Sunday, December 05, 2004

Second Sunday of Advent

"Excita, quaesumus Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Summon all your strength, O Lord, and come."

It's the Second Sunday of Advent, and yet all the news is full of deaths. More soldiers killed in Iraq, again. Probably more Iraqis, too. Certainly a few more civilians have died by now, American, Iraqi, what have you; and certainly many more will die before Christmas Day sees first light. The old travails go on and on and on; only the locations change, the ability to inflict damage. The desire to be in power, to rule over someone else, never changes. And where the Ameican people before the war said casualties would make them reconsider their desire to invade, the results of the election are taken as approval of the death and dying that are going on today.

The direct confrontation of this desire for power is expressed in Christianity as the Dies Irae, the days of wrath. Those are supposed to be the days of judgment, at the end of time, when the apocalypse comes and the parousia is at last made known. But "apocalypse" means only "revelation," and "parousia" means only "coming." Yet the parousia, Christianity teaches, will be the apocalypse: because when it finally comes, nothing in creation will be able to stand it. The danger will not be the wrath of God, but merely the presence of God. The destruction will not be the power of God, but merely the final revealing of the complete truth, the reality that is too much for creation to bear.

At least, that's the expectation. It's an expectation of shattering change, the kind from which nothing can be put back together again.

Reading the news today, some of us would welcome such change. Some of us seem determined to bring it about. We have trusted intelligence, and it has produced war. We have trusted diplomacy; and it has produced war. We have trusted our "instincts;" and it has produced war. "War," says Christopher Hedges," is a force that gives us meaning." Perhaps so. Perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps it is forces that give us meaning; not what we proclaim, or profess, or cling to, or aspire to, or present as a collective goal. Perhaps it is only forces after all. Perhaps that is all that moves us, and nothing more. And would that realization be a "shattering change"? If so, what would happen after we could not be put together again? Perhaps we should just face the truth that we are all ships in a stream, broken wreckage in an historical flood. But is that the truth?

One difference between Christianity and Christendom, is that Christendom relies on the power it thinks it exerts; and is undone by the forces that really control it. Christianity relies on the power behind all the forces, and believes those forces ultimately work for good, because they come from a Creator who is good, and whose Creation is good. Even the Dies Irae are good, because they are the promise of justice.

Acceptable or not, one is the answer of the world. And one is an answer of hope. Leading to another, more difficult question, though: in what do you hope?

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