Greek Myths and Christian Mystery

By Hugo S. J. Rahner | Go to book overview
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IV
THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY OF SUN AND MOON

INTRODUCTION

I

A s we survey the vast panorama of the ancient cults two very powerful impressions are borne in upon us and they are surely impressions which, as he contrasted the virginal simplicity of his gospel with the bright confusion of Hellenistic piety, the Christian of those days would have shared. The first of these impressions is of the seemingly inexhaustible variety of religious teaching, though it was teaching marked everywhere by a certain unmistakable air of fatigue. At the bottom of it all there is a genuine religious longing; but that longing expresses itself with a sort of drunkard's incoherence in a wild multiplicity of tongues, a multiplicity that still somehow contrives to achieve an effect of monotony.

Now this longing tended vaguely to centre upon the sun as the true embodiment -- or at least the supreme symbol -- of all that the men of antiquity so hungrily desired, and here again we encounter this character of variety. We have the night-travelling sunbarque of the Egyptians that was bound up with their beliefs concerning the next world; we have the sun-worship of the Roman peasant -- essentially a religion of men with their feet upon the ground -- ; we have the Helios Pater of Greek tragedy, the sublime transcendencies of Plotinus' solar mysticism and the brilliance of Roman State religion; we can pass from Plato's myth of the cave down to the debased levels of the magic papyri, and up again to the visionary utterances of Hermetic literature that often truly penetrate to the secret places of the heart; and I want to tell you

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