Thursday, 27 December 2012

Pro-Life Strategy: Incrementalism versus Solidaritism part 1

St John the Evangelist

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.
He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.
In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His own Spirit.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Spe Salvi - Christus Natus Est.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God;
All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him,
Yet the world knew Him not.
He came to His own home,
...and His own people received Him not.
But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God;
who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh + and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth;
We have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

A Christmas Prayer (Inspired by St. Therese)

My God, I have done little to prepare for Christmas. I have prepared myself poorly for the feast of your birth, and I will celebrate it as poorly. If I say that there is an "ought", I can say also that I have not lived up to it. And now I say I love you.

I do not attempt to reconcile these contraries, for they reconcile only in you. My fallen nature, which loves and desires you so mightily while yet being pressed into the earth, slowly crushed under the weight of failure, unimportance and tragedy, I offer to you as an act of love.

Should I try to burn these sins out of myself, I would only be running away from you; if you do not condemn me, ought I condemn myself? So I must set out to correct myself only by love, being content to fail often and heavily without growing impatient with myself, though the pain and humiliation of failure should consume me. This failure too I offer to you as an act of love.

And even in this I do not expect to succeed, for I know that I shall grow impatient with myself, shall desire my virtues to be greater than they are, shall despair at the sight of the successes of others when I know myself to succeed so little. This I also offer to you as an act of love.

Though you have shown this about myself, I should not suppose that I will see it in others however I may desire it and attempt it. I shall see others as below me if they do not meet my standards, and I shall be in fear of those who exceed my capacities. Though I resist it and though even the first movement of thought shall be a torment to me, I know it will happen. I neither excuse it, nor ask (in that way) that it be removed. I only offer it to you as an act of love.

I know also that I will take what is reserved for you, and I will judge myself for my faults. I will determine for myself what needs to be changed, and when; I will set about it diligently, for who can bear to see themselves so bad? In doing so, I will be as a house divided against itself; I will attempt to remove my own speck, for who can see one’s own plank? Yet in addition to all of this, my God, though I may not be able to prevent it happening, I offer myself, as undivided as I know how to give, to You, for Your own judgment.

So this is my offering to you on this Christmas, my Lord. I offer you all that is distasteful to me in myself, and I desire to bear serenely this trial of being displeasing to myself, though I expect to fail even at that. In my own disfigured person, I offer you the whole of trainwrecked humanity, for we are all alike. I derive my hope only from your love of me, not from my contemplation of my own virtue (which is fortunately lacking, for I would delve into that idolatry were it available to me, and -who knows?- I may be guilty of it already for I do not know myself). I trust only in your passionate love, which I believe transforms my sin into your infinite holiness at every moment, whether or not I feel it.

I therefore come to You this Christmas, my God, with empty hands. If I am not yet grateful for all that has been done for me, I will not be too hard on myself, for I know that it is only because you have not finished giving me what you desire. You will not be outdone in generosity, and when you are through, I am guaranteed to be overwhelmed in it, and the gratitude in which I am so lacking now will pour forth as water and blood from my side, and I will cry out, with You, “it is finished!” And then, my Lord, all shall be well.
Sermon On the Nativity
by St. Augustine

(1) Hear, O sons of light, who have been received by adoption into the kingdom of God; hear, my very dear brethren; hear and be glad in the Lord, ye just ones, so that praise may become the upright.[1] Hear what you already know; reflect upon what you have heard; love what you believe; proclaim what you love. Since we are celebrating a great anniversary on this day, you may expect a sermon in keeping with the feast. Christ as God was born of His Father, as Man of His Mother; of the immortality of His Father, of the virginity of His Mother; of His Father without a mother, of His Mother without a father; of His Father without limits of time, of His Mother without seed; of His Father as the source of life, of His Mother as the end of death; of His Father ordering all days, of His Mother consecrating this particular day.[2]

(2) God sent John to earth as His human Precursor so that he was born when the days were becoming shorter while the Lord Himself was born when the days were growing longer, that in this minute detail the subsequent words of this same John might be prefigured: 'He must increase, but I must decrease.'[3] For human life ought to grow weaker in itself and stronger in Christ, that 'they who are alive may live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for all and rose again,' and that each one of us may say in the words of the Apostle: 'It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me.'[4] For 'he must increase, but I must decrease.'

