Exile from one’s homeland can cause overwhelming grief to flood over him, a condition illustrated poignantly in the familiar Psalm 137, which begins with the words, ‘By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.’
However, internal exile gives rise perhaps to even sharper pains, as these exiles must stand by and watch as piece after piece of their tradition is destroyed before their eyes.
Internal exile is the situation of traditional Southerners today. And though there are differences between internal and external exile, they are sufficiently similar that Dixie can draw wisdom from the experiences of those who have suffered external exile.
Two especially superb examples of Christians suffering patiently and joyfully despite their exile come to us from the early 5th century: St. John Chrysostom and St. Olympias. St. John is one of the finest pastors the Church has ever known. His surname, Chrysostom, means ‘golden tongue’, a name given to him for the excellence of his many sermons. He was exiled from Constantinople by the God-hating rulers of his day who falsely accused him of various infractions. St. Olympias was born into a well-to-do family, but devoted her life to God after her betrothed died. She became a deaconess in the great cathedral of Hagia Sophia under St. John and was sent into exile because of her loyalty to her godly pastor.
Many letters of these two to one another have survived to our day, and they offer a wealth of helpful advice on how Southerners can deal with our current woes.
In one letter St. John helps us put suffering in its proper perspective. It is in fact something that makes up the very nature of the Church:
Suffering joyfully, without complaint, because of our trust in God is, furthermore, a great virtue. He writes to St. Olympias many moving words about this:
The South can find the will to endure by meditating on the lives of the martyrs and confessors who have gone before us:
And while we are being buffeted by the waves of heavy trials, in order to avoid being crushed against the shoals of despair, it is imperative to remember that God’s love governs the universe:
That same love directs the fate of Dixie, too. And, in a passage reminiscent of General Lee’s on hope in God’s providence, St. John tells us to trust God with the final result of our struggle for an independent, Christian Southland: ‘Therefore, my friend, wait for the final outcome. For all things will certainly turn out, whether in this life or the life to come. In every circumstance, yield to the incomprehensibility of God’s providence.’
Yet, however things turn out for the South, we must praise God, for His ways are beyond searching out:
May our Loving Lord, Jesus Christ, allow the South to achieve all her godly goals, through the prayers of the righteous sufferers, St. John and St. Olympias!
Note: All quotes from St. John are from this essay by Mr. Christopher Hall.
Walt Garlington is a chemical engineer turned writer (and, when able, a planter). He makes his home in Louisiana and is editor of the 'Confiteri: A Southern Perspective' web site.