The Consistory men came at dawn
to strip the churches bare
to gather all the idols
they said were lurking there
Took they first the Mother
With her beloved Child
And chopped her into kindling wood.
My father said they smiled.
“This is not He!” The father cried
The new one that they sent
“These painted dolls! These wooden sticks!”
Into the fire they went.
There went my patron Anthony
Who fought against the Snake
Dark-eyed Lucy, gentle Claire
And Martin in their wake
Fierce wolves of God, they gnawed the church
Down to her very bone
Even the body on the rood
They did not leave alone
When all was gone that I had loved
They saw me standing by
Very small and very scared
and very soon to cry.
The father stroked my tousled hair
And held aloft a Book
He fixed me with his icy gaze
It was no pleasant look
“Child”, he said, “From this you’ll learn”
“The ways of God above”
“And how he proffers saving faith”
“With His electing love”
I don’t want his nasty Book
But to run and jump and play
And to feel the wind upon my cheek
The cool of night, the warmth of day
He says that this is evil
I must learn to mortify
All that sin that in me dwells
Or surely I will die.
And so I grew from girl to maid
and cut myself away
and feared lest all this useless beauty
should cause my soul to stray
But as I listened to his book
I heard the ancient strain
The palm trees laden with their dates
The flowers after rain.
The eagle in his heaven
The tree beside the brook
The conies in their stoney place
All this was in the Book
“This is also Me” I heard Him say
The voice within the Book
Omnia quia sunt lumina sunt
But you have to learn to look.
The voice was that of a strong young man in his early thirties, with an accent I couldn’t place, but the face was that of the Crypt Keeper. He had neither hair nor eyebrows. Eyes and mouth were pulled from their customary positions by leathery, inflexible bands of scar tissue. This scar tissue was ancient, almost as old as the young man himself. Indeed, on every place where the young man’s body was visible scar tissue wound across in great cords and cables.
The young man was telling his story. He was the son of a Nazarene pastor who lived with his family in a village south of Juba in the south of the Sudan. As happened frequently in that part of the world, raiders from the North set upon the village. These men butchered his parents, his brother and his sister before his eyes then, almost as an afterthought, threw him into a fire to perish. He was maybe six years old.
He was pulled from the fire by a woman from his village and washed off in a nearby stream. He credited this with saving his life. Along with other survivors of the raid, this woman made her way to a UN refugee camp across the Sudanese border in Uganda, where she deposited him in a camp hospital. Somehow, his plight caught the attention of someone who had resources and the authority to use them, and he was flown to a hospital in Dubai, then to Europe, and finally to the United States, where he had been adopted by a couple in Minnesota.
The young man continued his story. He spoke about growing up with dreams of revenge, of rising to a place of political power that would allow him to authorize the use of nuclear weapons on the men who had murdered his family. He would not only lay them waste, but their whole tribe, and their tribal lands. He tried to reconcile his need with vengeance with the gospel of forgiveness that his foster family preached to them from their Lutheran faith. Surely a just God wouldn’t look on in disapproval as he sought redress for this most horrible of crimes, would He?
Then the young man said something that I will never forget as long as I draw breath. I have already forgotten his name, and the day I heard his testimony in my wife’s church, but I will not forget what he said. “The Muslim raiders, they burnt me on the outside, but I was burning myself on the inside. They scarred my face, but I was scarring my heart. I was doing their work for them.”
At that point, the young man said, Jesus came to him and told him that he must forgive those who had tossed him into the fire so many years ago. Apparently, the Lord had revealed to him the state of the hearts of the raiders who came to his village, and he said that in that burst of understanding he was able to pity them, and pray for them. He was seeking now to return to the Sudan, seek out the men who had killed his family, or their families, and forgive them openly.
I thought he had a very poor plan. If these men decided to finish the job they had obviously left undone twenty-five years ago, what would possibly restrain them, and how could he forgive them then? Nevertheless, I couldn’t help admiring the young man for wanting to commit such a radical act of forgiveness. If what he said was true, and I have no reason to doubt him, the Lord had raised this young man to an enviable level of communion with Himself in His own suffering, but not one I was anxious to share. If the Lord had prayed for His tormentors “Forgive them Father, because they don’t know what they are doing”, then this young man took it to another level, “Father, forgive them although because they know exactly what they are doing, yet they do it gladly”.
I believe that it is a sign of the mediocrity of my spirit that I am not consciously aware of the need to forgive anybody, yet somehow I am seething with a very low level of anger almost constantly. I was gobsmacked by the young man’s confession of his desire to go nuclear on his enemies, because that had been a perennial component of my daydreams as well. I could even have advised him as to how to go about it. Depending on something I have never been able to pin down, I have been at various times in my Walter Mitty-like reveries a fervent commissar in pursuit of kulaks, a Dominican sniffing out Cathars, a Covenanter sergeant cleansing with holy fire every foul root of idolatry and prelature. I’m certain you have read pastor Martin Niemöller’s eloquent poem:
First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.
Maybe I am off-base here, and attempting to force the good pastor to address something he never intended to address, but what do you do about the multitudes of people whose most fervent desire is to be one of them, one of clean-up squad who come for everybody else? Did you ever feel that desire, pastor Niemöller? If you did, how did you get rid of it? Is there ever anyone who wants to speak for them? How did you place a desire like that under the heel of Christ? Who did you have to forgive? How did you manage to identify them? Do you stop listening to Fox News and switch on NPR, or vice versa? Was it as easy as that?
