Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Monday, November 23, 2015

"In our end is our beginning...."


I started this journey with Charlie Pierce, who noted that the Pope had declared War on Christmas with these words:

What shall remain? Ruins, thousands of children without education, so many innocent victims and lots of money in the pockets of arms dealers. Jesus once said: 'You can not serve two masters: Either God or riches.' War is the right choice for him, who would serve wealth: 'Let us build weapons, so that the economy will right itself somewhat, and let us go forward in pursuit of our interests.' There is an ugly word the Lord spoke: 'Cursed!' Because He said: 'Blessed are the peacemakers!'
His not-too-serious take was that this would upset Bill O'Reilly.  His version of the story came from TheWeek.com., which quoted the same portion of the speech but ended the article this way:

Francis concluded his sermon by highlighting the peace-making work of people like Mother Teresa, as well as calling for prayers that the Christmas season would see repentance and pursuit of peace.
Endings are instructive, because "in our end is our beginning," even if that's not quite what Eliot meant.  The Week got the story from three sources:  The Washington Times, the Journal, an Irish newspaper, and from Vatican Radio.  The Journal noted that "The sermon threw a shadow over the start of the festive season at the Vatican, where a giant Christmas tree was unveiled."  It went on to note:

The tree, which will be decorated in time for the start of the Vatican’s Holy Year on 8 December, will be festooned with ornaments made by children from cancer wards in hospitals across Italy.

This year’s nativity scene will be made up of 24 life-size figures, sculpted from wood and hand-painted.

In a nod to Pope Francis’s humble style, alongside the figures from the story of Jesus’s birth will be sculptures of ordinary people, including a man supporting an elderly person in need.
Which is a nice conclusion to a story about such a seemingly despairing speech.  The Washington Times took a different approach.  Using the same portion of the sermon preferred by Pierce and the Journal, it adds the Pope's words that:

A war can be justified — so to speak — with many, many reasons, but when all the world as it is today, at war — piecemeal though that war may be — a little here, a little there, and everywhere — there is no justification — and God weeps. Jesus weeps.

Which prompts this interesting conclusion to the article:

Just last week, Paris was attacked by jihadist gunmen and suicide bombers, leaving 129 dead and 352 wounded.

On Friday, 10 gunmen overwhelmed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital — shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” in Arabic — before firing on guards and taking 170 people hostage.  
Vatican Radio chose a slightly different emphasis.  Their account includes more of the sermon, including the now infamous paragraph, but puts the whole in a greater context:

Today Jesus weeps as well: because we have chosen the way of war, the way of hatred, the way of enmities. We are close to Christmas: there will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war. The world has not understood the way of peace.”

Pope Francis went on to recall the recent commemorations of the Second World War, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, his visit to Redipuglia last year on the anniversary of the Great War: “Useless slaughters,” he called them, repeating the words of Pope Benedict XV. “Everywhere there is war today, there is hatred,” he said. Then he asked, “What shall remain in the wake of this war, in the midst of which we are living now?”

“What shall remain? Ruins, thousands of children without education, so many innocent victims: and lots of money in the pockets of arms dealers. Jesus once said: ‘You can not serve two masters: either God or riches.’ War is the right choice for him, who would serve wealth: 'Let us build weapons, so that the economy will right itself somewhat, and let us go forward in pursuit of our interests. There is an ugly word the Lord spoke: ‘Cursed!’ Because He said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers!.’ The men who work war, who make war, are cursed, they are criminals. A war can be justified – so to speak – with many, many reasons, but when all the world as it is today, at war – piecemeal though that war may be – a little here, a little there, and everywhere – there is no justification – and God weeps. Jesus weeps.”

The Holy Father went on to say that, while the arms dealers go about their business, there are the poor peacemakers who, perforce to help another person, and another and another, spend themselves utterly, and even give their lives – as did Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, against whom the powerful, worldy cynic might say, “But what did she ever accomplish? She wasted her life helping others on their way to death?” He repeated, “We do not understand the way of peace.”

“It will do us well to ask the grace of tears for ourselves, for this world that does not recognize the path of peace, this world that lives for war, and cynically says not to make it. Let us pray for conversion of heart. Here before the door of this Jubilee of Mercy, let us ask that our joy, our jubilation, be this grace: that the world discover the ability to weep for its crimes, for what the world does with war.”

Since in our end is our beginning, the Pope's words reminded me of this prayer from the E&R Hymnal:

O Christ, son of the living God, have mercy upon us.
Thou that sites at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us;
And deliver us for thy Name's sake.

AMEN.

O Christ, when thou didst open thine eyes on this fair earth, the angels greeted thee as the Prince of Peace and besought us to be of good will toward one another; but thy triumph is delayed and we are weary of war.

SAVE US AND HELP US, O LORD AND MASTER.

O Christ, the very earth groans with pain as the feet of armed men march across thy mangled form.

SAVE US AND HELP US, O LORD AND MASTER.

O Christ, may the Church, whom thou didst love into life; not fail thee in her witness for the things for which thou didst live and die.

TEACH US TO DO THY HOLY WILL, O LORD AND MASTER.

O Christ, the people who are called by thy Name are separated from each other in thought and life; still our tumults, take away our vain imaginings, and grant to thy people at this time the courage to proclaim the gospel of forgiveness, and faithfully to maintain the ministry of reconciliation.

TEACH US TO DO THY HOLY WILL, O LORD AND MASTER

O Christ, come to us in our sore need and save us;
O God, plead thine own cause and give us help, for vain is the help of man.

SAVE US AND HELP US, O LORD AND MASTER.

O Christ of God, by thy birth in the stable, save us and help us;
By thy toil at the carpenter's bench, save us and help us;
By thy sinless life, save us and help us;
By thy cross and passion, save us and help us.

SAVE US AND HELP US, O LORD AND MASTER.

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