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Tag Archive: Judgment

O Clavis David

Posted: Monday, December 20, 2010 (6:30 am), by John W Gillis


“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” (O Antiphon for Dec. 20th)

The antiphon today focuses on the authority of Christ:

The Holy One, the True One, the One who has the key of David, who opens and no one will close, and closes and no one opens Revelation 3:7 (HCSB)

No small part of a genuine faith in Christ must be the hope that His authority is real and actual. Admittedly, it’s not entirely evident that such is the case. We indeed proclaim Him King (not just King-elect), and we know His law well enough, yet it is abundantly clear that He is not calling the shots in this world on a day-to-day basis – or at least that very few people pay the so-called King much heed.

It will not suffice to say that His time of authority within the historical sphere is yet to come, for the Gospel tells us plainly that He delegated His authority, to Peter (cf Mt 16:19), precisely for the sake of being exercised "on earth," within history. Yet, even many Christians today do not recognize that authority in Peter, insofar as the Petrine authority continues to be delegated down through the generations in history. Protestations that the delegation of authority was intended to be less personal and more broadly apostolic are empty, because, well, even if this were true – and were every bishop in the world to speak with one voice – the world would still yawn, along with many self-styled Christians, Catholic or otherwise.

The fact remains that the manifestation of Christ’s authority, delegated or not, seems far off. It is this manifestation that we pray for when we say "Come, Lord." But we should not be so naive as to think that the judgment executed at His coming will be as indifferent to justice as is the contemporary regime of public order, which ignores His authority (delegated or not).

And if that is true, then should we be so eager for His coming? For whether we are prepared for judgment ourselves or not, should we be so indifferent to the forthcoming judgment of others as to seek the coming of the Lord in times which are so notoriously unjust and indifferent to Christ’s Lordship?

Why MaybeToday?

Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 (7:46 pm), by John W Gillis


I was listening to a lecture by Peter Kreeft a while back, and he observed that time is the stuff of which life is made – time is life. People often say that time is money, but that’s an understatement. Kreeft is right: time is life.

This isn’t meant to suggest that time is a metaphysical necessity, or that there can be no such thing as eternal life. Rather, it means that the life we each possess – our life – is ultimately a very precise allotment of time, and that each sunrise brings us one day closer to death. Time is really all we have, and the whole content of our lives is an answer to the question: What did you do with your time?

Life is a timed test, where you don’t know how long the time is.

Like any test, it’s not enough to answer the questions; you have to somehow come up with the right answers. The right use of time is not just about avoiding procrastination, as important as that is. It’s about prudence, in all its aspects. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have found myself, in life, paddling furiously downstream to nowhere (sometimes quite effectively), just to realize that I’d only distanced myself all the more from the source I sought – and still seek. Time, in a sense, down the drain.

From my youth, I have been especially intrigued by the notions of time, of hope, and of reality. These three ideas have dominated my mental life in many respects. Perhaps I will find the opportunity to explore the relationships between them within these pages before too long, but Kreeft’s observation jolted me to the realization that the hope which lives in me – for all the lip service I may give it – has been subject to a rather systematic marginalization for much of my life, in deference to a kind of practical expediency – and even a heart attack at age 46 didn’t manage to seriously shake it free.

Hope is absolutely essential to sanity for anyone who seeks the truth, for anyone with a hunger to embrace reality, because reality has two very distinct faces. Reality is God, which we consider Beatitude, but reality is also the mess we live in – as well as God’s judgment on that mess. Hope is the reaching from brokenness to promise that climbs the ladder of reality, if you will. And it is hope that allows us to break free from captivity to anxiety and fear, to embrace – and realize – the promise of beatitude in our life.

The great Christian hope is in the return of Jesus Christ to earth, both to judge it, and to fully manifest the new creation. That return may happen today, or it may happen some day long from now – but we are not truly Christian if we do not expect that day, and indeed “wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” And yet, for each of us, we live our own allotment of time – and we know not what time is ours, but our time, too, may come today, and there’s no good reason we should be any less joyfully expectant of the advent of our own end time.

I haven’t met a lot of people that embrace such a joyful readiness for death. In truth, most of us just don’t feel ready for it, and – speaking for myself – I know that’s because I have not lived my life – that is, I have not spent my time – prudently enough. It seems to me that there is only one right time to start changing that: today.

