22 April 2009

St Herodion & His Literary Namesake

I was saddened this morning to realise that I forgot about a post I’d planned to do yesterday. Monday evening I saw that Tuesday, 8 April on the Church’s calendar, was the feast of the Holy Apostle Herodion, among others, of the Seventy. Here is the account of him in the Prologue for the day:

Herodian was a kinsman of Paul. ‘Greet,’ writes St Paul to the Romans, ‘my relative Herodian’ (Romans 16:11). As the Bishop of Neo-Parthia, Herodian suffered much at the hands of the Jews. They beat him over the head with rods, they struck him on the mouth with stones and stabbed him with knives. After they left him for dead, St Herodian arose and continued to serve the apostles. He assisted the Apostle Peter in Rome and was beheaded along with many other Christians the same day that St Peter was crucified.

St Herodion receives a brief mention in the Life of St Peter from Holy Apostles Convent (mostly taken from St Demetrius of Rostov’s Menology). There we read, ‘Clement, as a kinsman of the Emperor, they took pity on and set free; but Herodion and Olympus, who had come to Rome with the Apostle Peter, they beheaded, together with a multitude of the faithful’ (The Lives of the Holy Apostles, trans. Reader Isaac E. Lambertsen and Holy Apostles Convent [Buena Vista, CO: Holy Apostles Convent, 2001], pp. 22-3).

So it wasn’t that I had a lot to write about the Holy Apostle himself, but that while I don’t recall any references to it in the book either way, it occurred to me that 8 April was likely the nameday of one of my favourite literary charactres, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (‘Rodion’ being the Russian form of ‘Herodion’). So I thought this would be a good opportunity to post what to me was one of the most insightful passages of the book. In Part 3, Chapt. 3 (I shall quote the Everyman’s Library edition: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky [NY: Knopf, 1993]), when Raskonikov is talking to his mother and sister (sometime after having committed the murder that precipitates all the action of the book), we read:

‘Enough, mama,’ he muttered in confusion, pressing her hand without looking at her. ‘We’ll have time to talk all we want!’

Having said this, he suddenly became confused and turned pale: again that terrible, recent feeling passed like a deathly chill over his soul; again it suddenly became perfectly plain and clear to him that he had just uttered a terrible lie, that not only would he never have the chance to talk all he wanted, but that it was no longer possible for him to talk at all, with anyone, about anything, ever. The impression of this tormenting thought was so strong that for a moment he almost forgot himself entirely; he rose from his place and, without looking at anyone, started out the door. (p. 229)

For me this was one of the most explicit illustrations of Raskolnikov’s ‘schismatic’ status (as is well known, his surname is from расколник, meaning ‘schismatic’). His crime, both because he must try so hard to conceal it as well as because of the inhuman quality of the act itself, has cut him off from his fellow man, and this becomes particularly painful to him in the case of his mother and sister.

But it resonated with me in large part because this passage described very well a psychological, and of course, spiritual state that I too had experienced to a lesser, but similarly intense degree. Many people it seems believe that they are capable of concealing some large portion of themselves or their lives from those around them, but I think they are very few who really are so capable. I lived a few years of my young life in the habit of constantly deceiving my family, lying about where I was going and what I was doing, consumed with my various clandestine activities but trying hard to appear to be perfectly normal, as though I was hiding nothing. I recognised in Raskolnikov what a tremendous toll this takes on the individual. I loved my family, and when I too had that moment when I realised that it was no longer possible to talk at all with them, ‘about anything, ever’, I knew I had better repent. The time had come to bow to the earth, kiss it in compunction, and confess all. The time had come to be reborn.

No comments: