The Virtue of Cosmopolitanism

Baciccio Joseph recognized by his brothers
Baciccio’s “Joseph Recognized by His Brothers”

Lord Jesus sent His apostles on their mission. It began with the nation of Israel, then it extended to all the nations of the earth.

The nation of Israel itself had a cosmopolitan heritage. We read at Holy Mass today from Genesis: an episode in which Joseph, the son of Israel, used both his family’s language and the language of the Egyptians. Joseph knew both his own “culture” and the culture of Egypt.

In ensuing generations, after they returned to the Holy Land from slavery in Egypt, the ancient Jews believed that their city of Jerusalem offered to all the nations of the earth a Temple in which to worship the one, true God.

Lord Jesus of course knew all the languages of the world in His divine mind. Over the course of His human pilgrimage, He used a number of them—certainly Aramaic and Hebrew, and perhaps Greek and Latin as well.

In other words, as a human pilgrim and a Jew, God incarnate exercised the virtue of cosmopolitanism. The word cosmopolitan has all but fallen out of use, as the name of a virtue. But isn’t it a sign of human excellence when someone can communicate using more than one language? These days we tend to emphasize the idea of autonomous cultures, distinct “identities.” But the People of God have always lived as citizens of the world. We love all people as sisters and brothers, because we know we share a common Father, our heavenly Father.

StJ sign snowThe mission of the Church indeed requires that we cultivate the virtue of cosmopolitanism, since the Lord has sent us to proclaim His kingdom of all nations. And, without resting on our laurels, we can congratulate ourselves that our local Catholic parishes rank among the most genuinely cosmopolitan institutions of southwest Virginia. In our parishes, people who speak different languages make friends sharing the Christian life together. And these parts don’t boast too many other bi-lingual or tri-lingual institutions.

Christ is the Light of the Nations. Therefore, He is the Light of the American nation. I think we need to meditate on this somewhat deeply, the fact that our beautiful and beloved American “culture” rests on the virtue of Christian cosmopolitanism.

So I’m fixing to give a talk on this subject on the feastday of the Transfiguration (three weeks from Sunday), at 4pm, with solemn Vespers and Benediction, at St. Joseph’s in Martinsville. Mark your calendars!

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