Recently our tiny community was looking at Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s “The Bible” for a Holy Week extended meditation, and we were not disappointed. One could complain that it really was a whistle stop tour of the Old and New Testaments to put it mildly, and would have loved to have had some of the elegiac stories, such as Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel, Joseph and his dreams, and Ruth and Boaz to bring a taste of Heaven to the very earthly proceedings. What one was given were some very violent scenes. Nothing was spared. The horrifying scene where Nebuchadnezzar kills Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes, and then gouges them out was truly terrifying, especially as the sons were little boys, which would ring true; given how young Zedekiah was himself. However what came out very strongly was trust in God, and how violent things were in the Old Testament.
We can think rather mistakenly that we live in a better age, and that we in the civilized West are not as violent, but we are. We have only to reflect that it was not so very long ago that Pol Pot all but carried out a policy of genocide on his own people, and he was not a peasant, but a well educated member of the middle classes, and Mao may have started off as a peasant, but became a middle class revolutionary and, as the distinguished historian Simon Sebag Montefiore notes, was the greatest monster of them all, comparing him no doubt to Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot. But let us not allow the great communist leaders and Hitler to take all the blame. Did the Americans have to drop two atomic bombs on Japan? Did the British have to behave so appallingly in Africa? Did they have to be so unspeakably cruel to the Chagos islanders, turf them out of their island home, and dump them on the island of Mauritius, where they pined away and died of poverty and loneliness. Many years later, when they, the islanders, won their case in the High Court in London to return to the Chagos islands, (now renamed Diego Garcia, ironically an American Air Force Base and home to one of the many American torture chambers), the islanders found that the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, by resorting to an arcane law, and with the Queen’s approval, prevented them from ever returning to their island homes. Just to emphasize the terrible injustice, it is remarkable to note that the Washington Post described Diego Garcia as part of America’s Gulag. It was there, according to the newspaper’s report, that ‘al-Qaeda’ suspects are tortured, and no doubt innocent people too.
What is so remarkable is that God allows himself, in Jesus, to be tried and tortured with unbelievable ferocity and hatred, if we are to believe such mystics as St. Bridget of Sweden, Blessed Anna Catherine Emmerich and others, and accept it all with such love and humility. It is Jesus’ humility, gentleness and love that are the hallmarks of the Passion narrative. He is indeed the Lamb led to the slaughter.
As Christians we cannot enter Heaven unless we tread the path of the Passion. It may not be anything resembling Christ’s Passion, and even the most terrible martyrdom cannot come near it, for the God Man suffers infinitely, and we suffer only finitely. However sorrows will come our way, and mostly by people betraying us in marriage, family, business, work, or in friendship, as Jesus was in the person of Judas. We will, especially in the present atmosphere of the new rise of totalitarianism, which our drugged and over sexed West seems to be unaware of, very possibly find ourselves hauled before kangaroo courts, tortured, and killed; with possibly Church leaders saying nothing as in the case of Nazi Germany and the Soviet World, and still, as is the case, in China today.
God invariably is tried and found wanting. Why? Because God is the God of Love and humility. He is Creator and he is King and his authority is that of utter integrity utter justice, and abounding mercy. In our lives, if we imitate Christ, we will suffer like him, for the World and The Prince of this world wants only power and the unbridled use of it.
Let us spare a thought for the peoples of the Ukraine, who look sure to walk the path of the Via Dolorosa. May Our Lady cast her protecting veil over them all, and bring them to peace, either the peace of an unsullied life, or the peace of Heaven, and let them draw solace from the passion of Christ, who has endured all the sufferings, and sins of Man from the beginning of Time, to his Second Coming, and as I said he has suffered all that infinitely.
