, except that she would have to be close to Constantine, whom she had been avoiding for the last few months.
“What exactly do I have to do?”
“Let me and Eusebius know what is going on.  Just be our eyes and ears.”
“Your request would mean that I will have to be close to my brother?”
“Would that be a difficult thing to do?  Is he not your brother, and you, his beloved sister?”
“Our relationship has been strained of late.”
“To be expected after the demise of your late husband, I would say.”
“There is more to it than that,” said the young empress.
“And I suspect it is something you’d rather not disclose.”
“It has nothing to do with you.”
“Of course not, but could you make amend, I mean, with your brother?”
“It is my heart that I fear, not his.  After all he is the guilty one.”
“Could you then amend your heart?”
“I suppose I can, but what exactly do you have in mind?”
“I myself do not know as yet, but being our eyes and ears would be a good start.  Knowing your opponent’s moves is winning half a battle already.”
The young empress agreed.  It was not too difficult a thing to do.  All she needed to do was to be aware of what is going on in the Constantine’s court.  The only problem was that she had to start getting close to Constantine.  That too was not difficult, since it was Constantia who had been avoiding Constantine.  Her brother had been trying to meet her quite a few times already. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Chapter 9: The Closed Door Council

            “WHY am I not informed of this matter, that among you, there are those who do not believe in the divinity of your Christ?”  Demanded Constantine when the close door council was held.  His eyes were on Hosius and Eustathius.  Also present in the meeting were Alexander, his cohort Athanasius, Marcellus of Ancrya, Eustathius of Antioch, and Macarius of Jerusalem.  Arius, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea were notably absent in this close door meeting, which in a way was expected, for they belonged to the Arian camp.  They couldn’t be expected to be in the central committee which was designed by Hosius and Alexander.  Constantine agreed to join the central committee because it was a practical thing to do.  He wanted this controversy to cease as much, if not more, than this orthodox party led by Hosius and Alexander.
“Jacob is ebionite my Lord.  He and his cohorts are more like a Jewish sect.  Nothing to do with Christianity.”
“Then why were he and his cohorts invited to this gathering?”  Asked Constantine, apparently not quite satisfied with Hosius answer.
“They claim themselves to be the follower of Christ, but they have been deemed heretical by our Church Fathers,” added Eustathius.
“If they are not really one of you, then why were they invited?”  Demanded Constantine again, apparently also dissatisfied with Eustathius answer.
“It is more complicated than that my Lord,” said Hosius, “they are not Christians in the sense that they are not orthodox.  They follow the Law of Moses, but they are not Jewish either.  We often call them Christian Jewish, so they are not totally outsiders either, which is why they were invited.”
“Interesting group of people you are,” quipped Constantine sarcastically.
 “Not only interesting, but as your Lord can see, we are also chaotic.  That’s because since from the beginning, we have no central authority to bind us together.  It is apparent that the Kingdom of Heaven cannot work without a king.  That’s why we need an emperor’s intervention.  In short, we need a king among ourselves.”  Said Hosius.
“And you need a pagan emperor to be your king?” Quipped Constantine in all seriousness.
“The Lord Jesus Christ works in a mysterious way,” spoke Alexander, a much respected Patriarch of Alexandria, and continued, “He anointed the chosen one and revealed His way to him. When there was confusion in the beginning of this faith, He had chosen St. Paul to show the way.  Now that the believers have become numerous, and the Kingdom of Heaven becomes nearer, He needs a king to rule His Kingdom.  And we believe that you are the anointed King to unite all of us in the Kingdom of Heaven.” 
“How ironic that your god chooses a pagan king to do the job.”
“Not so ironic because He had done the same before.  He had chosen St. Paul who was the persecutors of Lord’s followers before the Lord Christ revealed himself to Paul.”  Said Alexander.
“If he has chosen me, why doesn’t he reveal himself to me?” 
 “The Lord Christ works in many ways.  Or perhaps he has revealed himself to my Lord in the way my Lord is not aware.”  Said Alexander.
“What do you suggest we do now?”  The emperor asked.
“Get Jacob and his cohort out of the august hall,” suggested Marcellus.
“That may not be prudent,” said Alexander, “for we have promised them a fair hearing.”
“With all due respect Alexander, you have seen how Jacob was behaving.  There is no way we can reach reconciliation with a man like that around.”  Insisted Marcellus.
