On the earthly womb of Christ

by J. Roth

So I began to visit the Jews. And above all, I saw that the reason they were regarded as a special people was because it was in their womb that the thought was first born that the peoples of the earth, of all the earth, were equal children of God.

Precisely because they were the first to say that all humans of all peoples were equal children of God, now people would say that they, the Jews, saw themselves as special children of God. For thus it is in this world, where the antichrist rules for now: that those people who say they want good are accused of evil. The old Jews said they were God’s chosen people. But for which purpose did they say this? For the purpose of bringing forth the savior, the Jesus Christ. So, in all actuality, the pride of the Jews was humility. They were not just veritably chosen because – as we know – the savior of the world came from the womb of the Jews, but also because they brought forth the only son of man, of whom it is not pride to be proud of. They did not only bear the savior, they also denied him. They were truly God’s chosen people. They are chosen in two ways: not just because they hardened their hearts. So they, the Jews, are chosen in two ways: firstly, because they brought forth Jesus Christ; secondly, because they denied him. Through their virtue as through their sin they have prepared the salvation of the world. That is why anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and hates, despises or even just thinks little of the Jews, his earthly womb, is the brother of the antichrist. Even the pagans still honor all those places, at which their saints and prophets showed them their human weaknesses. Whoever thinks little of the Jews, also thinks little of Jesus Christ. Whoever is a Christian, honors the Jews. For if the Jews were chosen to bring about Jesus’ earthly death, then through that they have confirmed God’s covenant with Abraham, the covenant with which the salvation of this world began. And if God has chosen the Jews to not only bring forth Jesus Christ, but also to deny him, then this happened because he himself smote the children of Israel with blindness. And it is also He who is allowed to smite them again, He alone. Whoever hates the Jews is a pagan and not a Christian. Whoever hates anyone at all, no matter who, is a pagan and not a Christian. And whoever believes he is only a Christian because he is not a Jew, he is a pagan twofold and threefold. May he be cast out of the community of Christians! And if the Church does not cast him out, God himself casts him out.


Translated from: Joseph Roth, Der Antichrist (1934) 

Fragment on Holy Scripture

by P. Handke

According to its form, its rhythm, its cadence: a book from the night of the times. That is true, and at the same time the reader of our times, today, can read his own story in the bible, book by book, unlike in any other book:

he can discover it there, then understand it, then face it. The reader is the tragicomical hero of all the biblical stories; not just of the stories, but also of the love poems, like in the Song of Songs, and of the cries for help, like in the Psalms, over and over again. You, reader, have lived the first moment of color in Eden, and you will witness those black and blacker last moments, your mouth full of vinegar (and worse), where you will cry out with the question, why your so to speak omnipotent Father has abandoned you. Hence for the reader the bible is a terrifying, dangerous book: He is forced to see what his true situation as a mortal is, deep down. Lost son, who feels safe because his Father has forgiven him for once – even prepared a feast for him. But after, on the cross, where is he, my Father and his promised feast? The bible can awaken sheer horror in its reader: ah, this lunatic, who thinks he is God, immortal; that sniveler, who in distress boasts of the omnipotence of his Father to his adversaries, and of how He will come to the rescue at any moment; this so-called Son of God, who dies like a stray dog – I am all of that, I, who am reading this. You, who read the bible today: Beware, danger of death! Or danger of life? Ensouling danger? Inspiring danger, since that night of the times? Healing danger? Danger of salvation?


Translated from: Peter Handke, Langsam im Schatten (1992)

On Death, without Exaggeration

by W. Szymborska


Whoever claims that it’s omnipotent

is himself living proof

that it’s not.


There’s no life

that couldn’t be immortal

if only for a moment.



always arrives by that very moment too late.

In vain it tugs at the knob of the invisible door.


And as far as you’ve come

can’t be undone.


From: Wisława Szymborska 1923–2012, On death without exaggeration (https://genius.com/Wislawa-szymborska-on-death-without-exaggeration-annotated)


by H. Domin


Everyone who leaves

teaches us a little

about ourselves.