CHRIST IS RISEN
I was walking up to one of the local parishes for the Easter Vigil yesterday and was stopped by three young girls, who must have been not more than 15. I would have put them at about 13. They asked if I was a monk, to which I said “Yes” as saying that one is a hermit is too complicated, and if we were living in the uncomplicated Orthodox East monk and hermit would be interchangeable. There was an innocence about the three young girls which had more to do with ignorance of good than anything else. They asked if I was a virgin to which I said I was, and this amazed them. At 61 I suppose, I could just be the same age as one of their grandfathers. I could at least be the age of a great uncle. One of the girls asked did I watch Porn, to which I said “No” and explained that it was sinful. I realized I might as well be speaking to them in Swahili. They would have kept talking to me all day, I suppose, and I wish that I had more time to talk to them. They were, in their own way, very straightforward, but no-one was there to teach them, and I had sadly to leave them and go to the Easter Vigil, which I informed them was taking place. If I had not been so pre-occupied with singing the new translation of the “Exultet”, which is far more difficult , and less flowing than the original translation, I would have tried to preach the Gospel to them. I did however, on leaving them commend them to the Divine Mercy, for they were indeed sheep, if not lambs, without a shepherd.
Who are the teachers today. Outside the Church, they are the Media, and the Politicians. The Western Media resemble some strange secular Pharisees with all their rules of “do’s” and “don’ts”, whose creed is relativism. The Politicians are the Sadducees, who are not interested in the truth, but in keeping their jobs, and most probably the people who control the World, whoever they might be, and who dictate to governments are like Ancient Rome. They are perhaps the Globalists. Inside the Catholic Church there is still great confusion despite the fact that we have the Catechism, which cathechists do not seem interested in at all, as no-one these days seems to know their Faith. The Church with its endless years of this and decades of that resembles rather the Soviet Era than the Christian Calendar. The Anglican Church is now resembling the religion of Israel at the time of Elijah, and their bishops, the prophets of Baal. I am no lover of Elizabeth I, who was a great Queen in worldly terms, but I think that she would have Archbishop Welby imprisoned for saying that he wish that he could bless homosexual unions. It is utter madness! That the poor man cannot see that he resembles Thomas Cranmer every bit as much as his predecessor Rowan Williams is most extraordinary. Sanity flees before the armies of Sin. Satan looks as if he has enthroned himself in the West.
However Satan has lost. Despite his marshalling of millions against God, certainly this is true in the West, he has failed. Despite his killings of thousands if not millions for the Faith in the last nearly 100 years since the rise of Communist Russia. Despite his encouraging millions of women to have abortions. Despite his encouragement of paedophilia, and every kind of sexual sin. Despite his trying to harden millions of peoples’ hearts who live in direst poverty. Despite his killing millions of the souls of the working classed, middle classes, and the rich in the affluent countries of the World (fewer in the other parts of the World). Despite his use of the Media to damn souls, He has failed.
Christ is risen in all this glory. His infinite sufferings in his Passion have opened the gates of Heaven, and the floodgates of his Mercy. It is this mercy so resplendent, so majestic, so warming, so exhilarating, so wonderful, so full of hope and joy, that soothes every broken heart, every destroyed body, every tortured mind, every sin laden conscience, every despairing soul, if we but say “Yes” to his Love. It is up to us Christians to convey the joy of his disciples to the World. We must in some ways live the joy of the Holy Women at the Sepulchre, confronted by the angels bringing the good news of the Resurrection. We must bear in our hearts the over flowing love of the Magdalen who realizes that she is not talking to a gardener about the actions of grave robbers, but to the risen Christ. We must give to the World the absolute certainty that Christ has conquered death and sin that was the utter conviction of the chastened Apostles as they beheld Christ risen and glorious in their midst on that first Easter Sunday. We must try and live our lives as if we were all these people, never losing spiritual sight throughout each day that Christ is with us. We must believe, truly and fearlessly that we are his ambassadors and that he is closer to us than we are ourselves. Then we will truly change the World. Above all, in these times of fear and conformity, we must pray for the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of courage, known as Fortitude, that word that denotes strength, a strength markedly lacking in the West. Pray for the gift of courage that sent the Apostles to the ends of the Earth, with the good news that Christ has redeemed us and wants us in turn to help in that great work of Redemption. No-one is exempt, and we can all play our part in this wonderful work of Divine Love.