As I’ve pointed out in earlier posts recently, we elderly are subject to the temptation of wiping out the negative aspects of the past from our memory banks, leading to a rather one-sided longing to return to a mythical “Good Old Days” that never really existed.
But the more I read about the history of Christianity, the more I wonder if I might still be committed to the Christian faith if I’d lived several thousand years ago before church leaders decided that the diversity of beliefs held by various sub-groups was unacceptable, and declared anybody who did not agree with them to be heretical. Up until then, “faith” was not seen as synonymous with doctrine, but with faithfulness. And until then, love was still, as St. Paul wrote, “the greatest of these.”
At about the same time, Constantine decided that the Christian God was a better backup for governments trying to hold onto power than the fickle gods of the pagans. So the Romans adopted Christianity as their official religion, moved the clergy into palaces and cathedrals, gave them royal robes and head-gear, gold crosses and incense burners to demonstrate their “lordship”.
But I’ve just learned that it was at about this time, and almost certainly a result of these changes, that the meaning of “lord” and “lady” changed dramatically. Until then, these terms did not refer to any kind of authority or royalty. The “lord” simply referred to the “keeper of the bread,” and the “lady” was “the maker of the bread.”
That makes a lot of sense to me. And it seems to fit so much better with the original message of Christianity.
Perhaps the change in meaning is another example of the original biblical warning that where there is power or money, there is always temptation. Pope Francis has just said it again.