God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray …
How profoundly different is this old English hymn from the dominant narratives of secularism!
Satan – are we not meant, in this modern day and age, to have moved beyond such morbid and lurid images of evil, which have only served to stigmatise and label people, leading to vast intolerance, if not indeed the Inquisition itself?
We were gone astray: Like poor, poor sheep perhaps, in need of a shepherd …
And are we not meant to be beyond such pathetic images of ourselves in this advanced age of progress?
Yet in the fifteenth century when these words originated, there was little impetus to contest them. The hymn testifies, I think to a far more universal experience that we were weak and indeed in need of saving.
And the hymn testifies to a joy which has no problem, no false pride in admitting such a thing!
How different this is from a master narrative of secularism which, at least in its extreme form, runs something like this:
We are meant to be adults now. There are, however, many who are still weak. It is they who turn to religion for the comforting crutch of a loving saviour.
However, true strength consists in this: knowing that we live in a meaningless cosmos and yet still having the strength, the courage to go on living, knowing now that we are ready to face the far more noble, more adult task of constructing our own meaning in the face of meaninglessness.
And any attempt to rely on an inherent meaning or good or God is simply retrograde movement, if not infantile …
But what is this dogma that we are meant to be adults now? What is this need I wonder to assert one´s adulthood and strength?
Chronologically, I am an adult, having reached 46 years of age. But I find no need to strut around and say ¨I am 46″. Where something is self-evident, there is little need to proclaim it.
In other words, when I hear the kind of narrative above, ¨methinks it doth protest too much¨. What is the need to assert strength, unless it is rooted in our fear of weakness or at least appearing weak?
Personally, it seems more honest to me to say that I am weak and that yes, in my weakness, it is scary to be weak.
And that the very need to see ourselves as strong and courageous is but another form of weakness. We cannot bear to be weak and so we hide it by claiming such narratives …
For myself, at least, my journey into the Church has been a journey into weakness. A journey into being able to face ever more my disorderedness, my lack of freedom from Satan´s power and might (as the old hymn goes on to say).
Who amongst us, who has had the experience of being a young man at least, can deny being disordered by lust?
Who amongst us, if given the challenge of thinking only creative and beneficial things for even half an hour, would not note a powerful tendency to disorder?
Who amongst us in the so-called first world at least, can say he would not collapse, if all the comforting props of contemporary civilisation were to be suddenly removed e.g. interesting food to eat every day instead of the same monotonous broth? Or removing social systems of support? Or even such a mundane thing as toilet paper?
If all such supports we take for granted were to suddenly disappear, who amongst us would say he is not weak?
And in raising such things, I am only addressing that which exists in consciousness. It was one of the decisive advances of the twentieth century, I think, to show how much of our being is not in consciousness.
What of my disorderedness which is not even in consciousness – perhaps because I could not bear it to be?
The Christ Mass comes. And the more we can face our weakness, the more our reverence, awe and gratitude can naturally grow, for the Immeasurably Saving Mystery that this time honours and recalls.
At least, such has been the salutary effect of my own journey into weakness. The Sacraments of Confession and Holy Mass are meetings with my Lord, in whose cumulative total over years, it seems my Lord is saying something like this to me:
“Yes you are weak – very, very weak. You are far more disordered than you care to admit. And this is a serious problem. No, you are not contemptible in your weakness. It is only egocentric pride that holds you to be contemptible. You are very loveable. But the problem still remains serious. It requires work on your part. And it requires Grace – my Help.”
Help. I need help anyway. And I will take all the help I can get. And thus I go to Holy Mass, daily if I can.
I need help and knowing this, I turn also to the time of the Christ Mass with reverence – still comparatively paltry reverence no doubt, but reverence still, for all that this time means in helping me and healing me.
Meanwhile I face a secular culture which would entice me to forget my reverence, forget my need of Christ. Forget, forget, forget …
The Mystery of this time becomes buried in a thousand images which do nothing but obscure.
Charles A. Coulombe has written a powerful book, Puritan´s Empire, which will be shortly reviewed at this site.
In it, he counsels Catholics to do all they can to restore memory of the Christian Mystery, including:
Sending religious cards to all our acquaintances, Jewish, Protestant or whatever. Fear not that they will be offended; after all, they are not worried about offending you, when they send “Xmas” cards bearing pictures of reindeer – which Catholics should find offensive.
Indeed, a dictatorship of secularism imposes us on us countless trivialisations of the Mystery of the Christ Mass. I am meant to nod my head and agree “yes, yes” that images of Christianity somehow constitute an imposition of the faith on non-believers, but that conversely images of Santa´s elves are strangely somehow not impositions on my belief …
Meant, meant, meant … so many things our supposedly neutral, secular society tells us we are meant to acquiesce to without batting an eyelid.
The Holy Church of course tells us too, that there are many things we are meant to do. But the point is that it does not then turn round and claim to be some fictitious, neutral field …
Soon hundreds of thousands of priests across our globe will celebrate the Christ Mass. They will Remember Christ Our Saviour and He will become present on hundreds of thousands of altars …
Untold millions of Catholics will participate. And who is to say how many – billions I imagine – of non-Christians will still benefit as they participate in the collective radiance of this global celebration …?
I wish you all dear Readers, a joyous Christ Mass, whether you participate in it directly by receiving Him in Holy Communion or whether indirectly you simply bask in the collective radiance and grace that can be had in this special time. God bless you all.
Foreword for Monarchy by Roger Buck
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