“The more reason we need a man like that around,” said Athanasius who had been quiet so far.
“What do you mean?”  Asked Eustathius.
“His behavior defeats his own argument.  His antics would reveal himself to his colleagues as unreasonable man.  His behavior would do great disservice to his idea.  He would soon fall, mark my word.  It is not him I am worried.  It is Arius.  See how quiet he has been.  We are talking about his heretical idea, yet he has not said a word, not even a word to defend his idea.  That, to me, is a dangerous opponent.  That’s precisely why Arius has been very influential.  That guy is slick.  We need to figure out ways to make him talk.  Of course it would be easier to make Arius talk without Jacob around, but if we chase Jacob away, chances are Arius and his supporters might also walk out.  That would defeat the purpose of this universal gathering.”
The members of the council felt that Athanasius had a point.  Jacob was not really the issue, but his way was not really welcome either.  They finally decided to give stern warning to Jacob to behave, or else he would be asked to get out of the august hall. 
What Athanasius said about Arius was only half correct.  That Arius is a brilliant priest was not wrong, but that did not explain why he had been quiet.  Unbeknown to the members of this close door council, Arius had been forewarned about the real purpose of this ecumenical gathering.  He had been visited by a special visitor.
That visitor was no other than Constantia, the step sister of Constantine, and the widow of the late emperor Licinius.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chapter 8: The Raging Debate

             “OUR AGENDA TODAY is to put forth, once and for all, the true nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, whether he is of the same substance as the Father, as our earlier Church Fathers believe, or in fact of different substance from the Father, as claimed by Arius; whether he is very God as the Father, or subordinated to Him; whether he is eternal, or merely created,” said Hosius in his opening remark as the president of the Council in Nicaea.  Seating next to him was Emperor Constantine, observing the procession.
“Everyone would be given a fair chance of voicing his view,” he continued, “let no stone left unturned, no argument unheard.  At the end of the day—and by that I don’t mean today, for we shall take as much time as necessary—we shall reach an agreement, once and for all, to our long standing dispute.”
“And if we do not?”  One of the participants asked.
“We have to reach an agreement, my fellow believers.  There are no two ways about it.”
“But if we cannot,” insisted this participant, whose name was Jacob, a prominent ebionite from Petrae, Arabia.
“We have to reach an agreement.  There is no question that we cannot,” Hosius continued, beginning to feel irritated by Jacob’s insistence.
“Suppose we cannot.”  Again Jacob insisted.
“Then the emperor will have to decide,” said Hosius.
There was laughter.  Jacob laughed the loudest, along with his colleagues seated near to him.  Arius, the man alleged to cause all the commotions, grinned cynically.  What a farce! He thought.  Alexander, the respected bishop from Alexandria, Egypt, stared grimly.  Seated next to him was Athanasius, his young deacon, whose face was stone serious.  He didn’t find it amusing.  Both Alexander and Athanasius were Arius’ strong antagonists.
“This august hall is no place for mockery,” warned Hosius in all seriousness after the laughter was subsided.
“Pray tell me, Mr. President Hosius of Cordoba, whose mockery is graver, mine or yours?”  Challenged the ebionite from Petrae.
“Just what do you mean by that?”  Hosius demanded.
“A pagan emperor to decide on our religious dispute?  What mockery can be greater than that?”  The hall was quiet this time.  All faces were zoomed to Constantine, looking perhaps for the sign of anger.  But Constantine the great was as cool as ever.  He didn’t show much reaction.  Perhaps he had anticipated such kind of remark.  Perhaps he was merely good at hiding his emotion.  Perhaps he was merely great, for only great man can take such kind of insult.  Or perhaps he didn’t put much hope on this kind of conference among the fanatics.  Or perhaps whatever happened during the debate, this didn’t bother him much, because he already had something up his sleeve. 
But Hosius’ face turned as red as a burning flame.  He was incensed.  With the most authoritative voice, he retorted:
“Another remark of that kind from you, you would be lucky to have your head intact.”
“So much for the fair hearing,” Jacob was unrelenting.
“Out of this hall, NOW!!!” Hosius yelled, already losing his temper.  Jacob stood up and about to make a move out of his chair.
“Sit, please,” suddenly there was a firm and authoritative yet non-threatening voice coming from one direction.  It was from Constantine himself.  All eyes were on him.  Constantine signaled to Hosius to remain calm.  He stood up slowly in a regal manner.