All His angels worthily praise Him, for He is their everlasting food, nourishing them with an incorruptible feast. He is the Word of God, by whose life they live, by whose eternity they live forever, by whose goodness they live happily forever. They praise Him worthily, as God with God, and they render glory to God on high. May we, 'his people and the sheep of his hand,'[5] reconciled to Him by our good will, merit peace in consideration of the limited measure of our weakness. For these words to which the angels themselves gave utterance in jubilation at the birth of our Saviour are their daily tribute: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will.'[6] Therefore, they praise Him duly: let us praise Him in obedience. They are His messengers; we, His sheep. He filled their table in heaven; He filled our manger on earth. He is the fullness of their table because 'in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God.' He is the fullness of our manger because 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.'[7] so that man might eat the Bread of angels the Creator of the angels became man. The angels praise Him by living; we, by believing; they by enjoying, we by seeking; they by obtaining, we by striving to obtain; they by entering, we by knocking.

(3) What human being could know all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Christ and concealed under the poverty of His humanity? For, 'being rich, he became poor for our sake that by his poverty we might become rich.'[8] When He assumed our mortality and overcame death, He manifested Himself in poverty, but He promised riches though they might be deferred; He did not lose them as if they were taken from Him. How great is the multitude of His sweetness which He hides from those who fear Him but which He reveals to those that hope in Him![9] For we understand only in part until that which is perfect comes to us. To make us worthy of this perfect gift, He, equal to the Father in the form of God, became like to us in the form of a servant, and refashions us into the likeness of God. The only Son of God, having become the Son of Man, makes many sons of men the sons of God; and on these men, reared as servants, with the visible form of servants, He bestows the freedom of beholding the form of God. For 'we are the children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that, when he appears, we shall be like to him, for we shall see him just as he is.'[l0] What, then, are those treasures of wisdom and knowledge? What are those divine riches unless they be that which satisfies our longing? And what is that multitude of sweetness unless it be what fills us? 'Show us the Father and it is enough for us.'[11] Furthermore, in one of the psalms, one of our race, either in our name or for our sake, said to Him: 'I shall be satisfied when thy glory shall appear.'[l2] But He and the Father are one, and the person who sees Him sees the Father also;[l3] therefore, 'the Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.'[l4] Turning to us, He will show us His face and 'we shall be saved';[15] we shall be satisfied, and He will be sufficient for us.

(4) Therefore, let our heart speak thus to Him; 'I have sought thy countenance; thy face, O Lord, will I still seek. Turn not away thy face from me.'[l6] And let Him reply to the plea of our hearts: 'He who loves me keeps my commandments; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.'[17] Indeed, those to whom He addressed these words did see Him with their eyes; they heard the sound of His voice with their ears; they regarded Him as a man in their human heart. But, what eye has not seen, what ear has not heard, and what has not entered into the heart of man He promised to show to those who love Him.[l8] Until this favor is granted to us, until He shows us what will completely satisfy us, until we drink to satiety of that fountain of life, while we wander about, apart from Him but strong in faith, while we hunger and thirst for justice, longing with an unspeakable desire for the beautiful vision of God, let us celebrate with fervent devotion His birthday in the form of a servant. Since we cannot, as yet, understand that He was begotten by the Father before the day- star, let us celebrate His birth of the Virgin in the nocturnal hours. Since we do not comprehend how His name existed before the light of the sun, let us recognize His tabernacle placed in the sun. Since we do not, as yet, gaze upon the Son inseparably united with His Father, let us remember Him as the 'bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber.' Since we are not yet ready for the banquet of our Father, let us grow familiar with the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

The Nativity Sermon of St. John Chrysostom

BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery.

My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.
The Angels sing.
The Archangels blend their voice in harmony.
The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise.
The Seraphim exalt His glory.
All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven.
He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice.
And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields.
For He willed; He had the power; He descended; He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God.
This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not.
For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His.
Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.
And so the kings have come,
and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth,
not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path,
He has come forth from a spotless womb.
Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny.
Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech. 
For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.

