Towards the end of January we were invited to celebrate the conversion of St Paul. The Book of Common Prayer (1662) appoints a lesson from the Acts of the Apostles 9:1-22 which describes Paul (then known as Saul) on the road to Damascus. He was not on this road by coincidence; he was not out taking the air or exercising, but was embarked on a journey specifically to seek out “any of this way”, by which of course he meant Christians, with the intention of bringing them “bound unto Jerusalem”. We are left to ponder as to what fate would have awaited our brothers and sisters upon their arrival; I think it fair to conclude that their welcome would not have been a hospitable one since we know that Saul was deeply hostile to Christians.
As he travels the road “suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven”; so bright in fact that he was blinded and brought to his knees, whereupon he heard a voice – the voice of Jesus. After this, still blinded but with the assistance of his fellow travellers, he followed Jesus’ instructions, and continued on his journey.
Meanwhile, the Lord is busy giving instructions in a vision to his disciple Ananias: that he should visit Saul and by touching him restore his sight. Now Ananias was skeptical, for Saul clearly had a reputation, but the Lord explained that Saul was “a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles”; so off he went to carry out the Lord’s instructions.
And so it came to pass that Ananias found Saul in Damascus, and he restored him of his sight as the Lord had commanded. Saul was “filled with the Holy Ghost” and “straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God”. Saul had become Paul.Continue reading “Reflections on the Conversion of Paul”