“Permission to speak my fellow compatriots,” Constantine spoke, “I shouldn’t have interjected, for I am not one of the disputants.  But I have to, seeing the emotions have been kindled even before the debate begins.”
All eyes were on him.  All ears listened to his voice attentively.  Constantine still regained his composure, as cool as ever.
“Our fellow brother is correct.  I am no Christian.  I don’t know what Christianity really is.  I don’t really know who your gods really are.  I am not even sure whether your gods are one or many.  But how could I, when even prominent bishops such as yourselves couldn’t agree on what constitute the basis of your religion, or the nature of your god.  Now, perhaps many of you do not accept me as a Christian, and you are right, because how could I claim myself to be the follower of Christ when I do not even know who he is.”  The emperor paused for a while, eyeing the reaction from the audience.  They all looked attentive.
“I was the follower of Sol Invictus.  Perhaps I still am.  And who is this god, Sol Invictus?  He is the Sun-God.  Is he really a god?  All of you would say no.  He is just a sun.  Do I really believe him to be god?  Does it really matter?”  Again the emperor paused, eyeing the audience once again, and continued.
“I will tell you what matter.  I see him rises every day from the east and sets in the west.  He is there, every day.  I can see him every day without fail.  Without him, this world would perish.  He gives us light.  Through him, our eyes can see.  Without him, our eyes are blind.  He gives us life.  Without him, we would all perish.  Now, is he a god?  You would say that he is no god, just a sun.  But I will say, I know him, and I know he gives us life.  He may not be worthy to be a god, but what is God?”  The emperor paused yet again, for the last time.
“Let it be recorded that I convoke upon you to convene here because I have a feeling there is a greater God than the sun.  Let it be known as well that my mother is a devoted Christian.  She is not an iota as knowledgeable as you are, but she knows what she worships, and she does not indulge in a petty dispute like you.  She had asked me to go to Jerusalem, to be baptized there.  As a dutiful son, and as someone who believes that there is a greater god than the sun, I was inclined to follow her to Jerusalem, but I had to postpone the plan, because this matter in our hand is greater than me accompanying my mother to the Holy Land.  My mother is a true believer.  She has found her God, but I am still looking.  Why am I still looking?  Because you, those who are supposed to tell me who this god really is, cannot agree on his nature.  Now, I am here to find out.  Nay, we are all here to find out.  Hosius was right when he said that we need to reach an agreement, but he was wrong when he said that I will make the final decision.  I am not here to decide.  I am here to help you decide.”  With those words, Constantine sat down.
It was a regal gesture, fit for a great emperor.  His words calmed everyone in the hall.  It didn’t really matter whether or not he spoke from the heart.  For all intents and purposes, he appeared sincere with his words.  More importantly, his brief interlude put everyone to ease.
“Shall we continue?”  Said Eustathius.
“Yes, we shall,” said Hosius and continued, “you must forgive me for blurting out.  It was unbecoming of me as the president of this council, but I wouldn’t be as incensed were the insult leveled against me.  Our brother Jacob has shown utter disrespect to his majesty by such remark.  Whether or not his majesty is pagan is immaterial, for such is not the issue in hand.  His majesty has shown his eminence grace by remaining calm in spite of the insult.  And I must say that he has shown himself to be even more Christian than some of us here.  Now, shall we focus on the first issue in hand.  Is the Lord Jesus a God and very God as the Father the God; or is he subordinated to the Father, as claimed by Arius?”
“And why not entertain another possibility?”  Said Jacob, still in his element, even after the passionate speech from the emperor.
“Namely?” Asked Hosius, although he knew already what Jacob would say.
“That he is just a man, though holy indeed is he.”
“The Lord Christ’s divinity has been established.  It is no longer a question…” said Eustathius.
“By whom?”  Interjected Jacob before Eustathius finished his sentence.
“The Lord Jesus’ divinity is not an issue here.  It has been established by our Church Fathers.  What we are attempting to resolve here is whether or not he is of the same substance as the Father, or of difference substance.”  Said Eustathius.
“He is none of that,” insisted Jacob.
“Enough Jacob!” Hosius tried to shut Jacob up, “let’s focus on the issue in hand.”
“The issue is wrongly formulated in the first place.  Jesus himself said that he is a man.  Look into the scripture, if you will,” insisted Jacob.