What shall I say to you;
what shall I tell you?
I behold a Mother who has brought forth;
I see a Child come to this light by birth.
The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.
Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored.
O ineffable grace!
The Only Begotten,
Who is before all ages,
Who cannot be touched or be perceived,
Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption.
For what reason?
That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see.
For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.

Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin,
builds for Himself a living temple,
and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin;
and, putting Him on, this day came forth;
unashamed of the lowliness of our nature.

For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made.
Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator.
For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.

What shall I say!
And how shall I describe this Birth to you?
For this wonder fills me with astonishment.
The Ancient of days has become an infant.
He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger.
And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men.
He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands.
But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.
For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh,
He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving,
He prepares for me the treasure of Life.
He takes my flesh, to sanctify me;
He gives me His Spirit that He may save me.
Come, then, let us observe the Feast.
Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity.

For this day the ancient slavery is ended,
the devil confounded, the demons take to flight,
the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked,
the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us,
error driven out, truth has been brought back,
the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side,
a heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth,
angels communicate with men without fear,
and men now hold speech with angels.

Why is this?
Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven;
on every side all things commingle.
He became Flesh.
He did not become God. He was God.
Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive.
He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things are nourished, may receive an infants food from His Virgin Mother.
So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms,
that the Magi may more easily see Him.
Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny;
and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.

To Him, then,
Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path,
to Christ,
to the Father,
and to the Holy Spirit,
we offer all praise,
now and forever.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Confession (Dr. Scott Hahn)

The Church Militant - Bringing Catholic Back

Blessed Mother Teresa’s Prayer

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create any way.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. 
It was never between you and them anyway.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Saturday, 3 November 2012


Prayer of St Francis de Sales

Lord, I am yours, and I must belong to no one but you.
My soul is yours, and must live only by you.
My will is yours, and must love only for you.
I must love you as my first cause, since I am from you.

             I must love you as my end and rest, since I am for you.

I must love you more than my own being, since my being subsists by you.
I must love you more than myself, since I am all yours and all in you. AMEN.

The Modernist Bishop [The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis]