Sometimes I think it is an easier thing to forgive a harm done to myself than a harm done to someone I love. My wife often quarrels with women in her church. She seems to be a very polarizing figure, especially for women. Many women (and men) in her church love her, but others cannot abide her presence. To be honest, I don’t much care for the women who don’t like my wife either, and not entirely because they don’t like my wife. I can tell almost from the beginning that if my wife is serving on a ministry or is attending a Bible study with a particular someone that it is not going to end well.
So she quarrels with these women, and at times she is deeply hurt. Rumors are spread about her that are just plain wrong, and often even people I respect and admire fall into them. My wife struggles to forgive these women, and then attempts to move on. I wonder what I am supposed to do. I can always hide in my Greek church (which my wife doesn’t attend because, as you guessed, she has quarreled with some women there and she isn’t that interested in Orthodoxy anyway), but I want to attend my wife’s church with her. It is usually profitable and it makes her very happy. Invariably, I catch some woman or another giving my wife the stink-eye. It grinds me up, and then Hulk wants to smash.
What am I supposed to do? By the outdated code I cling to and live by, I should speak to the woman’s husband and set up a time for the four of us to speak, but my wife shushes me, telling me it won’t do any good. Ordinarily, if you tell people you forgive them when they are convinced that they are in the right and that you should be asking their forgiveness, it does more harm than good. So I bluster along resenting and being resented, adding another layer of redirection to the carapace of my soul, as the sands of my life run through towards that final terrible reckoning.
After more than five years, with more interruptions than I care to mention, I have finally followed Roland Deschaine of Gilead into the room at the top of the Dark Tower. I have to admit that I was surprised at how moved I was when he paused at the entrance and recited the names of all of his friends and ka-mates. It’s odd. Stephen King was never a favorite author of mine. Of all the many books he’s written, the only other one I’ve ever read was 11-22-63, his romance about the man who went back in time to stop the assassination of President Kennedy. I didn’t care for it. The only other book of his I want to read is The Stand. People who have read a lot of Mr. King’s books say it is his best, but after slogging through 4250 pages in eight volumes (I read Wind Through The Keyhole chronologically, between Wizard And Glass and Wolves Of The Calla), I am a bit reluctant to give Mr. King another 1100 pages of my attention. Interestingly, the reviewer who listed The Stand as King’s best book rated the seven canonical Dark Tower volumes roughly as I would have ranked them, so I have reason to trust his judgement.
Roland’s story is a compelling one. Like The Lord Of The Rings, which is just about the only other work I have read to which I can compare it, The Dark Tower series is both interminable and strangely, over far too soon. Both of these works create a desire to explore more fully the world the author has created; to know more about its inhabitants, its history, and its geography. Mr. King includes no maps. There are no sprawling appendices such as Prof. Tolkien included in The Lord Of The Rings to give you the backstory of Mid-World. Another characteristic that Mid-World shares with Middle-Earth is that it seems strangely depopulated. Either that, or the protagonists of both works spent the majority of their time in the parts of their imaginary worlds where the people didn’t live. This seems to be a common flaw with fantasy. Narnia was claustrophobic as well, having only three “countries” that really counted. Earthsea was a collection of islands with, I assume, nothing much larger than fishing villages to house its inhabitants.
The Dark Tower series took Stephen King almost 35 years to write, and it shows. The biggest divide is between Wizard And Glass, which was published in 1997, and The Wolves Of The Calla, which was published in 2003. In the intervening years, Stephen King was almost killed in a near-fatal auto accident, and it shows up in the writing. King himself seems to have felt some pressure to complete the series after his accident. The last three books, despite their more than 2000 pages, have a rushed feeling that is missing from the parts of the series that he wrote prior to the accident. By the time he published his Mid-World “inter-quel”, Mr. King had found his rhythm again. Certainly, even though there are weak parts in the first four books and excellent parts in the last three, I found I preferred the first four to the latter three.
My favorite five scenes from the Dark Tower series were;
1) Roland and his companions in Meijis – I haven’t read enough King to know how much material he recycled from other his other books in order to tell the tragic tale of young Roland Deschaine and the tragic Susan Delgado, but I suspect it was a lot. I detected some of The Children Of The Corn, at least. Nevertheless, as far as raw storytelling is measured, King never approached this level again for the whole 4,000-plus pages of the series. Even the characters seemed fully-fleshed, and I warmed to Alain Johns and Cuthbert Allgood in a way that I never did to wisecracking Eddie Dean. The bad guys Eldred Jonas and Roy Depape are more richly drawn than either the Crimson King or Mordred, and even minor characters like Cordelia Delgado and Hart Thorin are alive with life. Rhea of the Cöos is beyond creepy, and one of the better villains I’ve encountered in any fiction. Other reviewers gush about the love affair between Susan Delgado and Roland Deschaine, but I found it kind of off-putting. I know Roland is supposed to be knowing beyond his years, but a 14 year old boy in love with a 16 year old girl does not act the way Roland acts here.
2. The Drawing Of Eddie Dean – I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I kinda liked Eddie better as a junkie than as the wise-cracking comic-relief he became by the end of the series. The story of how Roland ended up behind his eyes and managed to extricate him from his tangled web of obligation and addiction in 1980s New York was absorbing. It was a shame that Eddie very seldom was allowed to rise to the nobility of character he displayed during the gunfight in Balazar’s gin joint. His “trail marriage” to Susannah was often distracting as well, but in his coming and going, I have to admit that I came to love Eddie Dean.
