"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."
C. S. Lewis

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Great Tower

The Third Vision

The Shepherd of Hermas is a Christian literary work of the 1st or 2nd century, considered a valuable book by many Christians, and considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers such as Saint Irenaeus. The Shepherd had great authority in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It was bound with New Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus,  and it was listed between the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Paul in the stichometrical list of the Codex Claromontanus.



THE THIRD VISION which I saw, my brethren, was of the following nature. Having fasted frequently, and having prayed to the Lord that He would show me the revelation which He promised to show me through that old woman, the same night that old woman appeared to me, and said to me, "Since you are so anxious and eager to know all things, go into the part of the country where you stay; and about the fifth hour I shall appear to you, and show you all that you ought to see."

Accordingly, I went to the country, and counted the hours, and reached the place where I, had promised to meet her. And I see an ivory seat ready placed, and on it a linen cushion, and above the linen cushion was spread a covering of fine linen. Seeing these laid out, and yet no one in the place, I began to feel awe, and  a trembling seized hold of me, and my hair stood on end, and a fright came upon me when I saw that I was all alone. But on coming back to my senses and calling to mind the glory of God, I took courage, bent my knees, and again confessed my sins to God as I had done before. Whereupon the old woman approached, accompanied by six young men whom I had also seen before; and she stood behind me, and listened to me, as I prayed and confessed my sins to the Lord. And touching me she said, "Hermas, cease praying continually for your sins; pray for righteousness, that you may have a portion of it immediately in your house." With this, she took me up by the hand, and brought me to the seat, and said to the young men, "Go and build." When the young men had gone, she said to me, "Sit here."

And I said, "Lady, permit my elders to be seated first."

“Do what I bid you," she said; "sit down."

When I would have sat down on her right, she did not permit me, but with her hand beckoned to me to sit down on the left. While I was thinking about this, and feeling perturbed that she did not let me sit on the right, she said, "Are you troubled, Hermas? The place to the right is for others who have already pleased God, and have suffered for His name's sake; and you have yet much to accomplish before you can sit with them. But abide as you now do in your simplicity, and you will sit with them, and with all who do their deeds and bear what they have borne."


"What suffering have they borne?" I said.

"Scourges, prisons, great tribulations, crosses, wild beasts, for God's name's sake,” she said. “On this account is assigned to them the division of santification on the right hand, and to everyone who shall suffer for God's name. To the rest is assigned the division on the left. But both for those who sit on the right, and those who sit on the left, there are the same gifts and promises; only those on the right, and have some glory. You then are eager to sit on the right with them, but your shortcomings are many. But you will be cleansed from your shortcomings; and all who are not given to doubts shall be cleansed from all their iniquities up till this day."

Saying this, she wished to go away. But falling down at her feet, I begged her by the Lord that she would show me the vision which she had promised to show me. And then she again took hold of me by the hand, and raised me, and made me sit on the seat to the left; and lifting up a splendid rod, she said to me, "Do you see something great?"

And I said, "Lady, I see nothing."

She said to me, "Lo! Do you not see opposite to you a great tower, built of splendid square stones upon the waters?" The tower was built square by those six young men who had come with her. But myriads of men were carrying stones to it, some dragging them from the depths, others removing them from the land, and handing them to these six young men. And the six young men took them and built.

The stones that were dragged out of the depths, they placed in the building just as they were: for they were polished and fitted exactly into the other stones, and became so united one with another that the lines of juncture could not be detected. And in this way the tower looked as if it were made out of one stone. But the other stones that were brought from the dry land, some they set aside, while some the young men fitted into the building, while others were rejected, broken to pieces, and cast far away from the tower.

Many other stones, however, lay around the tower, and the young men did not use them in building; for some of them were rough, others had cracks in them, others had been made too short, and others were white and round and thus did not fit into the building of the tower. Moreover, I saw other stones thrown far away from the tower, and falling into the public road; yet they did not remain on the road, but were rolled into a pathless place. And I saw others falling into the fire and burning, others falling close to the water, and yet not capable of being rolled into the water, though they wished to be rolled down, and to enter the water.


On showing me these visions, she wished to retire, so I said to her, "What is the use of my having seen all this, while I do not know what it means?"

"You are,” she said, “an inquisitive fellow, wishing to know everything that relates to the tower."

"It’s true, O Lady," I said, "but only so that I may tell it to my brethren, that, hearing it, they may know the Lord in great glory."

And she said, "Many indeed shall hear, and hearing, some shall be glad, but some shall weep. Yet even these latter, if they hear and repent, shall also rejoice. Hear, then, the parables of the tower for I will reveal all to you. And give me no more trouble in regard to revelation, for these revelations have an end, for they have been completed. But you will not cease praying for revelations, for you are shameless.”

The great lady continued, “The tower which you see building is myself, the Church, who have appeared to you now and on the former occasion. Ask, then, whatever you like in regard to the tower, and I will reveal it to you, that you may rejoice with the saints."

I said to her, "Lady, since you have graciously revealed all to me this once, reveal the meaning."

She said to me, "What ever ought to be revealed, will be revealed; only let your heart be with God, and doubt not what ever you shall see."

I asked her, "Why was the tower built upon the waters, O Lady?"

She answered, " It is because your life has been, and will be, saved through water. For the tower was founder on the word of the almighty and glorious Name and it is kept together by the invisible power of the Lord."


