Anglican Morning Devotion, 4 January 2022 Anno Domini
a ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
The title of this devotion may seem strange to some; however, it is taken from the cover of a book by the same title written by Carlo Levi (1947) describing his exile in a little known hamlet of a remote province Lucania in southern Italy where he spent his young years for defying the fascism of Benito Mussolini. This province in southern Italy is quite desolate and not very well known by even the people of Italy. It is remotely secluded among the white and mountainous clay remains of a formerly forested landscape. It is the story of the authors experiences and observations of the village of Gagliano, a settlement where the rough and unsurfaced road from Eboli ends – a resort of people of such doleful insignificance and moral depravity that, in the author’s eyes, even Christ would not visit. In fact, the people of Gagliano were so hopeless as to claim that ‘Christ stopped at Eboli.’
Levi describes with depressing objectivity the plight of these people. He sees clearly beneath the surface the pains and hurt of a people who have been the outcasts of society and of civil concourse for centuries – even the Romans bypassed this region. His descriptions move the heart with pity for the people, but Levi never offers a solution to their forlorn hopes. He makes many allusions to the Christian observances in other districts, but never applies them to the people of Gagliano. I loved reading the story on cold winter days while living in the high desert of Iran for many villages there were of like circumstance – villages such as Najaf-Abad, Varzaneh, Delijon, etc. Life in these villages is as primitive as the years before Christ. Their dark and Christless religion is testimony of their depravity.
Though I enjoyed the book, the author was remiss in identifying the problems, but avoiding any mention of solution. Of course, every reader of this devotion will immediately recognize the only truly uplifting answer that would offer an efficacious solution to that grinding poverty and depression of Gagliano – the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! In this the author is wrong to point out the need and not the solution!
Christ stops at no manmade or artificial boundary. Such boundaries of man are porous walls to the Gospel which penetrates every barrier and is made available to every shade and shadow of mankind. Christ did not hesitate to make His journey to the hell-bound village of Sychar and changed its character into one of hope and Christian promise. He did not stop at the borders of Phoenicia or the shores of the Mediterranean, but His Word and Gospel spread like a raging fire to Asia Minor, Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and even through the dreaded walls of the Iron Curtain.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is very much like an ever-flowing River of Life. Though its force may be dammed by manmade political considerations, its waters continue to flow until even the dam is overwhelmed by the relentlessly cascading and abundant flood of waters. And the barriers that fail to resist this River’s surge are not only geographical but spiritual as well.
Steeped in guilt and sorrow, the Woman at Sychar’s Well was lifted from her depression of sin and hopelessness to the very heights of the Mountain of God by the faith she found in Christ. Likewise, the Syrophoenician widow whose daughter was made whole at the hand of our Lord found no barrier of race or nativity to the healing arts of the Great Physician. (Mark 7:24-30) Religious barriers as well fall in ruins before the shore batteries of the Lord as revealed in the night visitor, Nicodemus, a prominent Pharisee who found faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and never again sought Him under cover of darkness, but openly and in defiance of the threats of the Jewish rulers.
There is hope for the villagers of Gagliano just as there was for Sychar. The Gospel of Christ can make new the battered walls of that village and the primitive instincts of the residents thereof. But, firstly, the people need to hear the Word preached, believe and repent, and then find hope that has lain dead for all these centuries on her weather-worn streets and by-ways. Christ did not stop at Eboli, and neither has He stopped at the borders of any forsaken land. Our Lord loudly proclaims, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26) That faith must be exercised while life remains and not after the last curtain.