3. The Massacre At Tull – It has been a long time since I read The Gunslinger, the first volume of the Dark Tower series, Roland’s methodical massacre of all the inhabitants of Tull, including the idiot child Soobie and his paramour Allie, opened my eyes to just how hard-bitten the series could get at a moment’s notice. It also presaged just who Roland would sacrifice in order to attain the Tower. There was a high body count in the Dark Tower series , but this action set the stage for all of the rest.
4. The Manni In the Cave Of The Winds – I enjoyed Wolves Of The Calla far more than I thought I would. After having Roland and the gang meander around blank open country for more than four volumes, actually, since River Crossing, or maybe even Tull, it was good to get back to settled lands and farmsteads. Pere Callahan’s negligent Catholic mission made a good counterpoint to the Manni, who i thought were one of King’s better inventions in the series. It seems kind of a shame that he used them basically as a key to open the door between worlds. They would have benefited from greater exposition.
5. Jake and Pere Callahan in the Dixie Pig – I really warmed to Pere Callahan and was sorry to see him depart so early in the seventh book, but boy! did he go out with a flair. I hadn’t read Salem’s Lot, so I only knew as much of the Pere’s backstory as King revealed in Wolves Of the Calla and Susannah’s Song. There were a lot of nice touches in the Dixie Pig segment; the Mid-World kitchen boy serving under the taheen cook, Jake switching bodies with Oy to get past the guardians in the passage to Fedic. There were also some typical King gross-outs as well, but hey, I could almost smell the meat roasting on the spit behind the curtain. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, though.
My five least favorite parts were 1) the lobstrosities – i was so glad when the story moved passed them. 2) the Emerald City sequence with Martin Broadcloak/Randall Flagg. 3) the demon sex that brought Jake into Mid-World, although the bifurcation of Jake and Roland was handled very well. 4) Susannah/Mia “dining” in the swamp. I nearly lost lunch. 5) basically everything that took place from the Castle of the Crimson King until Roland reached the Tower. The Dandelo/Patrick Danville episode was pretty anticlimactic after the chiaroscuro of Algul Siento, and the removal of the Crimson King was very cheesy. I suspect King just wanted to finish by this time.
Something has to be said about how American the Dark Tower series is. Any American mythopoesis is going to have a lot of the Western in it, because the Western, with the free man remaking himself on the Frontier, is our great myth. Stephen King took it and ran it out farther than I would have thought possible. Maybe this isn;t, yet, the Great American Novel, but it is without any doubt the Great American Fantasy series. I’m glad I went on this journey. Thou hast spoken well, may it do ya, gunslinger. Long days and pleasant nights to you.
Thankee sai, Mr. King
This was originally posted on the old website of the OCA congregation Saint John The Wonderworker in Atlanta, Georgia. When I returned to their website looking for it, it had disappeared. St. John’s has been under a lot of pressure recently, having lost their beloved founding pastor this January. Recently, one of the most prominent lay leaders in that congregation has also been called home. May the memories of Father Jacob Meyers and John Aldrich be eternal and ever-fresh. That congregation, though, has not wavered in its dedication to the threatened and harassed poor of Atlanta. They are actually serving more poor now than they were while Fr. Jacob was with them. I believe this following piece was written by Fr. Jacob. It certainly breathes of his spirit. I wanted to rescue it from the Web Archive before it rotates completely away.
Without the poor we have no hope of heaven.
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus describes the last judgment when each persons work will be tried by fire. Those that when seeing the poor refused to open their hearts and purses when sent to the left side and dismissed from the presence of God with the words “as you did it not to the least of these you did it not to me.”
Without the poor we have no quick way to lay up treasures in heaven.
He who gives to the poor lends to God. When we put our treasures into the hands of the poor we transfer our goods to heaven. All the gifts given to the poor or those who beg on their behalf are accounted as credit in heaven and since no thieves or moths or rust can diminish the treasure, it is truly secure awaiting our arrival in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Without the poor after we “sell all” that we have, who will we give it to.
Jesus tell the rich young ruler to sell all he has and give to the poor. The Saints from the beginning in preparation for a life in Christ sell all they have or else entrust the distribution of their wealth to a servant as a gift to the poor. Countless Saints and righteous people have taken this step as the first of a life dedicated to God.
Without the poor there is no way to give directly to Christ.
As you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me. The hands of the poor are the hands of Christ just as the Church is the body of Christ.
Without the poor we hopelessly deluded by materialism.
The poor by their lives show the rich that God is the source. The poor show the rich that it is possible to live simple uncluttered lives. The poor show the rich that lives without abundance of this worlds good is possible. Our possessions eventually possess us and grow to rule our lives.
Without the poor we have no vision of a simple lifestyle.
As the accumulation of things invades our lives, we forget that real life is found in Christ. The poor give us a view of how little we need to life a calm and peaceful life in godliness and dignity.
Without the poor we cannot learn to be content with what we have.
The household of faith, living true humility, demonstrates being content is key to a true satisfaction. God knows what we really need to live, to ask for more than God provides presumes that God is unaware of our needs or what is best for us.
Without the poor we cannot lend to God.
He who give to the poor lends to God. Saint Nectarios as well as other saints have demonstrated that God repays many times over that money we lend to him by giving to the poor. Saint Nectarios observed many times a hundred fold return on his loans. And further God supplied to Saint Nectarios the money just at the right time in the amount needed.
