RARI NANTES IN GURGITE VASTO
(Few Swim in the Rough Waves)
BY TATSUYA NAGASHIMA
When I was first introduced into the Christian religion at age 13, I was relieved from ignorance of where my Shintoist father had gone after his sudden death. A Catholic priest, Fr. Meyer from Germany, who vigorously worked near Hiroshima during the military regime of WWII, baptized me, reassuring that Dad was in a happy state, and that all my sins, original and personal, would be forgiven and purified by sanctifying grace bestowed at baptism. He also convinced me that I would immediately go to heaven after death, which could have happened any time under the B29 airraids.
More than fifty years later, I am translating Arcana Caelestia into my
language. I stopped to think how to translate falsissumum (AC 868), which
is the superlative form of the adjective "false." It must be something like "the biggest lie that has ever been told."
I was drawn into my memory of the past, and pondered how I believed it as a truth,
which actually it was not:
Hoc est falsissimum.' nusquam unicum malum aut unicum falsum discutitur ita ut aboleatur, sed omne quodcumque ab infantia hereditario imbuit et actualitate acqusivit, remanet, "That is the worst case of falsehood, because no evil nor falsity is destroyed
so as to be abolished, but whatever is inherited and imbued from infancy and acquired
by actual deeds remains . . . ." (Falsissimum is put as "utterly false" by Potts, and "completely false" by Elliott, but let me retain the superlative form of the adjective as
"the worst case of falsehood. ")
Then I believed too that I immediately would go to heaven after death, but I now know another: Homo, ut et spiritus, immo angelus, si vel minime relinquitur sibi, ruat ex se ad infernum (ibid.).
"No sooner is a human being, a spirit and even an angel, Ieft to himself, than he rushes into hell of hlmself."
And furthermore. Homo et spiritus, immo angelus, in se spectatus, hoc est,
omne ejus proprium, sit vilissimum excrementum; et quod sibi relictus non
spiret nisi odia, vindictas, crudelitates et adulteriafoedissima (AC 987).
"A human being, a spirit and even an angel is so much dirty excrement in terms of his
ego that once left to himself he aspires to nothing but hatred, revenge, cruelty and filthiest adultery."
If one does not go to hell, it's absolutely from the Lord's unspeakable mercy.
There is a Japanese saying: "A frog's son is a frog." A frog can never become a swan. My Christian life as a frog started as if I had become a swan, but the same life will soon be finishing with an awakening flash that I could never become a swan but a frog, even a most ugly frog. Why did I have to spend almost all my life for merely coming back to the initial understanding of myself? Why did I have to be deceived so long? Moreover, I have been a victim of another illlusion. How much tme and energy did I have to spend fighting against idolatrous paganism? But the Writings poignantly say: Dominus apud illos qui extra Ecclesiam, et gentes vocantur, aeque in charitate praesens sit ac apud illos qui intra Ecclesiam・・・immo presentior (AC 1059).
"The Lord is equally present in charity with those who are outside the church, called gentiles, to those who are inside the church, and rather more closely present with the former." And a thunderbolt remark is: Plures ex gentibus salventur quam ex Christianis (ibid.). "More gentiles are saved than Christians . "
In translating the above, I felt as if I were choked. My commitment so long cherished sounded like nonsense. I still strongly feel committed to evangelize the New Church to the people around me. But what if more Buddhists and Shintoists are saved than those few who staked their lives for Christianity in my country? What if I was too, much imbued with Pauline verse saying,
" . . . Woe is me if l do not preach the gospel" (1 Cor 9 16) and was neglectful in charity toward my wife and family? What a roundabout for me who knew the truths after such a long journey !
Why did the Lord permit me to go on such a seemingly meaningless journey?
One of the Latin teachers at my Jesuit college, Episcopus Ross (as we called him), gave us many unforgettable cliches. One of them says Rari nantes in gurgite vasto (Few swim in the rough waves). A half century later. I recall it as a guiding metaphor of my life. I have swum alone in the rough waves of the ocean with few people around in common. At age 1 3, I Ieft my schoolmates to become a Catholic at the time of severest state control of religions. At 1 9, I Ieft my family to be admitted into the Jesuit Order, evangelically committed in the postwar debris. At 26 1 Ieft the Jesuit Order (Society of Jesus), seeking religious freedom from vows and celibacy. At 36 1 Ieft a few remaining Catholics to work as a Baptist minister after the second Vatican. Finally at 52, I Ieft even fewer remnants to be baptized by Rev. Don Rose. Such is my life of lone swimming in the unknown mental ocean. I have been a continual separatist, but without having had such separations, I would not have been in the New Church.
The Writings say, "Nothing is allowed to happen except to the end that something good may come out of it" (AC 6489). Without my father's sudden death, I wouldn't have been awakened to life after death. Without believing I would become a swan, I wouldn't have been baptized into Christianity. Without having made a vow, I wouldn't have fought for religious freedom. Without having recanted my faith in Catholicism. I wouldn't have studied the Holy Scriptures in deeper level. And without having left the old Christianity, I wouldn't have been infilled with such abundance of religious truths from the Writings, which also say: "So would it deviate [from the target] if the Lord did not every moment, even every least fraction of a moment, regard eternity in foreseeing and providing everyone's place after death" (DP 333).
