Tolkien’s Long Defeat and the Path of History

“Actually I am a Christian,” Tolkien wrote of himself, “and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory” (Letters 255). +++ History as a long defeat – I can think of nothing that is more anti-modern than this sentiment expressed by J.R.R. Tolkien. It…

What’s with the Kingdom of God?

Thy Kingdom Come Blessed are You on the throne of the glory of Your Kingdom, seated upon the Cherubim; always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. It was You Who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away You raised us up again, and did not cease to do all things until You had brought us up to heaven, and had endowed us with Your kingdom…

Shame and the Modern Identity

It is a common definition that the emotion of shame is about “who I am.” It centers in feelings of exposure, unworthiness, and damaged identity. Guilt, they say, is about “what I have done.” There are ways to deal with guilt – but shame, if it is actually a matter of “who I am,” runs deep. It is little wonder that the wounds of shame can be toxic. Self-loathing and related pain…

You Have One Job – Pray – On Behalf of All and for All

The topics of heaven, hell, purgatory, hades, life-after-death, the judgment, etc., are not among my favorites. There is a particular reason for this: everybody thinks they know more about this than they do and most people assume the Church says more about this than it does. Much of the problem, I think, lies in the fact that we torture the faith into geographical shapes, when it belongs in relational dynamics. That is…

Judgment with a Mixed Bag

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn puts his finger on the…

Bookends and the Resurrection

A series of recent conversations with a parishioner turned up the problem of “bookends,” that is, questions of the beginning and the end. It is only natural in our day and age to attack problems in this manner. “How did it start?” is  a way of saying, “What is it?” The end, of course, is not so obvious, other than its connection with our insatiable desire to know how things will turn…

Can the Middle-Class Be Saved?

  Speaking to His disciples, Christ said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mk. 10:25) Doubtless, most modern Christians take comfort from the fact that they are not rich. Over the centuries, the eyes of needles seem to have grown, while camels have gotten thinner. At the time, the disciples were astonished at…

Mystery as Reality

C.S. Lewis once discussed the question of how angels (and such things) could pass through a wall. His response was intriguing: he suggested that they could do so not because they were less substantial, but because they were more substantial. Just as a rock is more substantial than water or air, so, he posited, an angel (or such) is more substantial than our materiality. Of course, this is completely arguable and unprovable. But…

The Justice of Creation

  Your judgments are like the great deep, O Lord, You will save men and beasts. (Psalm 36:6) The notion of justice in Scripture is rather straightforward. It has to do with proper order and balance. The one who has much should not exploit his advantage and oppress the one who has little. In all things, there will be an accounting. And in the accounting, things will be “set right.” Those who…

When Chaos Ruled the World – Part II

  The imagery of a cosmic battle with chaos described in part one, is properly the foundation for the Christian life. “Chaos” is a metaphor for so much that threatens God’s good creation and makes war against His saints. It is also an understanding that is almost completely lost in the modern world. We generally fail to notice that modernity is a phenomenon of the “first world.” It is an understanding that…