Without the poor we have no people to thank God for us.
Just as the rich have a responsibility to provide for the poor. The poor have a responsibility to thank God for the rich who provide for their needs. The poor by our continual gifts make mention of us every day.
Without the poor can not learn to be generous.
Only by giving can we learn to be generous and merciful. When we take those first step of generosity we are fearful but we soon learn the joy that comes from giving. Truly Acts 20:35 rightly says “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Without the poor we cannot receive from God as we have given.
As you give so it will be given to you pressed down and shaken together. But the first step in giving is find people who can receive our gifts or finding some to deliver out in abstaining from food (that is the beginning) but exercising mercy so we can receive mercy. Consider making the Winter Lent a time to begin to follow the example of Saint Nicholas in giving to the poor.
Without the poor our riches become chains that fasten us to this life and condemn us to poverty hereafter.
The Rich man had everything in this life and Lazarus lacked all things but in the life hereafter the rich man, because he forgot the poor, lives as Lazarus in the life hereafter wishing every for a drop of water.
Without the poor moth, rust and thieves ruin all that we count dear to us.
Where our treasure is there is our heart. If we neglect the poor all that we lay up as treasure will be just a bunch of rot. The Poor do not need our help. We need to help the poor. The poor have God as their Father and GOD supplies all that they need. If you do not cease your thefts from the poor God will provide for them some other way.
Rather than let this blog die a slow, agonizing death because of my weekly posts on Internet Monk, I have decided to do a read-through of 2666 by the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. 2666 is a departure for me, as I usually read speculative literature, and Bolaño, although I wouldn’t by any stretch of the imagination call him a “mainstream” writer, is not a writer of speculative fiction. He also doesn’t fit neatly into the niche that aficionados of Latin American literature like to call ‘magic realism’. 2666 isn’t even considered his best book, although it was his last book, and supposedly, the one that killed him.
I cannot make any pontifical judgments about Bolaño because 2666 is the only thing I have read by him, and I have only read the first 125 or so pages of what is close to 1000 pages. So writing this will be very much le passage du vierge au marié. In addition, I have not read a lot of “serious” late 20th century literature. Supposedly, there are a baker’s half-dozen great living American writers; Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, William Vollmann, Sarah Addison Allen. None of the people whose lists I read include John Crowley, but I would. So, from all the works of these eight authors, I have read Blood Meridian, Omega Point, Tar Baby, and bits and pieces of The Ice Shirt, Crying Of Lot 49, and Underworld. That’s it. Oh yeah, I’ve read Little, Big as well, and I would stack it against any of those others. I just say this so you’ll know you’re not dealing with a heavyweight literature wonk that eats Derrida and drinks Wittgenstein. I am just an ordinary book lover interacting with an extraordinary writer.
Bolaño is extraordinary in that I believe he believes that literature matters. That is an uncommon opinion these days. DeLillo’s book Omega Point in particular is so nihilistic that it even calls into question the use of language itself, foreseeing a frigid autistic future where all of us will be bound within the isoglosses of our own idiolects. Communication will not so much be impossible as just not worth the effort. The endless repetition of ritual motions will be so much more engaging. So far, although Bolaño seems to be acutely aware of the decline and decay of nearly everything, he refuses to play the Asperger’s card. From what I have read so far, I think Bolaño had something he wanted to say, and it sounds important enough that he was willing to race against his own mortality to say it.
I am reading 2666 in translation. Reading in Spanish is still tough sledding for me. Everything I have read about Roberto Bolaño is that his Spanish is muy picante, very flavorful. Bolaño travelled widely and his works contain a lot of slang from a lot of different Spanish-speaking countries. I have a PDF of 2666 in Spanish, and his Spanish doesn’t seem to be insurmountable. If I run into a part in the translation where it looks like it might merit a glance at the original, I have it at hand. Vargas Llosa’s La Tia Julia y El Escribidor was a lot harder, and I don’t think I could have finished that book if I hadn’t married a Peruvian and thus was passing familiar with Peruvian idiom. Bolaño’s Spanish seems much more cosmopolitan to me, more like ‘Spanish as a world language’. Compare it to the way V. S. Naipaul or Junot Díaz write in “World English” if you like.
As I mentioned before, Bolaño writes as though literature matters. He says about certain works
“What a sad paradox, thought Amalfitano. Now even bookish pharmacists are afraid to take on the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown. They choose the perfect exercises of the great masters. Or what amounts to the same thing: they want to watch the great masters spar, but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.”
Literature is, or should be, about being human, and being human is not for wussies or cowards. It is not something you agree to. It is not something that comes with a thirty day (or even thirty year) satisfaction-guaranteed warranty. It will certainly break your heart at least once, maybe several times. I have a suspicion that Bolaño himself had his heart deeply broken by being human. 2666 starts out with a depiction of four friends, professors of German literature in different European universities. Despite the cruel satire with which Bolaño portrays academic life in second-tier universities, there is never any sense that the four friends are wasting their time, or that they are spending their lives in a fruitless pursuit.
A sermon by St. John Maximovitch
The day of the Last Judgement! That day no one knows –only God the Father knows — but its signs are given in the Gospel and in the Apocalypse of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. Revelation speaks of the events at the end of the world and of the Last Judgement primarily in images and in a veiled manner, but the Holy Fathers have explained these images, and there is an authentic Church tradition that speaks clearly concerning the signs of the approach of the end, and concerning the Last Judgement.