Close beside me I saw another of the Bright People in conversation with a ghost.
It was that fat ghost with the cultured voice who had addressed me in the bus, and it seemed to be wearing gaiters.
"My dear boy, I'm delighted to see you,"
it was saying to the Spirit, who was naked and almost blindingly white.
"I was talking to your poor father the other day and wondering where you were."
"You didn't bring him?" said the other.
"Well, no. He lives a long way from the bus, and, to be quite frank, he's been getting a little
eccentric lately. A little difficult. Losing his grip. He never was prepared to make any great efforts,
you know. If you remember, he used to go to sleep when you and I got talking seriously! Ah, Dick,
I shall never forget some of our talks. I expect you've changed your views a bit since then. You
became rather narrow-minded towards the end of your life: but no doubt you've broadened out
"How do you mean?"
"Well, it's obvious by now, isn't it, that you weren't quite right. Why, my dear boy, you were
coming to believe in a literal Heaven and Hell!"
"But wasn't I right?"
"Oh, in a spiritual sense, to be sure. I still believe in them in that way. I am still, my dear boy,
looking for the Kingdom. But nothing superstitious or mythological. . . ."
"Excuse me. Where do you imagine you've been?"
"Ah, I see. You mean that the grey town with its continual hope of morning (we must all live by
hope, must we not?), with its field for indefinite progress, is, in a sense, Heaven, if only we have
eyes to see it? That is a beautiful idea."
"I didn't mean that at all. Is it possible you don't know where you've been?"
"Now that you mention it, I don't think we ever do give it a name. What do you call it?"
"We call it Hell."
"There is no need to be profane, my dear boy. I may not be very orthodox, in your sense of that
word, but I do feel that these matters ought to be discussed simply, and seriously, and reverently."
"Discuss Hell reverently? I meant what I said. You have been in Hell: though if you don't go back
you may call it Purgatory."
"Go on, my dear boy, go on. That is so like you. No doubt you'll tell me why, on your view, I was
sent there. I'm not angry."
"But don't you know? You went there because you are an apostate."
"Are you serious, Dick?"
"This is worse than I expected. Do you really think people are penalised for their honest opinions?
Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that those opinions were mistaken."
"Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?"
"There are indeed, Dick. There is hidebound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity,
and stagnation. But honest opinions fearlessly followed-they are not sins."
"I know we used to talk that way. I did it too until the end of my life when I became what you call
narrow. It all turns on what are honest opinions."
"Mine certainly were. They were not only honest but heroic. I asserted them fearlessly. When the
doctrine of the Resurrection ceased to commend itself to the critical faculties which God had given
me, I openly rejected it. I preached my famous sermon. I defied the whole chapter. I took every
"What risk? What was at all likely to come of it except what actually came-popularity, sales for
your books, invitations, and finally a bishopric?"
"Dick, this is unworthy of you. What are you suggesting?"
"Friend, I am not suggesting at all. You see, I know now. Let us be frank. Our opinions were not
honestly come by. We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and
plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful. At College, you know, we just started
automatically writing the kind of essays that got good marks and saying the kind of things that won
applause. When, in our whole lives, did we honestly face, in solitude, the one question on which all
turned: whether after all the Supernatural might not in fact occur? When did we put up one
moment's real resistance to the loss of our faith?"
"If this is meant to be a sketch of the genesis of liberal theology in general, I reply that it is a mere
libel. Do you suggest that men like ..."
"I have nothing to do with any generality. Nor with any man but me and you. Oh, as you love your
own soul, remember. You know that you and I were playing with loaded dice. We didn't want the
other to be true. We were afraid of crude salvationism, afraid of a breach with the spirit of the age,
afraid of ridicule, afraid (above all) of real spiritual fears and hopes."
"I'm far from denying that young men may make mistakes. They may well be influenced by current
fashions of thought. But it's not a question of how the opinions are formed. The point is that they
were my honest opinions, sincerely expressed."
"Of course. Having allowed oneself to drift, unresisting, unpraying, accepting every half-conscious
solicitation from our desires, we reached a point where we no longer believed the Faith. Just in the
same way, a jealous man, drifting and unresisting, reaches a point at which he believes lies about
his best friend: a drunkard reaches a point at which (for the moment) he actually believes that
another glass will do him no harm. The beliefs are sincere in the sense that they do occur as
psychological events in the man's mind. If that's what you mean by sincerity they are sincere, and
so were ours. But errors which are sincere in that sense are not innocent."
"You'll be justifying the Inquisition in a moment!"
"Why? Because the Middle Ages erred in one direction, does it follow that there is no error in the
opposite direction?"
"Well, this is extremely interesting," said the Episcopal Ghost. "It's a point of view. Certainly, it's a
point of view. In the meantime . . ."
"There is no meantime," replied the other.
 "AH that is over. We are not playing now. I have been
talking of the past (your past and mine) only in order that you may turn from it forever. One wrench
and the tooth will be out. You can begin as if nothing had ever gone wrong. White as snow. It's all
true, you know. He is in me, for you, with that power. And- I have come a long journey to meet
you. You have seen Hell: you are in sight of Heaven. Will you, even now, repent and believe?"
"I'm not sure that I've got the exact point you are trying to make," said the Ghost.
