An anvil is a metalworking tool consisting of a large block of metal with a flattened top surface, upon which another metal object is struck or "worked". In most cases the anvil is used as a forging tool. It has got to be tough to take the blows. Before the advent of modern welding technology, it was a primary tool of metal workers.
In 1941 Clemens von Galen, Bishop of Munster, used the image of an old fashioned, mundane anvil to rouse his people. The Nazi regime planned to quietly euthanize all mentally and physically ill children and adults in the Rhineland. When Bishop von Galen discovered the plan he challenged his parishioners to find hiding places for all these exceptional children and adults that were at that stage being cared for in church run institutions. Then he dared the government to find them!
On the 20th of July, from his pulpit in his Cathedral, Bishop von Galen said:
"At this moment we are the anvil rather than the hammer. Other men, strangers, renegades, are hammering us . . . Ask the blacksmith and hear what he says. The object which is forged on the anvil receives its form not alone from the hammer but also from the anvil. The anvil cannot and need not strike back: it must only be firm, only be hard! However hard the hammer strikes, the anvil stands firmly and silently in place and will long continue to shape the objects forged upon it. If it is sufficiently tough and firm and hard, the anvil will last longer than the hammer. The anvil represents those who are unjustly imprisoned, those who are driven out and banished for no fault of their own."
It is beautiful imagery. We come to a critical crossroad in this weekend’s gospel. We start off hearing Peter’s profession of faith which all sounds very good and heroic. But no sooner had Peter made his profession of faith and recognised Jesus as the Christ than the conversation turns to suffering and hardship and the price of discipleship.
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."
This is the tough part about being a disciple! I just wonder if the anvil is not a bad image when thinking about discipleship and the crosses we might have to take up if we are to be serious disciples this coming week.
Remember the anvil has to absorb the blows to be any good. Likewise, our discipleship this week might include absorbing the blows directed at the most vulnerable in our work places or schools. Standing firm in what we believe in the face of double standards or indifference. We might have to reflect the anvil’s toughness in resisting the ridicule of others while at the same time allowing our actions and faith to influence and fashion the response of others.
Let the toughness, durability and sturdiness of the anvil be your faith foundation this week!
Fr Peter Brannelly, Administrator