Before the end of life on earth there will be agitation, wars, civil war, hunger, earthquakes… Men will suffer from fear, will die from expectation of calamity. There will be no life, no joy of life, but a tormented state of falling away from life. But there will be a falling away not only from life, but from faith also, and when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? (St. Luke 18: 8.) Men will become proud, ungrateful, rejecting Divine law. Together with the falling away from life will be also a weakening of moral life. There will be an exhaustion of good and an increase of evil.
Of these times the holy Apostle John the Theologian speaks in his God-inspired work, the Apocalypse. He himself says that he “was in the Spirit” when he wrote it: this means that the Holy Spirit Himself was in him when under the form of various images the fate of the Church and the world was opened to him; and so this is a Divine Revelation.
The Apocalypse represents the fate of the Church in the image of a woman who hides herself in those times in the wilderness: she does not show herself in public life; as today in Russia. In public life the leading role will be played by forces which prepare the possibility for the appearance of Antichrist.
Antichrist will be a man, and not the devil incarnate. “Anti” means “old,” and it also signifies “in place of” or “against.” Antichrist is a man who desires to be in place of Christ, to occupy His place and possess what Christ should possess: he desires to possess the attraction of Christ and authority over the whole world. And Antichrist will receive that authority before his destruction and the destruction of the world.
What is known of this man — Antichrist? His precise ancestry is unknown: his father is completely unknown, and his mother a foul pretended virgin. He will be a Jew of the tribe of Dan. He will be very intelligent and endowed with skill in handling people. He will be fascinating and kind. The philosopher Vladimir Soloviev worked long at presenting the advent and person of Antichrist. He made careful use of all material on this question, not only Patristic but also Moslem, and he worked out a brilliant picture.
Before the advent of Antichrist there is already being prepared in the world the possibility of his appearance: The mystery of iniquity doth already work (II Thes. 2:7). The forces preparing for his appearance fight above all against the lawful Imperial authority. The holy Apostle Paul says that Antichrist cannot be manifested until what withholdeth be taken away (II Thes. 2: 6-7). St. John Chrysostom explains that the “withholding one” is the lawful pious authority: such an authority fights with evil. For this reason the “mystery,” already at work in the world, fights with this authority; it desires a lawless authority. When the “mystery” decisively achieves that authority, nothing will any longer hinder the appearance- of Antichrist.
Fascinating, intelligent, kind, he will be merciful — he will act with mercy and goodness; but not for the sake of mercy and goodness, but for the strengthening of his authority. And when he will have strengthened it to the point where the whole world acknowledges him, then he will reveal his face.
For his capital he will choose Jerusalem, because it was here that the Saviour revealed His Divine teaching and His person, and it was here that the entire world was called to the blessedness of goodness and salvation. But the world did not acknowledge Christ and crucified Him in Jerusalem; under Antichrist, however, the whole world will acknowledge his authority, and Jerusalem will become the capital of the world.
Having attained the pinnacle of authority, Antichrist will demand of men the acknowledgement that he has attained what no earthly power had ever attained and none can attain, and he will demand worship of himself as a higher being, as a god.
Soloviev well describes the character of his activity as “Supreme Ruler.” He will do what is pleasing to all — on the condition of being recognized as Supreme Authority. He will allow the Church to exist, will permit her Divine services, will promise to build magnificent churches — on the condition that all recognize him as “Supreme Being” and worship him. Antichrist will have a personal hatred for Christ; he will sec in Him a rival and look upon Him as a personal enemy. He will live by this hatred and rejoice in men’s apostasy from Christ.
Under Antichrist there will be an immense falling away from the faith. Many bishops will change in faith and in justification will point to the brilliant situation of the Church. The search for compromise will be the characteristic disposition of men. Straightforwardness of confession will disappear. Men will cleverly justify their fall, and gracious evil will support such a general disposition. There will be in men the habit of apostasy from truth, and the sweetness of compromise and sin.
Antichrist will allow men everything, as long as they “fall down and worship him”; and the whole world will submit to him. And then there will appear the two righteous men, who will fearlessly preach the faith and accuse Antichrist. According to Church tradition they are the two Prophets of the Old Testament, Elijah and Enoch, who did not taste of death, but will taste it now for three days; and in three days they must rise. Their death will call forth the great rejoicing of Antichrist and his servants. Their resurrection will plunge them into great confusion and terror. And then will come the end of the world.
The Apostle Peter says that the first world was made out of water — an image of the primordial chaos, and perished by water — in the Flood. And now the world is reserved unto fire. The earth and the works that are therein shall he burned up (II Peter 3:5-7, 10). All the elements will ignite. This present world will perish in a single instant. In an instant all will be changed.
And the Sign of the Son of God will appear: the Sign of the Cross.
The whole world, having willingly submitted to Antichrist, will weep. Everything is finished forever: Antichrist killed; the end of his kingdom of warfare with Christ; the end, and one is held accountable; one must answer to the true God.
“The end of the world” signifies not the annihilation of the world, but its transformation. Everything will be transformed suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye. The dead will rise in new bodies: their own, but renewed, just as the Saviour rose in His own body and on it were traces of wounds from the nails and spear, yet it possessed new faculties, and in this sense it was a new body. It is not clear whether this new body will be such as that with which Adam was made, or whether it will be an entirely new body.
