An honorary member from Benin published in La Croix, the Catholic Weekly magazine the following article and with his permission, we publish it on our website…
warned in a dream . . . they decided to return to their country by another route. Mt (2:12)
The time of Epiphany is one of manifesting the luminous joys that symbolise unexpected encounters. The entire world, from America to Asia and Europe to Oceania and Africa, has joined forces to celebrate a brand new year, to offer gifts and to make wishes. With the Magi resurrected, practiced eyes search the firmament of the future for abundant graces. What is particularly striking is the great openness to humanity – together, in solidarity, all cultures combined. Nativity scenes, wise men, saints and songs fill the Universe with dreams and expectations. Our questions about the incomprehensible destiny of Joseph rival those of God Himself! It is impossible to avoid. The very secular town halls of
sweet France have just had this pleasant experience. All of us, in fact, with shared cultures, have kept in memory the popular song which comes from a shared heritage:
Glory to God in the highest and . . . (Lk 2:14). In Benin, the celebration of Epiphany is preceded by a few days by that of indigenous religions, which does not keep us from the appearance of the kings carrying princely gifts to Bethlehem for a new sovereign, King of the Jews – a supreme uneasiness for Herod!
Pacem in terris . . . peace on earth to people of good will, to those whom He loves!
On Epiphany, through a mysterious osmosis, there was sent to Africa, via Dahomey, an adopted son in the person of an audacious missionary. His name – Francis Aupiais – remains, having been given to a high school, a pearl of hope! I mention Epiphany, Francis Aupiais, and his confreres from the Society founded by Melchior de Brésillac, to illustrate the path of public welfare offered by Jesus of Nazareth and which, in my eyes, is the light of faith without a cloud. It is an obligation to facilitate and encourage the discovery and the expression of togetherness without reference to any evidence, whether it comes from Thomas or emanates from Nicodemus. To base and explain in whom and why one believes – this is my first step, which explains or justifies all options and all commitments. I humbly come here to address this.
In July 1953, after the joy of an honourable admission to the Baccalaureate in Dakar, I had the fortunate opportunity of sharing a free discussion with my
rhetoric professor, as one sometimes says. The subject was related to knowing the following: What further studies should I undertake and for what reason? I dreamt of
philosophy. Maurice Pinson persuaded me to become interested in history. I was his disciple. I accepted his advice.
I profoundly thank him today because in a very essential way he contributed to building the values that became for me a
I became interested in the human history of Jesus, and notably in the words spoken after his death, at his reappearance, those by which he sent his apostles, who became his
brothers in mission, to the ends of the earth. His brothers? – What a great novelty! Huge discovery! (Jn 20:17; Mt 28:10) Astonishment is the spark of science; let’s begin our odyssey with the event that puts it in motion, the
fulgur veritatis, which sparkles in the eyes of everyone.
To Suffer Under Pontius Pilate
A key figure in Christian faith is Pontius Pilate – his name, his function, his wife, his decisions. He attests, confirms and authenticates the human history of Jesus,
King of the Jews, by condemning him to crucifixion
What I have written, I have written!
Our great Carthaginian ancestor, the celebrated author and theologian Tertullian (deceased in 220) mentions in two passages of his Apologetics an encounter in which Pontius Pilate told Tiberius not only about
the miracles and the Passion, but also the Resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus.
We have here an irreplaceable key of historical good faith. All of this falls apart if the figure of Pilate collapses and the figure of the Libyan
Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, the providential figure of Africa during the painful and glorious epic of our redemption, falls away. On this precise point, in the prayed dialogue taking place with our Muslim brothers, we continue to implore the Spirit! Moreover, when we go back to the context of the period of the small territory of preaching for the Nazorean born in Bethlehem, it would have been folly to believe in the possibility of what we see 2000 years later: Jesus is widely present in Papua, in the Andes, in the Sahara and with Vikings, in huts and palaces everywhere. Let’s entrust everything else to a preciously faithful memory:
You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)
This leads to questions of common sense:
That Rome, through Pontius Pilate, condemned Jesus by insisting upon His royal character, should then become the seat of the Christian world – is it only chance and the humour of the times?
That the Roman calendar loses all value and that the time of men and seasons becomes the time of Jesus Christ throughout all the earth – is this normal?