I was beginning yet another long commute home in a miserable winter rain storm one night last year, when the thought came to me that I needed to make a decision on exactly what to do about a rather complicated computer-related situation I had waiting for me at home – which included choosing a domain name for a web site I was planning. My initial reaction was to say “Maybe tomorrow,” but – with Peter Kreeft’s wisdom in the back of my mind – I immediately thought better of that, and said: “No, maybe today.”

There’s really no better time to get on with life – reaching for the promise – and it’s entirely possible that there will be no other time at all. Maranatha!

Uttering...

O, Key of David

Posted: Saturday, December 20, 2008 (11:17 pm), by John W Gillis


“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” (O Antiphon for Dec. 20th)

The antiphon today focuses on the authority of Christ:

The Holy One, the True One, the One who has the key of David, who opens and no one will close, and closes and no one opens Revelation 3:7 (HCSB)

No small part of a genuine faith in Christ must be in the hope that His authority is real and actual. It’s not entirely evident that such is the case. We proclaim Him King (not just King-elect), and we know His law well enough, yet it is abundantly clear that He is not calling the shots in this world on a day-to-day basis – or at least that few people pay Him much heed.

It will not suffice to say that His time of authority within the historical sphere is yet to come, for the Gospel tells us plainly that He delegated His authority, to Peter (cf Mt 16:19), precisely for the sake of being exercised “on earth,” within history. Yet, even many Christians do not recognize that authority in Peter, insofar as the Petrine authority continues to be delegated down through the generations in history. Protests that the delegation of authority was intended to be less personal and more broadly apostolic are empty, because – even if this were true – were every bishop in the world to speak with one voice, the world would still yawn – along with many self-styled Christians, Catholic or otherwise.

The fact remains that the manifestation of Christ’s authority, delegated or not, seems far off. It is this manifestation that we pray for when we say “Come, Lord.” But we should not be so naive as to think that the judgment executed at His coming will be as indifferent to justice as is the contemporary scene which ignores His authority (delegated or not). And if that is true, then should we be so eager for His coming? For whether we are prepared for judgment ourselves or not, should we be so indifferent to the judgment of others as to seek the coming of the Lord in times which are so notoriously unjust and indifferent to Christ’s Lordship?

O, Adonai

Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2008 (11:36 pm), by John W Gillis


O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. (“O Antiphon” for December 18th)

I must admit: it is hard, in my circumstances, to relate meaningfully to the desire to be set free. I guess I have it pretty good. Freedom is, ostensibly at least, the fundamental principle of modern democracies. We not only don’t lack it, we could hardly get away from it. One could make, I think, a convincing argument that we have so much freedom, it is problematic.

In a certain sense, I know so much freedom that I become complacent, unable to see well enough past the easy life to notice the darkened corners of creation awaiting the visit of God’s mighty hand. In another sense, freedom is so pervasive that it is vulgarized, reduced to the ability to get away with irresponsibility.

As I was reaching the end of my agonizingly long ride home from work tonight, I was listening to a lecturer reflecting on Jean Paul Sartre’s take on freedom and responsibility. I surely can’t agree with Sartre on everything, but I think he was right on target in his understanding that we are always free, in that we always have choices to make as subjects, and that even seemingly overwhelming constraints in our circumstances never force us into specific responses as persons, as beings. The upshot to that is that there is no legitimacy in the constant refrain of excuses people make for their behaviors. We should not confuse expediencies for necessities.

The concluding prayer to today’s offices implores God to set us free from sin, and there can be no argument that I, like you, am by no means free from it. But I think Sartre’s point is well taken, and that even a total enslavement to sin is still a totally free disposition, in that it is freely chosen by the sinner. What we call compulsiveness is not truly compulsion, even when we have debased ourselves through chronic submission to a point of servile reactionaryism and passivity.

There is a sense in which freedom is an eschatological promise, yes, but it is also a fierce responsibility in this time of trial. We are burdened bearers of the awesome dignity of freedom, and we have no excuses. We call for Him to come, but will he find faith on earth? (cf Luke 18:8)

The Great Gig in the Sky

Posted: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 (11:24 pm), by John W Gillis


Pink Floyd keyboardist and co-founder Richard Wright died Monday at his home. He was 65.

Rock stars die all the time, and I never really knew anything about this quiet guy, but news of Wright’s death set me to reflecting quite a bit yesterday on my youth, the role of pop music in the lives of youth, and the fate of those whose lives turn them into rock stars.