“It is in the scripture that the Lord Jesus said he is God, the Son of God.”  Another voice spoke.  It was from Alexander, the prominent aged bishop of Alexandria, the place where Arian controversy was most rife.
“Only in the Gospels of John and Matthew.  And those claims cannot be trusted.  Even if they are to be trusted, they do not mean literally, for Adam is also said to be the son of God, and David, and all the Children of Israel.  The term was to convey the relationship in terms of faith, not a literal relationship.  God neither begets nor begotten.  He is one, as said by the Lord Jesus Christ himself.  Do you want me to quote the verse?” Challenged Jacob.
“You Ebionite pig, the murderer of the Lord,” another voice came in.  It was Marcellus, the prominent priest of Ancrya.  Ancrya, we may note, is to be called Ankara in the later days, the capital of the modern Turkey. 
“Pardon my expression your majesty,” Marcellus apologized to the emperor for his rude expression.  This priest from Ancrya was known for his hot tempered, partly because he was then rather young.
“The Lord Jesus already freed us from the shackles of the Mosaic Law, but you still want to go back to the old ages.”  Marcellus continued.
“The Lord Jesus did not come to nullify the Law, but to fulfill it.  Do you want me to quote the verse?”  Jacob was persistent.
“Enough of the verse quoting challenge, Jacob,” said Hosius in an authoritative voice, “we know the scripture as much as you do, if not more.”
“Then why are you not following the scripture?”
Constantine was observing the debate attentively.  He was rather amused.  The issue brought by Jacob had nothing to do with the issue in hand.  He was exhaustively briefed by Hosius about the Arian controversy.  But the Arian question was not even entertained.  And the originator of the great controversy, Arius, remained seated and motionless in his seat, grinning occasionally, as if amused by the whole thing.
“Let’s stick with the issue brought by Arius, Jacob.  Let’s not get sidetracked by something already decided,” Hosius said.
“Who decided what.”
“If you insist on sidetracking, this will be no end.  A stop must be put to it.  And, as the president of this council, I demand that you remain with the issue.”
“The issue is to put forward the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ once and for all,” insisted Jacob.
“Yes, and what is he.  Is he of the same essence with the Father or not?”
“He is a man, a rabbi, a holy man.”
“He is a God!!!” Marcellus shouted to the top of his voice, “Don’t blaspheme this august hall, Jacob.”
“He is a man.  Don’t blaspheme God, Marcellus!!!”  Interjected Jacob, equally loud.
There is no way these fanatics can come to the agreement, thought Constantine.  Already they were at the top of their voice, yet the issue in hand was not even entertained.  If something is to be achieved at all, thought Constantine, an emperor’s intervention would be required.  Even a God needs a king to intervene on his behalf, Constantine remembered Hosius’ plea months ago.
The debate raged on ceaselessly on the nature of Christ.  Seeing there was no end to it, Constantine motion to Hosius to put the debate into a recess, to be continued the day after.  The central committee meeting would be convened that evening to decide how to handle this kind of situation, should it arise again.  This endless debate which did not even touch the issue in hand must be put to a stop.  The emperor himself would chair this close door meeting.

Before the session for the day ended, Constantine ordered that all disputants submit their secret petitions for favors and for redress the first thing when the next session started.  

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Chapter 7: The Council

WHETHER Constantine was persuaded by Eustathius’ argument, or Hosius’ flattery, at that moment such matter appeared immaterial.  Being a practical man, and seeing no better option, he agreed with the proposal to convoke an ecumenical council among the prominent priests.  It was called ecumenical because all prominent priests the world over were invited to attend.  Ecumenical is a term borrowed from a Greek word oikoumenikos, meaning universal. 
It was going to be nothing less than a universal gathering, where all priests in the then known universe would be invited to participate.  A place called Nicaea in the Asia Minor was chosen, its location being the most central in the Christian world and the city was near the seat of the Constantine’s empire.  Constantine also had summer imperial palace there, where the council would be held. The date May 20th 325 was chosen and letters convoking all prominent bishops and priests were sent.  Altogether 1,800 bishops were invited: 1,000 from the East and 800 from the West.