"I am not trying to make any point," said the Spirit. "I am telling you to repent and believe."
"But my dear boy, I believe already. We may not be perfectly agreed, but you have completely
misjudged me if you do not realise that my religion is a very real and a very precious thing to me."
"Very well," said the other, as if changing his plan. "Will you believe in me?"
"In what sense?"
"Will you come with me to the mountains? It will hurt at first, until your feet are hardened. Reality
is harsh to the feet of shadows. But will you come?"
"Well, that is a plan. I am perfectly ready to consider it. Of course I should require some assurances
... I should want a guarantee that you are taking me to a place where I shall find a wider sphere of
usefulness-and scope for the talents that God has given me-and an atmosphere of free inquiry-in
short, all that one means by civilisation and-er-the spiritual life."
"No," said the other. "I can promise you none of these things. No sphere of usefulness: you are not
needed there at all. No scope for your talents: only forgiveness for having perverted them. No
atmosphere of inquiry, for I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you
shall see the face of God."
"Ah, but we must all interpret those beautiful words in our own way! For me there is no such thing
as a final answer. The free wind of inquiry must always continue to blow through the mind, must it
not? Trove all things' . . . to travel hopefully is better than to arrive."
"If that were true, and known to be true, how could anyone travel hopefully? There would be
nothing to hope for."
"But you must feel yourself that there is something stifling about the idea of finality? Stagnation,
my dear boy, what is more soul-destroying than stagnation?"
"You think that, because hitherto you have experienced truth only with the abstract intellect. I will
bring you where you can taste it like honey and be embraced by it as by a bridegroom. Your thirst
shall be quenched."
"Well, really, you know, I am not aware of a thirst for some ready-made truth which puts an end to
intellectual activity in the way you seem to be describing. Will it leave me the free play of Mind,
Dick? I must insist on that, you know."
"Free, as a man is free to drink while he is drinking. He is not free still to be dry." The Ghost
seemed to think for a moment. "I can make nothing of that idea," it said.
"Listen!" said the White Spirit. "Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for.
There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you
had found them. Become that child again: even now."
"Ah, but when I became a man I put away childish things."
"You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth. What you now call the free
play of inquiry has neither more nor less to do with the ends for which intelligence was given you
than masturbation has to do with marriage."
"If we cannot be reverent, there is at least no need to be obscene. The suggestion that I should
return at my age to the mere factual in-quisitiveness of boyhood strikes me as preposterous. In any
case, that question-and-answer conception of thought only applies to matters of fact. Religious and
speculative questions are surely on a different level."
"We know nothing of religion here: we think only of Christ. We know nothing of speculation.
Come and see. I will bring you to Eternal Fact, the Father of all other facthood."
"I should object very strongly to describing God as a 'fact.' The Supreme Value would surely be a
less inadequate description. It is hardly . . ."
"Do you not even believe that He exists?"
"Exists? What does Existence mean? You will keep on implying some sort of static, ready-made
reality which is, so to speak, 'there,' and to which our minds have simply to conform. These great
mysteries cannot be approached in that way. If there were such a thing (there is no need to
interrupt, my dear boy) quite frankly, I should not be interested in it. It would be of no religions
significance. God, for me, is something purely spiritual. The spirit of sweetness and light and
tolerance-and, er, service, Dick, service. We mustn't forget that, you know."
"If the thirst of the Reason is really dead . . . ," said the Spirit,
and then stopped as though pondering.
Then suddenly he said, "Can you, at least, still desire happiness?"
"Happiness, my dear Dick," said the Ghost placidly,
"happiness, as you will come to see when youare older, lies in the path of duty. Which reminds me. . . . Bless my soul, I'd nearly forgotten. Of course I can't come with you. I have to be back next Friday to read a paper. We have a little Theological Society down there. Oh yes! there is plenty of intellectual life. Not of a very high quality, perhaps. One notices a certain lack of grip-a certain confusion of mind. That is where I can
be of some use to them. There are even regrettable jealousies.
I don't know why, but tempers seem less controlled than they used to be. Still, one mustn't expect too much of human nature. I feel I can do a great work among them. But you've never asked me what my paper is about! I'm taking the text about growing up to the measure of the stature of Christ and working out an idea which I feel sure you'll be interested in. I'm going to point out how people always forget that Jesus (here the
Ghost bowed) was a comparatively young man when he died. He would have outgrown some of his
earlier views, you know, if he'd lived. As he might have done, with a little more tact and patience. I
am going to ask my audience to consider what his mature views would have been. A profoundly
interesting question. What a different Christianity we might have had if only the Founder had
reached his full stature! I shall end up by pointing out how this deepens the significance of the
Crucifixion. One feels for the first time what a disaster it was: what a tragic waste ... so much
promise cut short. Oh, must you be going? Well, so must I. Goodbye, my dear boy. It has been a
great pleasure. Most stimulating and provocative. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye."
The Ghost nodded its head and beamed on the Spirit with a bright clerical smile-or with the best
approach to it which such unsubstantial lips could manage-and then turned away hummin? softly to
itself "City of God, how broad and far."