And the Lord will appear in glory on the clouds. Trumpets will sound, and loud, with power! They will sound in the soul and conscience! All will become clear to the human conscience. The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Last Judgement, relates how the Ancient of days, the Judge, sits on His throne, and before Him is a fiery stream (Daniel 7: 9-10). Fire is a purifying element; it burns sin. Woe to a man if sin has become a part of his nature: then the fire will burn the man himself.
This fire will be kindled within a man: seeing the Cross, some will rejoice, but others will fall into confusion, terror, and despair. Thus will men be divided instantly. The very state of a man’s soul casts him to one side or the other, to right or to left.
The more consciously and persistently a man strives toward God in his life, the greater will be his joy when he hears: “Come unto Me, ye blessed.” And conversely: the same words will call the fire of horror and torture on those who did not desire Him, who fled and fought or blasphemed Him during their lifetime!
The Last Judgement knows of no witnesses or written protocols! Everything is inscribed in the souls of men and these records, these “books,” are opened at the Judgement. Everything becomes clear to all and to oneself.
And some will go to joy, while others — to horror.
When “the books are opened,” it will become clear that the roots of all vices lie in the human soul. Here is a drunkard or a lecher: when the body has died, some may think that sin is dead too. No! There was an inclination to sin in the soul, and that sin was sweet to the soul, and if the soul has not repented of the sin and has not freed itself from it, it will come to the Last Judgement also with the same desire for sin. It will never satisfy that desire and in that soul there will be the suffering of hatred. It will accuse everyone and everything in its tortured condition, it will hate everyone and everything. “There will be gnashing of teeth” of powerless malice and the unquenchable fire of hatred.
Recently one of my posts was featured on my favorite Evangelical blog, Internet Monk, which was started by the inestimable Michael Spencer, who has been gathered to the Lord and to His saints, both of whom he loved intensely. I cannot tell what a privilege that was, but I was asked the question why Orthodoxy? Why this church? What is special about this particular Church?
I want to keep this as brief as possible, because there are countless better places to go and hash out these kinds of issues than Internet Monk, and a lot of times there is more heat generated than light. Touching divine matters, John Wesley said that in order to be effective we needed cool heads and warm hearts. Alas, I have a cold heart and a hot head, and on this Lazarus Saturday, the eve of our descent into Orthodox Holy Week, I want to keep both of these in check.
There are two propositions that I have come to believe:
The Church is visible, and it is One
Heresy is crueller than murder
Whatever you may believe about the truth value of the first proposition, there was a time when it was true. From the time of Constantine until the Fourth Council at Chalcedon in 451, the Great Church was visibly and organizationally united.
About fifteen years ago, I had a strange dream. I was working in a homeless shelter/soup kitchen, and Saint Patrick came in dressed as a modern homeless man. His sanctity, though, was apparent to all of us and he preached an impassioned sermon. Many of the homeless men accepted Christ. Afterwards the saint asked me where the Church was so that he could baptize the new flock. I asked him which church.
Which Church? the saint replied. The Church, of course. Where is it? Point me the way. In my day, you could point me there.
Now, there were Arians in south of France in Patrick’s day, but we won’t go there for now. when I awoke from the dream I was convinced that what I had been taught all my life about the Church of Christ, that it was basically a sort of a roll call of the redeemed, was false.
The second proposition is a little touchier. Orthodoxy means “correct glory” , not “correct belief” or “correct administration”. There needs to a place where everything fits in its proper place. Ideas have consequences and they also try desperately to reproduce themselves in other minds. I am doing this right now.
“Is it too slight a thing for you that you should feed in the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pastures? Or that you should drink of the clear waters, that you must foul the rest with your feet? As for My flock, they must eat what you tread down with your feet and drink what you foul with your feet!” (Ez. 34:18-19)
When I was in South America as a Protestant missionary, I came across a small, isolated church where the pastor had sort of cobbled together the most odious portions of the doctrines of several Protestant sects and was preaching them vociferously. His flock wasn’t large, but it was fervent, and very, very sad. He was himself more miserable than Sylvia Plath baking her last batch of cookies, and his followers, practically all women, reflected his pathologies. They alone were the bulwark against which Antichrist in his pluriform manifestations raged constantly.
“Fear not, [vanishingly] little flock…”
‘Why did this guy ever leave the Catholic Church?’ I thought to myself. ‘He’d be better off walking up a mountainside on his bleeding knees to kiss a statue of the Virgin than he is infecting other people with his neuroses from the pulpit every Sunday. Hell, he’d be better off drinking beer and listening to a lot of 70s R&B.’
Fortunately, God is good, and most of us, the effects of heresy are pretty minimal. Most heresiarchs are not as culpable as my South American example. A heresiarch is like a doctor of podiatry who believes his club foot is normal, and attempts to reproduce it in all of the patients who come to him.
Since all things come from God and all things are in the process of returning to God, there always manages to be some sweet water mixed in with all the foul. But why not seek out the fountain of living water that flows unmixedly and uninterruptedly from the Throne of God?
Maybe I am deceived, and worse yet, attempting to deceive all of you. That is a possibility. My South American pastor certainly operated with a degree of self-assurance I have never been able to achieve. Maybe I have just found a heresy that is nourishing my own sinfulness. If that is true, let each man guard himself as best he can, and for Christ’s sake, since we are all in such a perilous predicament, let us cut each other some slack.
I know this doesn’t answer the specific question “Why did you become Orthodox, rather than Catholic, or stay Pentecostal, or return to neo-Calvinism, or go emergent like your brother?”