Hosius was right.  Even a god needs a king, for throughout the Christianity history up until that moment, there had not been a turnout as big as the one at Nicaea.  About 2,018 priests of various denominations came from the East as well as the West.  Even bishops from the Persian Empire attended, though they were by definition not obliged to attend, for at least two reasons.  One, they were not Constantine’s subjects, since they were the subjects of the Persian Emperor.  Two, the convocation was not made by a Christian authority, but a pagan emperor.  Yet they came, no doubt on the pretext that the council was to be convened by a neutral authority, namely the pagan emperor, or at best a nominal Christian emperor, thereby giving the air of hope that everybody would have fair chance of voicing his view.
The only notable absentee was the pope Sylvester I, the bishop of Rome, on account of his infirmity.  In his place, however, two presbyters were sent. 
Two thousand and eighteen people were too huge a crowd for a meaningful council.  Hence only 320 bishops and prominent priests were allowed to enter the meeting hall.  Selection criteria were determined by the secretariat of the council, headed by Hosius as the president of the council, whose job was to preside on the proceeding.  The Emperor Constantine was to be the observer and overseer of the whole procession, and of course to decide, should these zealots cannot reconcile their differences.  So it was that on 20th of May the year 325, three hundred and twenty prominent bishops throughout the world convened at Nicaea. 
Constantine made a royal appearance wearing his royal robe seating in his royal throne.  His role was made clear: to observe the procession, to be the overseer of the whole proceeding, and to decide should the attendees cannot reconcile their differences. Hosius of course had given more than sufficient briefs to the emperor to enable him to be the final decision maker.  Hosius himself took his place as the president of the whole procession.  In his hand lies the outcome of the great meeting.  He was to be impartial to any dispute, especially regarding the Arian controversy. 
All attendees took their seats, greetings being made, purpose of the meeting being read, and the agenda being set, the debate started.  Here was a group of people passionately debating the subtle and the not so subtle differences in their faiths.  At times the emotion ran so high that the debaters were literally on each other’s necks.  Sometimes the arguments were pure brilliant; sometimes pure insults.  Occasionally they seemed to reach an agreement; most of the time, however, it appeared that they were not capable of agreeing on anything.  Regardless of what transpired, one thing was clear.  This was a group of people whom even death was more preferable than forsaking their faith.  They were totally devoted to their belief, for better or for worse.
As Constantine pondered further, another thing was clear.  For all their passions, devotions and commitments, these people lacked the formula that will glue them together.  That formula was a temporal leadership.  As of now, they were totally disunited.  Disunited zealots were bad omen for the state; that much Constantine knew.  An emperor who can seize the opportunity to be their temporal leader will achieve two benefits.  First, his empire would not only be more orderly, but he would have a group of fearless soldiers to defend the state.  Their bravery bordering on death wish had been proven many times before, especially at the Milvian Bridge against the forces of Maxentius, and at the many battles against Licinius, especially at Adrianople, Hellespont, and Chrysopolis.  Second, that leader will have the opportunity to be immortal.  Not immortality in literal sense, but his name would be remembered for eternity.
The short conversation Constantine had with Hosius rang again in his ear.  The problem of these zealots calling themselves Christians had not been lost to Constantine.  Having defeated all his rivals, Constantine was then concerned about making his empire orderly.  But he had been disturbed by these zealots whom Licinius considered pests.  When Licinius was defeated and put to death, the foremost in Constantine’s mind was how to rein this bunch of zealots. 
Hosius was right.  The divisiveness among these zealots calling themselves Christians had reached the proportion that they can no longer solve it among themselves.  It had to be intervened.  And intervened by an emperor, no less. 

Alas, we move too fast.  There are many finer points that occurred inside and outside of that august conference, as there are many important incidents that occurred during, before and after that pioneer ecumenical council.  These we shouldn’t miss, for they constitute the important parts of the story.  We shall look into some details and not be content with just a mere summary.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chapter 6: The Emperor Anointed

“I sensed that you were not very successful with your mission, Hosius.”  Said the emperor after listening to a brief report from Hosius, the person he finally met at the conference room, after calming his nerve over his silly answer to his sister.
“You sensed correctly, my Lord,” answered Hosius, admitting his failure.  There was other bishop in the room.  His name was Eustathius, a bishop from Antioch, then a prosperous city in the Roman province of Syria, now the town of Antakya in the Southern Turkey.  Hosius brought Eustathius as his sidekick, to strengthen his heart in front of the emperor, for his mission had not been successful.  Hosius’ mission was to put a stop to a controversy sparked by a presbyter called Arius.  The controversy was called the Arian Controversy, after the name of the priest who started it. 