Ugly Rupture?

Angry heretic by PaulPriest on GoAnimate

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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Heaven by C.S. Lewis

‘I reckon,’ said St Paul, ‘that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.’
If this is so, a book on suffering which says nothing of heaven, is leaving out almost the whole of one side of the account. Scripture and tradition habitually put the joys of heaven into the scale against the sufferings of earth, and no solution of the problem of pain which does not do so can be called a Christian one. We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven.
We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky’, and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere.

But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not.
If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no. Again, we are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk .Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.

You may think that there is another reason for our silence about heaven—namely, that we do not really desire it. But that may be an illusion. What I am now going to say is merely an opinion of my own without the slightest authority, which I submit to the judgement of better Christians and better scholars than myself. There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.

You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them,though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that.
Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw—but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported.
Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of—something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side?

Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for?

You have never had it.
All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it
- tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear.
But if it should really become manifest— if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself—you would know it.
Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’
We cannot tell each other about it.
It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work.
While we are, this is.
If we lose this, we lose all.

This signature on each soul may be a product of heredity and environment, but that only means that heredity and environment are among the instruments whereby God creates a soul.
I am considering not how, but why, He makes each soul unique.
If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one.
Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you.
The mould in which a key is made would be a strange thing, if you had never seen a key: and the key itself a strange thing if you had never seen a lock.
Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions.
For it is not humanity in the abstract that is to be saved, but you—you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith.
Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another’s.
 All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction.
The Brocken spectre ‘looked to every man like his first love’, because she was a cheat.
But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love.
Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it
—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.

It is from this point of view that we can understand hell in its aspect of privation.
All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness.
The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it, or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.
This may seem a perilously private and subjectivenotion of the pearl of great price, but it is not.
The thing I am speaking of is not an experience.
You have experienced only the want of it.
The thing itself has never actually been embodied in any thought, or image, or emotion.
Always it has summoned you out of yourself. And if you will not go out of yourself to follow it, if you sit down to brood on the desire and attempt to cherish it, the desire itself will evade you.
‘The door into life generally opens behind us’
‘the only wisdom’ for one ‘haunted with the scent of unseen roses, is work.’

This secret fire goes out when you use the bellows: bank it down with what seems unlikely fuel of dogma and ethics, turn your backon it and attend to your duties, and then it will blaze.
The world is like a picture with a golden background, and we the figures in that picture.
Until you step off the plane of the picture into the large dimensions of death you cannot see the gold.
But we have reminders of it.
To change our metaphor, the blackout is not quite complete.
There are chinks. At times the daily scene looks big with its secret.
Such is my opinion; and it may be erroneous.
Perhaps this secret desire also is part of the Old Man and must be crucified before the end.
But this opinion has a curious trick of evading denial.
The desire—much more the satisfaction—has always refused to be fully present in any experience.
Whatever you try to identify with it, turns out to be not it but something else: so that hardly any degree of crucifixion or transformation could go beyond what the desire itself leads us to anticipate.

Again, if this opinion is not true, something better is.
But ‘something better’—not this or that experience, but beyond it—is almost the definition of the thing I am trying to describe.
The thing you long for summons you away from the self.
Even the desire for the thing lives only if you abandon it.
This is the ultimate law—the seed dies to live, the bread must be cast upon the waters, he that loses his soul will save it. But the life of the seed, the finding of the bread, the recovery of the soul, are as real as the preliminary sacrifice.
Hence it is truly said of heaven ‘in heaven there is no ownership. If any there took upon him to callanything his own, he would straightway be thrust outinto hell and become an evil spirit.’  But it is also said ‘To him that overcometh I will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.’

What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him?
And what shall we take this secrecy to mean?
Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the Divine beauty better than any other creature can.
Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently?
And this difference, so far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all blessed creatures for one another, the communion of the saints.
If all experienced God in the same way and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the Church triumphant would have no symphony, it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note.

Aristotle has told us that a city is a unity of unlikes,  and St Paul that a body is a unity of different members.  Heaven is a city, and a Body, because the blessed remain eternally different: a society, because each has something to tell all the others—fresh and ever fresh news of the ‘My God’ whom each finds in Him whom all praise as ‘Our God’.
For doubtless the continually successful, yet never complete, attempt by each soul to communicate its unique vision to all others (and that by means whereof earthly art and philosophy are but clumsy imitations) is also among the ends for which the individual was created.
For union exists only between distincts; and, perhaps,from this point of view, we catch a momentary glimpse of the meaning of all things.
Pantheism is a creed not somuch false as hopelessly behind the times.
Once, before creation, it would have been true to say that everything was God.
But God created: He caused things to be other than Himself that, being distinct, they might learn to love Him, and achieve union instead of mere sameness.
Thus He also cast His bread upon the waters.