What astonishment finally comes from revelation and from prophetic science if one discerns in pure innocence the all new luminous sign, coming from the African depths, of a Sango or Bantu figure to teach people, alongside the successor of Peter, how to overcome humiliation!
Here is a symbol before our eyes, a cardinal of the Universal Church, an authentic image, neither foreseen nor expected, but whose bursting forth had been announced by the prophets.
Those coming from the East and the West and taking a place with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Founding Spirit was already recognized:
Beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, my worshipers, my scattered children will bring my offering. (Isaiah). Stepping stones had already been laid! Apart from daily life founded upon realities difficult to deny, there is what we remember and all that we have learned.
While still a student, I learned from Claude Bernard that
the facts suggest the idea, the idea directs the experience, the experience judges the idea. This leads to an audacious shortcut:
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up . . . He was speaking of the temple of his body. Also, when he would awake among the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this. (Jn 2:19)
The same human story of Jesus of Nazareth reminds us of tortures and massacres, of lion pits that over the centuries could not shake the faith of those with
unparalleled stubbornness. So, when chance encounters lead me to a sanctuary in Dassari, Benin, or to the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, and one sings of Jesus of Nazareth in all spoken languages to the ends of the earth, I believe in the words spoken
AFTER THE RESURRECTION and whose expression, vitality and duration over 2000 years confounds us. The historical observation which is hard for me to escape leads me to a confession and a step. I dare, as do others, to go to this Jesus of Nazareth and to talk to him. It is up to me, as to Zachariah, to welcome a response – a response clear and precise. An epiphany! And so
I know in whom I have placed my trust – 1 Tim –
he saw and he believed… reported John the Evangelist (Jn 20:8).
Yes, I saw and so I believed. I also understand the prudent lesson of Alexandre Dumas to the people of his time:
Wait to deny God, until it has been well proven to you that He does not exist. He always surprises, this
God who loves all people and does not want to lose a single one of them! Sublimating all audacities and all heroism that lived in him or haunted him, his manifestation embodied in the infant born of Mary – Issa ibn Maryam, as the Koran confirms – redefined the pedagogy of knowledge by experience and evidence by
having seen. It makes us discover in each of us his creative immanence of new epiphanies and hopes of resurrection that bring out the ecstasy of commitments, since they are a witness that is always present.
Jesus values all follies, Henri Grouès, who would become
Abbé Pierre, tells us. Here is the one who gave all his immutable dimension to this Universal Missionary Church, propelled from Galilee
to the mountain which Jesus had designated(Mt 28: 16-20).
The evident fact is that the Epiphany, predicted by the Magi, announced and proclaimed on the mountain of Galilee, remains and becomes evident throughout the world, to all the extremes – in spite of all the vicissitudes and multiple faces. It is the immense and living assembly of consciousness, stirred up in constant anxiety and vigilance, which, across a million borders, questions itself, scrutinizes the signs and takes the risk of incarnating the Word and of
reifying the Gospel, the assurance of the liberation of all by the development of all! (Paul VI)
It is because of the
misery of the crowds, in the name of all those who confess each night to only know how to love
with rage in the heart (Anna Greki), that we are immersed in the reality of the dream of the Magi of Bethlehem.
A dream! should I be worried by a dream? lamented Athalie . . . and
it was during the horror of a deep night . . .. We ask ourselves, through the very real nightmare of a collective suicide of which we are living on the very edge, to count on public sanity and to dare the leap which reassures that he of
the other way is unknown by the guilty Herod, who is forever a most monstrous symbol of the
massacre of the Innocents.
Let’s return to today
We know that, in the impossibility of putting a soldier behind each citizen to guarantee his safety, the only credible and durable option remains the unavoidable one of strengthening all efforts of LIVING TOGETHER despite all differences.
The star of the eminent researchers scrutinizing the heavens is, in truth, the compass of peace towards the just path – the path for
men of good will and the shepherds from around Bethlehem, as well as for the wise men from the East: People
of every tribe, language people and nation. (Apoc 5:9)
It needs to be pointed out that this is also the path of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue closely linked to developmental solidarity.
This convergence of faith and reason opens for us
another way and requires commitment: Forward!
Albert TEVOEDJRE (Brother Melchior)
Epiphany in Porto-Novo, Benin, January 2017, in memory of Father Francis Aupiais (SMA)