I hope the title of this post isn’t overly corny – and I’m sure I’m not the only one to whom it will occur to use it. It refers, of course, to the title of what is my favorite song from Pink Floyd’s landmark 1973 album, Dark Side of the Moon – a song Wright wrote, or co-wrote with Roger Waters. Like all Floyd music, it is tortured to a point that approaches despair. And I had to wonder today if Wright ever found an answer to the angst-ridden but cynical cries for justice, peace –and just plain sanity- that comprised so much of the music that defined his professional life. Even acknowledging that Roger Waters was the primary architect of the eventual Pink Floyd milieu, both musically and lyrically, it would seem impossible to separate any of the members from the whole.

For that matter, it’s hard to picture Wright (and others like him) apart even from the larger community of commodities we call rock stars. For all the glamour and magnetic appeal these characters have to adolescent minds, it’s not a pretty sight when you peel back the thrill. There is no hope in rock culture: it promises a quick fix in some form of indulgence (for the going price, of course), but it cannot offer hope, because it cannot be open to the future; it cannot be open to life. Hence, the prevalence of drugs, fornication, and contempt for roots (tradition). It struggles to build its own tradition – a kind of “history” that spans perhaps 50 years – but it doesn’t really know how to grow up, have children, bury parents, nurture wisdom. It’s hard to overstate how important deep roots are to true flowering. Yet rock “culture” encourages kids to envision their roots in rebellion, which is the very death of culture.

I was not a real big Pink Floyd fan as a teen (I actually listened to them more later on). Although I was, of course, mesmerized by Dark Side of the Moon – as the whole world seemingly was. I liked the two follow-on albums, Wish You Were Here and Animals, I just wasn’t wild about them, like so many were. I also never liked the early work (although Meddle’s OK), and I could never understand the appeal of The Wall – an album that, even from my youth, I’ve always thought was the epitome of whining self-indulgence and overbearing melodrama. There are a few good songs, but surrounded by much too much drivel. Dark Side, however, was a piece apart. Just the fact that it spent more than 14 years on the Billboard charts is mind-boggling – occupying, as it does, a world of faddish impatience in which yesterday’s style is today’s trendy object of scorn.

My own engagement with Pink Floyd began in a manner quite befitting the spirit of the psychedelic world the band embodied in 1973. Unlike so many events of that period, I remember this clearly, as I must have understood at some level, even then, what a cad I was.

I was 12 or 13 years old when I decided I wanted a copy of this album, which had already quickly become a signature of the age, and I was by then fully entrenched in the lawless and immoral underbelly of the so-called counterculture – despite my tender age. My bicycle at the time was a black Schwinn I’d inherited from my older brother, which had an aluminum basket on the handlebars for cargo. I rode the bike to the Natick Mall after dark, and stole a copy of the album from one of the stores. I’d left the bike just outside the door. I slid the album under my coat, headed out the door, hopped on the bike, and started pedaling down Speen Street toward home – even pulling the album out of my coat to admire it along the way.

But something happened during the ride, and when I got back home, I realized that I no longer had the album. It must have bounced out of the basket somewhere on Speen Street. I was furious. I had stolen it fair and square, and considered it cosmically unjust that I had to go back to the store and steal it again, greatly increasing my risk of getting caught.

So I got on the bike again, and pedaled back up Speen Street – carefully retracing my route in the vain hope of finding “my” album. I never did. Instead, I stole a second copy that night – the same way I had stolen the first – but I held this one in my hand the entire way home. Believe it or not, I still felt gypped by fate.

I share this story because it needs grieving as much as Richard Wright does. The memory – not so much of my actions, as of my unfathomable self-righteousness – stands as a sentinel in my conscience, always ready to mock any attempts to justify myself, while also providing a quiet witness to the danger of being glib about the potential for perverse ethics to blind us to truth.

I bought that album eventually – some years later – and I played it a couple times yesterday, raising a mental toast to Rick Wright as I listened. Now he really gets to play The Great Gig in the Sky – though what that means to him, I surely cannot say. I can say that he drank deeply from a poison cup I know all too well, and that the darkness that streams forth from it is a formidable enemy for any man. The end can come so quickly, and so easily find us hiding from the light, even searching the lonely road for the ill-gotten fruits of our violence and shame.

I hope you embraced the light, Richard, for we all move into the consuming fire in the end. Sorry about the thievery.

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