The lone swimming in gurgite vasto makes sense when I think how I was enkindled with enthusiasm in seeking the truths, and when I guess how hungry other unknown people might be for the truths, and how their thirst will be healed by the Heavenly Doctrines if they know! A well-sinker is needed to provide them with pure water. Moreover, how grateful to the Lord I should be, for I especially had chances to study Latin in my younger days so that I may translate the Heavenly Doctrines into my language ! The severest Jesuit discipline made me useful for translating the Writings of the New Church!
My Latin started at age 1 3 when I Iearned how to respond by saying et cum spiritu tuo to the priestly mass invocation Dominus vobiscum, as the old Catholics still remember. Introibo ad altare Dei is the formal start of mass, and it is followed by Confiteor Deo Omnipotenti, Kyrie eleison, Credo in Unum Deum, Pater noster qui es in caelis, Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere mei, and the holy communion is held. And finally comes the Ite, missa est, from which derives "missa" for the mass. Latin was imbued into a young altar boy who repeated the same passages 30 minutes long, every day, for a couple of decades.
In the Novitiate (age 19-21), Juniorate (22-23) and Scholasticate (23-26), we used Latin as common language in a community of those from many different countries. The Latin teachers were also from different ethnic backgrounds. My frrst tutor was Fr. Meyer, a German. And in the community, Episcopus Ross was a German, Hubert Cieslik was Polish, Joseph Bartoli is an Italian. Nebreda is Spanish, Besineau is French, Keel a Swiss, and we had many others from the West, whose names are buried somewhere in my memory. The accent was also common as the modern Italians do. Some verses by a Roman poet still resound in my ears: Donec eris felix, multos numerabis amicos, tempora si,fuerint, nubila solus eris. Interpone tuis, interdum gaudia curis, ut possis animo,・・・ . Maybe Ovidius. Cicero's De natura deorum was the last textbook which I read before I Ieft the Jesuit Society. Most lectures on philosophy and theology, as well as their term exams, were given in Latin. A student had to propose and demonstrate a thesis in Latin and orally to defend it in Latin before four exarniners without a paper.
Before the Vatican Second Council, the Catholic Church kept its identity across the continents by means of the common language Latin as a symbol of their unity and tradition. They communicated in it from whatever country they were, and their traditions and scholarships were kept readable and intelligible. The common language made an easy access to the church and scholastic authors, and especially to the bulls and documents promulgated by the Vatican authority. Since the 1 960s, Latin has gradually been replaced by English in accordance with John XXIII's adjornamento (adjustment) policy, and the mass came to be said in indigenous languages. Being in a Jesuit Society in 1950s, I was probably one of the last remnants of old belligerent Catholics who had been disciplined by Tridentine scholarship and tradition in order to be the papal brain guards as they used to be for the past 400 years.
So my Latin is based on the simple, common and rote-learning type, or as it were on a Vulgate-like easiness: Quomodo te habes? Valeo, quid manducavisti hodie mane? Non manducavi quidquam, esurio et sitio nunc. Veni et comede mecum. Sane, non necesse est etiam philosophum semper esurire ut Diogenes. This was something like what we used to say among our young Latinists. I still remember hundreds of conjugational patterns in important verbs that were mechanically imbued by a repeated child-1ike rote-learning. In this point one of the most precious treasures in my life is that I was able to have an A-1 Jesuit language education in my twenties. If l were 20-30 years.young.er, I would help Bryn Athyn high school boys and grrls with their Latm "training" as future New Church translators and scholars. Latin is much more important for those who believe that the Writings are the Word of God, or Adventus Domini, than for old Catholics who adopted it on behalf of political and cultural unity. I sometimes think that the people in the Academy should be more encouraged to popularize Latin. So I arn writing this article.
As we see in Bishop Buss' report in the January issue of NCL, the General Church faces more variety in cultures and backgrounds than ever. We still have only a few of the Writings in other languages which were translated, not from English but from the original Latin texts. In each nation, the people must have the Writings translated from the original in order to keep its identity and integrity. Otherwise genuineness would be blurred through a cultural coating, which I sometimes feel, of double translations.
Thanks to the Jesuit training in 1950s, I am now translating the most valuable treasure in human history, Arcana Caelestia, into my language. The Lord gives me a last chance of my earthly life for a challenging long-term project. Rari nantes in gurgite vasto was worth it, and still is. Every day a new passage or number of AC bewilders, frightens, challenges, inspires, reveals, awakens, or puzzles me. Before me a still indefinitely vast but immensely rich ocean is expanding. I really would like NCL readers to share my joy of completing the frrst volume of a Japanese Arcana Caelestia which is being published on July 1 9 this year. Whatever number of copies will be sold-even four copies in two months (see SE 4422) - should be left to the Lord.
SWEDENBORG LEARNS THAT FEW COPIES WERE SOLD
It was 1749, and the frst volume ofthe Writings had been published. No
more than four copies were sold in two months. "This was made known
to the angels; they wondered indeed, but said that it should be left to
the Providence of the Lord, which was such as to compel no one"(Spiritual
Notes on This Issue by the Editor, Rev. Donald Rose:
“The Latin title of the article by Tatsuya Nagashima does signal that
this article has a special interest for linguists. However, do not miss
the fact that it is a fascinating story of a Japanese citizen who found
Christianity at the age of 13, became a Jesuit at age 19, became a Baptist
at age 36, and eventually discovered the Writings.
"Such is my life of lone swimming in the unknown mental ocean." The "severest Jesuit discrpline" prepared him to undertake to translate into Japanese "the most valuable treasure in human history." We can rejoice with this man that the first volume of the Arcana has been translated into his language and will be published next month! “