Wednesday, November 07, 2018



A powerful scene from the film version of The Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers, comes to mind as a metaphor for the war we are in, a war which is simultaneously visible and invisible, the invisible aspect being the more dangerous.

In the scene referred to, with the focus on King Theodon, as his aide dresses the king with armour, and the King begins his soliloquy, scenes of the advancing enemy and of the king’s people preparing for battle, alternate with the speech in which the most heart wrenching line is: “How did it come to this?” [1]

Given the extent of anger, hatred, violence, disorder, anguish, fear, increasing loss of hope within the human family, indeed, “How did it come to this?”

It has come to this, today and throughout history, because Adam and Eve listened to the evil one. It is all there in Genesis chapters 3-4.

We are all bearers of the wounds of original sin.

This is the origin of how, universally in the human family, it has come to this.

The late Greek philosopher and theologian, Paul Evdokimov, stresses, when it comes to human freedom, a gift willed by God for us, this freedom is at its most ‘titanic’ as the ‘power of refusing God’. He also stresses that “The hand extended towards Christ never remains empty” [2]

St. John Paul II teaches us that: The analysis of sin in its original dimension indicates that, through the influence of the "father of lies," throughout the history of humanity there will be a constant pressure on man to reject God, even to the point of hating him: "Love of self to the point of contempt for God," as St. Augustine puts it. Man will be inclined to see in God primarily a limitation of himself, and not the source of his own freedom and the fullness of good. [3]

When Pierre Manet asserts that the word for this reality in which we are now living is war [4], this is certainty accurate as connected to the revealed truth the enemy of God, the hater of Christ, the father of lies, is indeed at war with us, because he and his minions lost the original war, lost their attempt to destroy Our Lady and Her Holy Child Jesus: Rev.12.

The Catechism teaches the gravest of satan’s works is the seduction leading to our disobeying God: The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and His kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries - of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature - to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but "we know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him." [5]

The armour King Theodon wears for the battle is as tissue paper compared to the armour we are vested with in Baptism: Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from His mighty power. Put on the armour of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.  For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armour of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones….[Eph. 6: 10-18]

Another aspect of how it has come to this in our own day, within the human family, in our own lives, comes from how we choose to dialogue within our selves, the thoughts and images, the imaginings, we fill our minds with, all these setting the stage for emotions that often lead to external words and actions.

It is a salient truth that we become what we contemplate. Our primary contemplation should not be the self, nor any other human being for such contemplation inevitably leads to distorted notions of self and other. Rather the one we should contemplate is  our Divine Lord and God, the Divine Lover of whom we are the Beloved, by trusting Jesus’ word: “….the kingdom of God is within you.” [Lk.17:21]

A classic 16th century work, by Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli, titled UNSEEN WARFARE, eventually came to the attention of St. Nicodemus and St. Theophan the Recluse, who read and endorsed the work, assuring we have this important source for understanding the reality of the war we are engulfed in, and must do battle in: Self-love and high opinion of ourselves gives birth in us to yet another evil which does us grievous harm; namely, severe judgement and condemnation of our neighbours….This evil habit or vice, being born of pride, feeds and grows on pride; and in turn feeds pride and makes it grow…..[6]

To be in a church with stained glass windows, when the sunlight is pouring through those windows, is to be our selves permeated by the multi-coloured light and beauty. External darkness cannot penetrate any window if there is light within the church, home, any place.

We cannot see darkness. What we see is the absence of light.

If there is darkness within us it is because we have rejected the light of Christ within us and invited darkness, a.k.a satan, to take abode within our beings.

St. Evagrios the Solitary reminds us that: …all thoughts producing anger or desire in a way that is contrary to nature are caused by demons. [7] True enough, however these thoughts of darkness cannot penetrate us, nor displace the light within us unless we freely choose to become fixated on dark, evil, bent towards self thoughts rooted in pride and disdain for our brothers and sisters. The resulting dialogue with self becomes communication with satan, rather than conversation with the Holy Trinity. The resulting cacophony within us drowns out the voice of God, indeed it becomes ever more difficult to hear Jesus knocking at the door of our being, that He might have leave to enter and cleanse the temple of our being. If we refuse to recognize His knock at the door, refuse to welcome Him in to heal and restore us, then sooner or later, by word and deed, we will give external expression to all the arrogant hatred and violence within us.

If we ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and teach us, He will help us see that we are, each of us, members of the one human family. Diverse of colour, language, religion.

It is the heart that helps us discover the common humanity that links us all…The free heart frees others. [8] Such a heart is offered to us by Jesus: Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. [Mt. 11:29] It is our baptismal vocation to be burden bearers for one another: Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. [Gl. 6:2] …..we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. [Rm. 12:5]

The weight of the current reality-war, of so much anger, loss of faith, disruption, immorality, causing such pain within the human family, should not discourage us, not cause a loss of hope, for we are baptised into, live within Christ’s victory in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Let us recall that the way of human maturation is the course of love itself, which goes from receiving care to the capacity of offering care, from receiving life to the capacity of giving life.  To become adult men and women means to be able to live the spousal and parental attitude, which manifests itself in the various situations of life, such as the capacity to take on oneself the burden of another and to love him without ambiguity. Therefore, it’s a global attitude of the person that is able to assume the reality and is able to enter into a profound relationship with others. Who, then, is the adulterer, the lustful, the unfaithful one? It is an immature person, who has his life for himself and interprets situations on the basis of his own wellbeing and his own contentment. [Pope Francis Oct.31.18]

Two images of the power of one person, fictional admittedly, yet symbolic, and one person in ‘real life’, as the saying goes, stand as example of what we, in union with Christ, can accomplish: The first is Gandalf, standing on the stone bridge, confronting the creature from the deep, and declaring: “You shall not pass!” [9]  In his song-poem, Democracy, Leonard Cohen starts with: It’s coming through a hole in the air  From those nights in Tiananmen Square [10]…an event perhaps not remembered by many, but vivid still for those of us old enough to have watched it unfold, one man, standing in front of a column of tanks, no weapon other than his personhood, his whole being saying “You shall not pass.” [11]

 © 2018~Fr. Arthur Joseph

[1] Lord of the Rings the Two Towers film ~ 2002

[2] cf., The Struggle With God, Paul Evdokimov, Paulist Press, 1966

[3] DOMINUM ET VIVIFICANTEM, On The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World; Part II – The Spirit Who Convinces the World Concerning Sin; 3. The Witness Concerning the Beginning: the Original Reality of Sin, 38.2; St. John Paul, 1986, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1996

[4] op. cit. Beyond Radical Secularism, Pierre Manet, St. Augustine’s Press, 2016

[6] cf. Unseen Warfare, p.197, St. Valdimir’s Seminary Press, 2000

[7] cf. The Philokalia, p. 19, Faber and Faber edition, 1979

[8] Becoming Human, p. 86; Jean Vanier, House of Anansi Press, 2008

[9] Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Rings, 2001

[10] Democracy, Leonard Cohen, 2011