All I can say is that since my earliest thoughts, I have only ever wanted Jesus the Christ, even though I may not have known it at the time. You can find a lot of Him in a lot of places, but the fullness, the pleroma, of Him who fills all is the Church [Eph. 1.23], and I am convinced that that Church is the Holy Synod of Orthodoxy.
Essa moça sabe desenhar sim senhor.
She’s Brazilian, and her blog is in Portuguese, but that shouldn’t deter you from a visit. Google Translate is kind to her site, but the real pleasure is in her drawings. By turns whimsical, fantastic, and sensual, Cynthia França wields a pencil like Logen Ninefingers can wield a sword, and it cuts just as deeply. I wasn’t able to determine if Miss França has ever published any of her drawings professionally, or if anyone had ever tapped her to illustrate a book. There were several drawings on her site that seemed to come from a fictional source; Soccertown kids, all appropriately named, a set of drawings entitled Les Reines D’Autobus, but I was frustrated by my total ignorance of Brazilian popular culture.
Since reading L. Sprague De Camp’s planetary romances of the Viagens Interplanetárias in my earliest adolescence, Brazil has always seemed like a mythical country in its own right. I don’t mean to disparage the tremendous challenges faced by the average Brazilian in navigating the real world, but when I visited there, I felt more like I was living inside a legend than I have anywhere else. There has to be some compensation for living in a country where there is so much poverty and injustice, and oddly, there is. Nature is exuberant there, beyond anything we know in North America away from the redwood groves on the West Coast. Taking the bus from Santos on the coast to São Paulo was like dreaming with my eyes open. Music, better music than you can pay to hear in most venues, wafts out of the windows and down to the street.
Because of this I’m surprised Brazil hasn’t produced more fantasy literature. Some of the tales of the bandeirantes, with which Brazilian schoolchildren are as familiar as American children used to be with the stories of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, definitely had a mythopoetic flavor to them. Miss França has a fantastic side to her as well. In her online portfolio there are drawings of Conan, Dejah Thoris, and Desire of the Endless, as well as numerous sketches from what Miss França refers to as her “pocket mythology”. I learned that the phrase Portuguese would use for the Endless is os Perpétuos. From one Gaiman fan to another Gaiman fan, I salute you.
Miss França also has produced an occasional series of sketches of Biblical women. You should really go see these, because they are not likely to see the light of day between the pages of your Zondervan Purpose Oriented Planner Bible. Mary and Martha are here, as are Herodias and a slightly older Salomé, three of David’s wives, Jezebel and her daughter Athalia. Even though Miss França appears to have a soft spot for the bad girls, there are plenty of good girls; Ruth and Orpah are here, as are the three daughters of Job. My favorite, however, is the sketch of Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob. Miss França takes the liberty of depicting Leah not as strictly plain, but just frank and transparent as opposed to Rachel’s smoldering and mysterious glamour.
Now, I know I have maybe thirty two nanoWarhols of artistic critical influence, but I would dearly love to see Miss França exercise her considerable talents somewhere where she could be more widely appreciated.
That’s me on the left. When did I become evil, and at just whom am I pointing that gun?
My life took a turn for the better when I stopped listening to too much AM radio. My bad habit started before 9-11-2001 actually. At first, I looked at it as a sort of a harmless hobby, entertainment. I lived in Miami at the time and Miami was kind of a hothouse for political radio, both in English and in Spanish. The Spanish side of the forum was obsessed with Fidel Castro, and who hated him the worst. If you thought Fidel Castro wasn’t entirely evil, say, maybe like Idi Amin Dada- or Joseph Stalin-level evil rather than Satan-level, the Spanish media in Miami couldn’t say enough bad about you. The English-speaking media was a little more subtle. English-speaking Miami was always heavily Jewish, and their patron saint was Neil Rogers, an old-school agnostic, openly homosexual Jew who gleefully skewered everybody, left or right, who held themselves above the common corruption that covers all of us, as Willie Loman said it, “from the stench of the di-dee to the shroud of the grave”.
Neil Rogers passed away from cancer in 2010. I am not alone in saying that I miss him. Already in his heyday in the first Clinton administration, though, strident conservative voices were vying for recognition. Rush Limbaugh was syndicated, and we in Miami had the unparalleled blessing of having G. Gordon Liddy of Watergate fame to listen to five days a week. My favorite broadcast of his was where he instructed his listeners on how to conduct themselves in a knife fight. I have not had to use that information yet, but you never know when it will come in handy.
What was a pastime before the attacks on the Twin Towers became an obsession afterwards. I needed an answer for the question “Why did these men do this? Why did they hate us so much?” Now, I had travelled abroad in Latin America and Spain, and had encountered the endemic anti-Americanism there. I also remembered the rhetoric that issued from the Iranian Revolution after the overthrow of the Shah and during the hostage crisis about America being the “Great Satan”. That didn’t puzzle me as much as it did many of my compatriots, though, because I remembered the role that Britain and the US played in the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and the subsequent tyranny of the Shah and his family. Don’t ask me how I learned about this, an event that took place when I was two, but I knew about it even in 1978 when Jimmy Carter decided to toss the Shah to the geopolitical Devil by refusing him military aid. ”Good riddance” I thought back then, and still believe, although I am no fan of the Islamic Republic that followed him.
