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O, Antigone! Your silence is my judge.


Academic year: 2021

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Jean-Marie MEYER



Antigone gazes upon us once more and asks: “O Europę, what are you really saying when you speak? You no longer even know how to tell where evil lies, or even that evil is evil. You, the homeland of human rights, prefer to speak of

’interruption of pregnancy’ so as not to cali things by their real names: the murder of the innocent.”

Antigone: I wanted to tell you this moming. . . [about the]

little boy that we might have had . . . . Haemon: Yes.

Antigone: You know I would have defended him against the whole world.

Jean Anouilh, Antigone (Paris, 1946, p. 40).

But Jesus spoke nothing (Mt 26:63)

There is still one virgin whom Europę recognizes and who is at the same time a witness to life. Her name is Antigone. She is a model fo r us. Mother o f our Europę, sister o f us all, her fate was tragic because in the face o f the written law o f Thebes ruled by Creon she persevered unto death fo r the law o f conscience. Forced to choose between obedience to the civil law and the respect fo r the dead which religion reąuired that she, a woman in a ci- ty-state ruled by men, showed that conscience does not command what the state says. It is conscience, and not judges, who place us before the ultimate law even when the city-state, in betraying the Good, issues judgments that

lead to death.

In rejecting the prohibition against burial o f a rebel brother in the city and in showing us that, fo r a loving sister he was no evil brother, Antigone teaches us a lesson about how to look upon man, everyman: as a brother.

The eloąuence o f her deed and o f her death shows us that eąuality, if it is not to be an empty word, demands from me eąual respect fo r all.

"Europę, my daughter, I accuse you, ” Antigone might have said. “I accuse you because, with your adult eyes you do not recognize those who stand at the two opposite poles o f life. Because they do not look like you, you deny them life. You betray both the light o f intelligence (which reaches

beyond mere phenomena to the essential) as well as your vocation to recog-


248 Thinking about the Fatherland

nize the brother in everyman, in those human beings in the shadows o f the boundaries o f human life. |

Conscience - Antigone*s and our's - ought to judge according to what is right, any written laws notwithstanding. For us today Antigone is that love which hastens to the aid o f the man betrayed by human laws. Brother and sister, Antigone and Polyneices, each in his own way reveals the shape o f the tragedy Europę is experiencing today.

Just as the life and death o f Polyneices threatened the ancient city-state so today there are many children denied the light o f life and excluded from our cities. Just as a long ago time and a fa r away place Antigone was de­

nied the light o f life, closing off her way to the gods, so today children killed because o f despair, or even ju st thoughtlessness, must go to the grave deprived even o f a decent burial.

Being a model fo r Europę, Antigone could also be Europę 's anti-type.

That beloved fiancee allowed herself to be laid in the gravef giving up mot- herhood. In that way she bore witness that love is greater than life, that even death can be fruitful. Our Europę, on the other hand, is going to the grave giving up motherhood while being ruled by the absurdity o f sterile


Antigone reveals the whole depth o f the contemporary tragedy, casting suspicion upon our words and our silence. She gazes upon us once more and asks:

O Europę, what are you really saying when you speak? You no lon- ger even know how to tell where evil lies, or even that evil is evil.

You, the homeland of human rights, prefer to speak of “interruption of pregnancy” so as not to cali things by their real names: the murder o f the innocent. O, how can you, daughter of the word (logos) cali abortion illegal but not criminal (rechtswidrig aber straffrei)?

Yes, our words are empty and our silence heavyf because our society denies life so as to hide in the face o f death. Because it blinds itself so that,

unlike Rachel, it will not have to weep over children that are no more.

Because it organizes amusements so it will not have to help women tempted by abortion.

And the mant the father: he is freąuently the great absent one as a heavy silence settles over his no-longer-living child and its ruined mother.

Translated by Dr. John M. Grondelski


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