I replied to her, "This is magnificent and marvelous. But who are the six young men who are engaged in building?"

And she said, "These are the holy angels of God, who were first created, and to whom the Lord handed over His whole creation, that they might increase and build up and rule over the whole creation. By these will the building of the tower be finished."

"But who are the other persons who are engaged in carrying the stones?" I asked.

“These also are holy angels of the Lord, but the former six are more excellent than these. The building of the tower will be finished, and all will rejoice together around the tower, and they will glorify God, because the tower is finished," the Lady replied.

I asked, saying, "Lady, I wish to know what became of the stones, and what was meant by the various kinds of stones?"

In reply she said to me, "Not because you are more deserving than all others that this revelation should be made to you—for there are others before you, and more deserving, to whom these visions should have been revealed—but that the name of God may be glorified this revelation is made to you on account of the doubtful who ponder in their hearts the validity of these things. Tell them that all these things are true, and that none of them is beyond the truth. All of them are firm and sure, and established on a strong foundation.


"With regard to the stones which are in the building; those square white stones which fitted exactly into each other are apostles, bishops, teachers, and deacons, who have lived in godly purity, and have acted as bishops and teachers and deacons chastely and reverently to the elect of God. Some of them have fallen asleep, and some still remain alive. And they have always agreed with each other, and been at peace among themselves, and listened to each other. On account of this, they join exactly into the building of the tower."

"But who are the stones that were dragged from the depths, and which were laid into the building and fitted in with the rest of the stones previously placed in the tower," I inquired?

"They are those who suffered for the Lord's sake," she said.

"But, O Lady, who are the other stones which were carried from the land," I asked further.

"Those," she said, "which go into the building without being polished, are those whom God has approved of, for they walked in the straight ways of the Lord and practiced His commandments."

"But who are those who are in the act of being brought and placed in the building," I asked?

"They are those who are young in faith and are faithful. But they are admonished by the angels to do good, for no iniquity has been found in them," she said.

So I inquired, "Who then are those who they rejected and cast away?"

"These are they who have sinned, and wish to repent. On this account they have not been thrown far from the tower, because they will yet be useful in the building, if they repent. Those then who are to repent, if they do repent, will be strong in faith, if they now repent while the tower is building. For if the building be finished, there will not be more room for any one, but he will be rejected. This privilege, however, will belong only to him who has now been placed near the tower.


"Concerning those who were cut down and thrown far away from the tower, do you wish to know who they are? They are the sons of iniquity, and they believed in hypocrisy, and wickedness did not depart from them. For this reason they are not saved, since they cannot be used in the building on account of their iniquities. Therefore they have been cut off and cast far away for they have roused the Lord to anger. But I shall explain to you the other stones which you saw lying in great numbers, and not going into the building. Those which are rough are those who have known the truth and not remained in it, nor have they been joined to the saints. On this account are they unfit for use."

I asked, "Who are those that have cracks?"

"These are they who are at discord in their hearts one with another, and are not at peace amongst themselves. They keep peace while in each others company, but when they are not face-to-face their wicked thoughts remain in their hearts. These, then, are the rifts in the stones. But those which are shortened are those who have indeed believed, and have the larger share of righteousness, yet they also have a considerable share of iniquity, and therefore they are shortened and not whole."

"But who are these, Lady, that are white and round, and yet do not fit into the building of the tower," I pleaded to know?

She answered and said, "How long will you be foolish and stupid, and continue to ask every kind of question and yet understand nothing? These are those who indeed have faith, but they also possess the riches of this world. When, therefore, tribulation comes, they deny the Lord on account of their riches and business."

I answered and said to her, "When, then, will they be useful for the building, Lady?"

“When they have been freed from the riches that now seduce them then will they be of use to God. For as a round stone cannot become square unless portions be cut off and cast away, so also those who are rich in this world cannot be useful to the Lord unless their riches be cut down. Learn this first from your own case. When you were rich, you were useless; but now you are useful and fit for life. Be useful to God; for you also will be used as one of these stones.


"Now the other stones which you saw cast far away from the tower, and falling upon the public road and rolling from it into pathless places, are those who indeed have believed, but through doubt have abandoned the true road. Thinking that they could find a better way, they wander and become wretched, and enter upon pathless places. But those that fell into the fire and were burned are those who have departed for ever from the living God; nor does the thought of repentance ever come into their hearts, on account of their devotion to their passions and to the crimes which they committed.

“Do you wish to know who are the others which fell near the waters, but could not be rolled into them? These are they who have heard the word, and wish to be baptized in the name of the Lord; but when the integrity demanded by the truth comes to their consideration, they draw back, and again walk after their own wicked desires."

She finished her exposition of the tower. But I, shameless as I yet was, asked her, "Is repentance possible for all those stones which have been cast away and did not fit into the building of the tower, and will they yet have a place in this tower?"

"Repentance," said she, "is yet possible, but in this tower they cannot find a suitable place. But in another and much inferior place they will be laid, and that, too, only when they have been tortured and completed the days of their sins. And on this account they will be transferred, because they have partaken of the righteous Word. And then only will they be removed from their punishments when the thought of repenting of the evil deeds which they have done has come into their hearts. But if it does not come into their hearts, they will not be saved, on account of the hardness of their heart."
The Third Vision (in part) of The Shepherd of Hermas, edited and abbreviated, probably poorly, for brevity and clarity, from the Roberts-Donaldson English Translation.

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