In truth, controversy had been the hallmark among the followers of Christ.  They were of zealous type, and they would pursue their zeal of whatever denomination to the highest degree.  What made it worse was that there was no central authority among them; hence anyone of note can challenge whoever he wished.  In some towns or principalities, such as Alexandria, Antioch, Rome, and Jerusalem, there were organized congregations, later known as churches, generally under the leadership of bishops, but this leadership was purely religious.  Bishops did not have temporal power at their disposal to dispel those challenging their views.  Each group or denomination was pretty much on its own, which was expected, for the temporal power belonged to pagan emperor who reigned over them.
Before the Edict of Milan, the Christians were either ignored or oppressed.  With the Edict of Milan, they found new freedom to profess their belief.  With the new freedom, their zealousness spread like a wildfire.  What used to be disagreement among them had transformed into a crisis the proportion of which could threaten the stability of the state. 
Constantine of course was not interested in these doctrinal controversies, for at best he considered himself only a nominal Christian at that time, but when the proportion of the controversy appeared to be strong enough as to threaten the stability of the empire, especially in Egypt, Syria and Judea, he turned to his old reliable servant Hosius, who was only too willing to be the personal envoy of the emperor. 
 “A bunch of fools, you Christians,” said Constantine after his amusement with Hosius’ answer receded, “I should not have declared your religion legal at Milan,” he continued.  Hosius tried to read whether there was regret in the emperor’s tone, but he found none.  Obviously Constantine did not really mean what he said.
“The situation is critical my Lord, but not hopeless.”  Said Hosius.
“Any suggestion as to what I should do?”
“An emperor’s act,” answered Hosius rather quickly.  He obviously had thought through thoroughly before meeting the emperor.  But the emperor found his answer ambiguous at best.
“Another edict?”  Asked Constantine.
“No my Lord.”
“Now, if you cannot straighten out your controversy among yourselves, then perhaps my sword can.”  Said Constantine.  Hosius detected seriousness in the emperor’s tone of voice.
“You speak the truth my Lord.  Your sword can quench the raging controversy, but it would only be temporary.  I am thinking of a more permanent solution.”
“Permanent solution?”
“And a chance for my Lord to be remembered for eternity.”
Hosius obviously knew how to massage the emperor’s vanity.  His last word struck deep into Constantine’s bone.  His brief conversation with his mother a few nights ago sprang into his mind.  There was something very similar between the conversation he had with his mother and what Hosius was saying.   Both the mother and the bishop sensed that Constantine was destined for greatness, although the former was more concerned about the salvation of her son’s soul while the latter was more concerned about avoiding the emperor’s wrath.
“The controversy, as my Lord knows best, is about the nature of Christ.  Is he very God, or only divine?  We the people of truth believe that he is very God, the only begotten of the Father, uncreated.  Arius the deviant said that he is perhaps divine, but he is nothing more than a creation.  We believe he was with the Father even before time was created, because he and the Father were of the one and the same substance, but Arius said that before he was, he was not.”
“You can cut the crap, you tongue twister,” retorted Constantine, “I am not interested in theological nuances.  If you believe that this Christ is God, or Son of God, He surely would have the power to settle this dispute.  Otherwise, find other gods that can.”
“Of course he could my Lord, but that’s not the point.  The Lord Jesus works in a mysterious way.  He could settle this dispute easily if he wants to, but that’s not his way.”  Hosius was a little taken aback and found himself a bit strained with a cynical remark by the emperor, but he composed himself and spoke in a very diplomatic manner.  He knew that Constantine was at best only nominally Christian, but he didn’t quite expect the emperor would use such a coarse expression. 
“And what is his way?”  Constantine asked
“To work with the anointed one,” Hosius quickly answered.
“I thought Jesus Christ is the anointed one.”
“He is, my Lord, but he is also a God.  By the anointed one, I mean the divinely appointed king.  And that king is none other than you, my Lord.”
“Is not Jesus Christ a messiah, an anointed king?”
“He is no longer with us in person, my Lord.  His task as a man had finished.  He is with the Father at his rightful place now.  But let’s not delve into that.   Shall we instead, my Lord, focus on the issue at hand.”  Said Hosius, finding himself a little awkward to answer the emperor’s inquiry.