Most valuable lesson

on the deathbeds.

All mirrors as clear,

as a lake after great rain

before the hazy day

blurs the pictures again.


They only die for us once,

never again.

What would we ever know

without them?

Without the safe scales

we are placed on

when we are left behind.

These scales, without which nothing

has weight.


We, whose words miss,

we forget it.

And they?

They cannot repeat

the lesson.


Your death or mine

the next lesson:

So bright, so clear,

that it darkens quickly.


Translated from: Hilde Domin (1909–2006), Nur eine Rose als Stütze (1959)

The pleading of ten

by H. Gryberg

When they were gone, I opened the prayer book and tried to say a prayer, but it didn’t come out. There had to be ten.

The voice of ten, the pleading of ten, the unity of ten; because the main goal was that those who were praying had compassion for each other. But there have to be at least ten for the prayer of words to unite us; there has to be the mutual understanding, that we feel the shared nature of our fate, our weakness, our frailty – our loneliness.


Translated from: Henryk Gryberg, Kalifornisches Kaddisch (1993)

For January 27

by H. Gryberg

Only the names were left to me. I entered them into the questionnaires and wrote down what roughly I knew about them.

Jeschije, Schije in the diminutive form, derived from Jehoschua, which means Josue or Jesus. Place and date of birth unknown. The greater part of his life he spent in East Masovia at an outlying estate in Nowa Wies. He was over sixty when he went to his death as a martyr, with no resistance, with the conviction that this was exactly how our Father expected him to act. Nailed to the invisible cross with invisible gas in a chamber jammed full of martyrs in September or October at a Golgotha called Treblinka in the memorable year of martyrdom 1942 or 5702/3.

Raschkje, derived from Raschi or Rasche, date of birth unknown, from Makowiec. She spent the greater part of her pious life, which lasted about sixty years, with Jeschije-Jesus in Nowa Wies, a few kilometers from Makowiec (the distances were as small as in Judea and Galilee). She walked all stations of suffering with him, the cattle car, the gas chamber. They were inseparable – in life, in death and after death –, and no one ever lifted them off the cross.


Translated from: Henryk Gryberg, Kalifornisches Kaddisch (1993)


by N. G. Dávila

The Church does not need to adjust Christianity to the world, it does not even need to adjust the world to Christianity; rather it must preserve a counterworld within the world.


Nothing is left of Christianity if the Christian tries not to seem foolish to the world.


When it believes in a truth the large crowd stops being a large crowd.


Translated from: Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913–1994), Aufzeichnungen des Besiegten (1994)


by N. G. Dávila

Faith is not an irrational agreement to a claim; it is the perception of a special order of reality.


There are certain congruencies between skepticism and faith: both undermine the human presumptiveness.


A society is secularized when it has lost the awareness for its dependence.


Translated from: Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913–1994), Aufzeichnungen des Besiegten (1994)

A Word on Statistics

by Wisława Szymborska


Out of every hundred people,

those who always know better:


Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.


Ready to help,
if it doesn't take long:


Always good,
because they cannot be otherwise:
four -- well, maybe five.


Able to admire without envy:


Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.


Those not to be messed with:


Living in constant fear
of someone or something:



Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.

Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.


when forced by circumstances:
it's better not to know,
not even approximately.


Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.


Getting nothing out of life except things:
(though I would like to be wrong).


Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.


Those who are just:
quite a few, thirty-five.


But if it takes effort to understand:


Worthy of empathy:


one hundred out of one hundred --
a figure that has never varied yet.


Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

From: The Atlantic Monthly; May 1997; A Word on Statistics; Volume 279, No. 5; page 68.




All honor

by F. Nietzsche

In the Jewish ‘Old Testament’, the book of divine justice, there are men, things, and sayings on such an immense scale, that Greek and Indian literature has nothing to compare with it. One stands with fear and reverence before those stupendous remains of what man was formerly.


All honor to the Old Testament! In that I find great men, a heroic landscape and something of the rarest of all elements on earth, the incomparable naiveté of the strong heart. Even more—I find a people.


Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)