It may seem cruel for me to point this out, but what I remember the most about 9/11 was the great sense of relief everybody seemed to feel. After the initial shock wore off (during which the churches were full, something that hasn’t happened since), there was something of a carnival attitude. Like the Fourth of July, the American flag was everywhere. People started greeting each other on the streets again. It was like the past fifty years had been erased and we all woke up in Mayberry one morning. All of the Medician post-Cold War moral ambiguity of the Clintons vanished overnight, replaced by the resolute and vigilant Proconsul Bush, Junior. America could breath easily again.
We finally had another enemy to replace the late, lamented Communists.
Actually, we now had two enemies. The exterior, but least dangerous enemy, was “Radical” Islam. It is to the credit of whatever propaganda machine coined that phrase that the “Radical” has remained in place for over a decade, presumably to differentiate it from the tepid sort of Islam practiced by the family of the girl my son is currently dating, which is curiously like the Christianity practiced by my family where time spent in the detritus of Asian popular culture, playing video games, responding to Facebook status updates, or watching TV outweigh by a factor of ten or so attendance upon divine services [if any of my family reads this, you know me as the worst offender] .
The worse enemy was the internal one. Almost overnight after 9/11, on AM radio, the Real Enemy became the Donkeys who, depending on who you were listening to, were traitors worse than Benedict Arnold or Vikdun Quisling. Now, this was puzzling to me. I came to consciousness in the highly politicized atmosphere of the late 60s, and there were a lot of Democrats around then. They drew a lot of criticism, then as now, but there was never any sense that they were actually traitors. That kind of rhetoric has been left for our day, although it is hard to get a bead on just who is the target of this treason. It always seems to be “people like me”, you know, Christians if you are a Christian, small business people (“the backbone of our nation”, as both sides delight in calling them, although given the way they have been treated another body part would be more accurate) if you are a small business person. White if you are white, although this is usually couched in high sounding phrases about “European Christian civilization” standing against the onslaught of “illegal immigration” and “multiculturalism” .
And that, Dear Constant reader, is how your humble Mule ended up on a book cover as the symbol of evil, with a pistol pointed at the head of dear old Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam, whoever he represents, appears to be returning the love. I used to wear a jacket that looked exactly like that in 1971 with the peace sign, the Have A Nice Day face, the Yang-Yin symbol. It was as if the artist had been rummaging through my attic.
I don’t wonder that there isn’t a good amount of paranoia and hate on the other side. Half an hour spent at places like the Daily Kos (http://www.dailykos.com/) or Democratic Underground (http://www.democraticunderground.com) should convince you that there is little love showered there upon the knuckle-dragging “racist” “Dominionist” troglodytes who vote Republican. The same spirit is at work there; the Re”thug”licans are subhumans whose agenda is to ‘get’ ”people like me”; agnostic if you are agnostic, gay if you are gay, sexually permissive if you are…, well, you get my drift. You are hated. They hate you. To be fair, this kind of Manichaean hatred may be an outgrowth of our two party system, but I don’t know whether the Canadian system that seems to require thirty five contending parties on the Left to ensure the election of Stephen Harper is any improvement.
Now we come to what I really want to say. There is nothing that can result from this sort of polarization except violence. Marshall McLuhan stated that all violence was an attempt to establish an identity, which dovetailed precisely with some of things Fr. Stephen Freeman discussed recently on his blog concerning the distinction between the True and the False Self (this post would be a great place to start). The True Self is who were are in Christ, and the Church defines this a being a person in communion with other persons and ultimately, in communion with the Persons of the Trinity in the community of the Church. Over against this is the False Self, the Individual, who stands in opposition to other individuals who, in the jostling of everyday life, are generally experienced as being obstacles, as being In My Way.
The False Self, since it has Nothing at its core, needs an Enemy. Only against the Enemy can the false Self begin to coalesce and direct its energies and experience something akin to life. This is Who I Am, says this poor ragged construct of ten thousand conflicting thoughts, impulses, lusts, and passions. They hate me: the preps, the hipsters, those goddamned sophisticated arugula-eating atheists, the smug religious hypocrites, the bullies, the hucksters, those self-congratulatory heteronormative cisgendered privileged bastards, the multiculturalists, the academics, the favored, the envious. Oderunt ergo sum. ”I am hated, therefore I am” And as the pressure drops at the core, the winds around this non-existent center pick up speed until a perfect storm of violence erupts.
Worse than that, this rootlessness this centerlessness seems to come with the territory as an American. Someday, when the story of humanity on this continent is fully told, something accurate may be said about my country, the Country With No Real Name, with an algorithm where its heart should be. When we arrived on the shores here from Europe, we experienced the Other as Heathen and Savage, and this predilection has never departed from us. From this corelessness and the inevitable fury that surrounds it proceeded the genocide of the Native Americans, the dismemberment of Mexico, Sherman’s March Through Georgia, the Sacco-Vanzetti Trials, the Red Scare, the McCarthy Hearings, Vietnam and I don’t see it ending soon. Will my son and daughter have to live in a landscape of Bed Bath and Beyonds and Applebees deteriorating into a moonscape of Title Loan shops, Pawn shops, liquor stores and Buy Here/Pay Here used car lots as our common life and wealth is siphoned off to pursue another interminable war in some other unpronounceable place?
We need Jesus. Not the American Jeezus who saves the false Self, but the real Jesus who kills it. I am capable of Newton, of the Boston bombing, even of 9/11. How many times have idly daydreamed about these or worse events in which I can get rid of all those bad people who do all those evil deeds so that the good people, like me, can get on with their good lives? Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison. I am no longer capable of discerning between good and evil, I want to put the fruit back on the branch.