Even within the creation we might say that inanimate matter, which has no will, is one with God in a sense in which men are not.
But it is not God’s purpose that we should go back into that old identity (as, perhaps, some Pagan mystics would hav eus do) but that we should go on to the maximum distinctness there to be reunited with Him in a higher fashion.
Even within the Holy One Himself, it is not sufficient that the Word should be God, it must also be with God.
The Father eternally begets the Son and the Holy Ghost proceeds: deity introduces distinction within itself so that the union of reciprocal loves may transcend mere arithmetical unity or self-identity.
But the eternal distinctness of each soul—the secret which makes of the union between each soul and God a species in itself—will never abrogate the law that forbids ownership in heaven.
As to its fellow-creatures, each soul,we suppose, will be eternally engaged in giving away to all the rest that which it receives.
And as to God, we must remember that the soul is but a hollow which God fills.
Its union with God is, almost by definition, a continual self-abandonment—an opening, an unveiling, a surrender, of itself.
A blessed spirit is a mould ever more and more patient of the bright metal poured into it, a body  ever more completely uncovered to the meridian blaze of the spiritual sun.
We need not suppose that the necessity for something analogous to self-conquest will ever be ended, or that eternal life will not also be eternal dying.

It is in this sense that, as there may be pleasures in hell (God shield us from them), there may be something not all unlike pains in heaven (God grant us soon to taste them).
For in self-giving, if anywhere, we touch a rhythm notonly of all creation but of all being.
For the Eternal Word also gives Himself in sacrifice; and that not only on Calvary.
For when He was crucified He ‘did that in the wild weather of His outlying provinces which He had done at home in glory and gladness’.
From before the foundation of the world He surrenders begotten Deity back to begetting Deity in obedience. And as the Son glorifies the Father, so also the Father glorifies the Son.
And,with submission, as becomes a layman, I think it wa struly said ‘God loveth not Himself as Himself but as Goodness; and if there were aught better than God, He would love that and not Himself’.
From the highest to the lowest, self exists to be abdicated and, by that abdication, becomes the more truly self, to be thereupon yet the more abdicated, and so forever.
This is not a heavenly law which we can escape by remaining earthly, nor an earthly law which we can escape by being saved.
What is outside the system of self-giving is not earth, nor nature, nor ‘ordinary life’, but simply and solely hell. Yet even hell derives from this law such reality as it has.
That fierce imprisonment in the self is but the obverse of the self-giving which is absolute reality; the negative shape which the outer darkness takes by surrounding and defining the shape of the real, or which the real imposes on the darkness by having a shape and positive nature of its own.

The golden apple of selfhood, thrown among the false gods, became an apple of discord because they scrambled for it. They did not know the first rule of the holy game, which is that every player must by all means touch the ball and then immediately pass it on.
To be found with it in your hands is a fault: to cling to it, death. But when it flies to and fro among the players too swift for eye to follow,and the great master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself eternally to His creatures in the generation, and back to Himself in the sacrifice, of the Word, then indeed the eternal dance ‘makes heaven drowsy with the harmony’.
All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparable with the sufferings of this present time.
As we draw nearer to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight.
There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy.
It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love.
It is Love Himself, and Good Himself, and therefore happy.
It does not exist for us, but we for it.
The size and emptiness of the universe which frightened us at the outset of this book, should awe us still, for though they may be no more than a subjective by-product of our three-dimensional imagining, yet they symbolise great truth.

As our Earth is to all the stars, so doubtless are we men and our concerns to all creation; as all the stars are to space itself, so are all creatures, all thrones and powers and mightiest of the created gods, to the abyss of the self-existing Being, who is to us Father and Redeemer and indwelling Comforter, but of whom no man nor angel can say nor conceive what He is in and for Himself, or what is the work that he ‘maketh from the beginning to the end’.
For they are all derived and unsubstantial things. Their vision fails them and they cover their eyes from the intolerable light of utter actuality, which was and is and shall be, which never could have been otherwise, which has no opposite.