Wednesday, February 18, 2015

21 Dead Men and a Pair of Red Shoes

When the moment came for Judas Iscariot, he played his role with certitude. To perfection. His morose timing could certainly be said to have been just right. In the grand scheme of things, evil plays itself out in such a way that the entirety of our acts, the encompassed total of our acts seem to have all been in some masterful synchronicity with the universe, with the moral order. Evil writes the same ultimate ending every time. And good wins out every time, it is the natural order. The gates of Hell shall not prevail.

History can only make it more difficult for us to separate an evil beginning from an evil end. How we look at the rise of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia and how history views the decline of the Roman Empire are motivated not by our abstract individual powers of interpretation and assessment, but by our historical situation, hindsight makes folly of all misdeeds and ill intentions. Men who trod the path of malice are as insipid and doomed as insects disappearing down a drain, time tells their hapless and helpless tail.

Save for one dramatic intervention, the goodness of men in their search for redemption, the goodness of men that comes from their belief in Our Lord upon His cross. After all, the degenerate Saul became the saintly Paul, through God's love and his response to it.

The sad ends that dreadful men have are not troubling. In our worst moments, of real despair, we should remind ourselves of Our Lord's simple words I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. We are never alone, the collective story of humanity, even the goriest parts, testifies to that, there is comeuppance waiting for those who pursue demonic nastiness as a vocation.

It is with such worldly indifference, such lofty abhorrence for the troublesome nature of our mortality, such defiance against the ways of man, with which we must confront the brutal image of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach being beheaded by ISIS. The sheer abandonment, the lonesomeness of it. The last sounds that these poor men heard were the waves crashing, the birds of the air, the knife clenching then piercing their skin before decapitating them. Disorientating in its juxtaposition. And yet, their last words! Jesus, help me. 

We often forget, as Christians, that the world hates us. If the world hate you, know ye, that it has hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also. But it does hate us. How else can someone who screams Allahu Akbar feel about the seeming irrationality of people who refuse to denounce their faith and die instead?

We owe it to the world, to the fallen sinners and misguided misanthropes who persist in their evil acts against Our Lord and His followers to remind them that their day will come. God has their number, as He always has. The Colosseum created more Christians than it ever killed. The British persecution bred more Catholics in Ireland than it ever subjugated. Ignorant of all European history, save for some propaganda motivated references to the Crusades(but enough about Obama), ISIS have no concept of this. Hence why they regard it a pejorative to have identified us as followers of the Cross. As a derogatory term, meant to mock our supposed weakness. But what a glorious compliment!

In 2013, Pope Francis ascended to the Papal throne. The media made much of the fact that he wore some ragged black shoes instead of the previous red ones, but these were not there by Benedict or others for decoration, they were a solemn token of remembrance for the martyrs whose blood was given for Our Lord and His Church.We should all pray and implore the Pope to once again don the red shoes worn by Benedict XVI and others. Not for their own sake. But as a reminder, to the world. You can kill as many of us as you wish. You can cut our heads off, feed us to animals, crucify us like Our Lord and St. Peter. The Copts may not have been Catholics, but the Church has had many martyrs for the faith at the hands of ISIS in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere this past year. These people deserve to be represented by the Pope.

But, the Truth will remain the only thing that can set you free. And the Truth is now and always will be that Our Lord and Saviour is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Nothing in Islam or any other man made religion can ever be as beautiful as ours is, a Church founded on the unselfish blood of the martyrs. The sooner that Pope Francis dons the red Papal Shoes again, the better. We are reminded every day of his humility, of his supposed solidarity with the poor. Well, put the shoes on. Let the world mock us and play their little fantasy about them being a symbol of the extravagance of the Papacy. Were our ancestors not presumed cannibals for eating body and drinking blood? Were they not presumed incestuous for loving brothers and sisters? Worshipers of graven images for building statues? Blessed are you when they mock you, revile you, say all kinds of things against you for My Name's Sake.     

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Santayana's words are not a warning to us. They are a warning to ISIS. They are a warning to abortion 'doctors'. They are a warning to all who oppose Our Lord and His will. The more of us that you kill, the more of us that you create. Islamists have a chance, to be Saul or to be Paul. Either way, the final authority rests with God.

Matthew Arnold's 19th Century poem Dover Beach epitomised the not too distant Eurocentric idea that the Enlightenment had brought about a seemingly inevitable end of religious belief in the world.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.   

On an equally lonely, desolate beach in Northern Africa this week, we heard the call of the message sent rhetorically in a glass bottle by Arnold, finally washing up upon the shore. It said to Arnold and to the world, Non Servium. To that end, there was a quieter, but more emphatic reply, from young men knowing that their last seconds were ahead. Jesus, help me.  

This is the same cry that Pope Benedict was making whenever he decorated his papal attire with the red shoes. It may well be our blood that is recalled by their striking statements someday, upon the feet of the Vicar of Christ, the rock of His Church. The world laughed and sneered as he went into retirement, lamenting his loss of his 'Prada red shoes' (they were not Prada) but that was irrelevant, the real meaning was known to God and in the last, nothing else is important.

     Nothing that ISIS can do is unprecedented. North Africa is not far from Rome. We have already seen what happened in Copenhagen, Lisbon, London, Paris, New York, Sydney. It will not be long before Rome has to take these barbarians. We hear the wolf knocking at our door, we ask to be spared but if we cannot, to martyrdom we go. To God, the one with the wounds, whom we follow onto our Cross, as His people. Playing our roles to perfection. Bloodied and worn feet of our daily strive for perfection along our many mundane and glorious Via Dolorosas.

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith

Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

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