“If another edict is not the answer, what exactly do you have in mind?”  Asked the emperor.
“A conference, a universal conference, to be convoked and convened by your majesty,” said Hosius.  It was obvious that had thought through the solution before meeting the great emperor.  Perhaps because he believed it was the most practical of all available solutions.  Or perhaps because it was expected of him to provide an alternative solution, having failed to carry out his mission entrusted by Constantine about two years earlier.
“A conference to settle the dispute among the Christians to be convoked and convened by a pagan emperor?  What can be more ridiculous than that?  If prominent bishops like both of you cannot solve it, what chance does a nominal Christian like me have?”  Protested Constantine.
“No chance, my Lord, that is, if your majesty are just a common unbeliever.  But my Lord is neither unbeliever, nor a common man.  My Lord is Constantine the great, the ruler of the greatest empire.”  Eustathius, a prominent bishop of Antioch who was no less articulate than Hosius, if not more, spoke for the first time. 
On his way back from his mission, Hosius had asked Eustathius to accompany him to seek an audience with the great emperor.  Hosius did not want to risk the chance of persuading the great emperor from convening the universal council among all prominent priests the world over.  He needed a sidekick, to use a modern parlance.  It was only now that his sidekick spoke, since it was Hosius who was made an envoy by the emperor, not Eustathius.   It was Hosius who was called to account for his mission, not Eustathius.  But now that a proposal was tabled, Eustathius felt obliged to chip in.
“As to the common man,” interjected Constantine, “I am probably not, but as to the believer in your God, I am hardly a Christian.”
“My Lord may be more Christian than my Lord thought, but that is not the point.  The point is my Lord is the king, and we the Christians are your subjects.”  Said Hosius.
“That can hardly be disputed.  But is that a point?  Or rather, the point is, how could I, whom most of you would call a pagan emperor, settle the dispute among the Christians?”
“There are times, my Lord, for verbal persuasion.  But when verbal persuasion fails, it is time for imperial decree.”  Eustathius interjected.
“Hosius already said that another edict is not the answer.”  Constantine protested.
“And Hosius has spoken the truth,” interjected Eustathius, “for what is required now is not an edict, but as Hosius has said, a council, to be convened by my Lord.”
“Have I not shot down your ridiculous idea already?  How could you the Christians accept a council to be convoked and convened by a pagan emperor?”
“Aahhh, my Lord is being too modest,” said Hosius, “Are not my Lord forgetting something?”
“When was the height of the Jewish Kingdom?”  Said Hosius in the form of a question.  Constantine sneered at him.  The emperor apparently was not amused by Hosius’ insinuation.  He being quite knowledgeable of the Jewish history, Constantine answered nevertheless.
“During the King David and his son Solomon, of couse.”
“Yes, King David and King Solomon.  The Jews were at their height when there were great kings in their midst.”  Said Hosius.
“But I am no Christian King,” again Constantine protested.
“All the same, my Lord,” interjected Hosius.  “As I said before, what is needed is the anointed one.  And that anointed one is none other than you, my Lord.”  He added.
“Tongue twister,” Constantine retorted, yet again.
“On the contrary my Lord,” Eustathius interjected, “my compatriot Hosius has spoken the truth.  The Lord our God works in the mysterious way.  True, your majesty Lord Constantine has not been baptized, and this by consequence gives the impression that your majesty is not a believer in Christ.  Your majesty also humbles your majestic self by calling yourself a pagan emperor.  But who can deny the fact that your majesty has done a great service to the Christianity.  With the Edict issued in Milan under your majesty’s name, Christianity has found a new lease of life.  No Christian, not even great church fathers, has given this faith its vigor and vitality as your majesty has given.  We bishops are prone to quarrel among ourselves.  The case with Arius and Alexander is only one of many cases—only the most prominent so far.  And given our proclivity to disagreement, who would be better to mediate our dispute than the one who is not taking any side.  And we are not just talking any neutral man here, but we are talking about the great emperor whose edict has brought to life the faith which had hitherto either been ignored, or worst, persecuted.”
“And it should be clear my Lord,” added Hosius, “that even a god needs a king, because it is through human intervention that the God’s work is perfected.  In this case, my Lord is not a mere human, but a divinely anointed emperor, even if my Lord has not realized it yet.”

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