27 August 2013

The State of Things, and the Need

And seeing the multitudes, he had compassion on them: because they were distressed, and lying like sheep that have no shepherd.

-- Matthew 9:36
* * *

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world... 

--Yeats, The Second Coming
* * *

"Eh well," said the Pope in delicate French; "I am arrived in time then."

He looked round from side to side, smiling and peering—this little commonplace-looking Frenchman, who had in his hand at this period of the world's history an incalculably greater power than any living being on earth had ever before wielded—Father of Princes and Kings, Arbiter of the East, Father as well as Sovereign Lord of considerably more than a thousand million souls. He stood there, utterly alone with a single servant waiting out there, half a mile away, at the flying-stage, in the presence of the Council who in the name of the malcontents of the human race had declared war on the world of which he was now all but absolute master. No European nation could pass a law which he had not the right to veto; not one monarch claimed to hold his crown except at the hands of this man. And the East—even the pagan East—had learned at last that the Vicar of Christ was the Friend of Peace and Progress.

And he stood here, smiling and peering at the faces.

"I come as my own envoy," said the Pope presently, adjusting his collar. "'The King said, "They will reverence My Son,"' so I am come as the Vicar of that Son. You have killed my two messengers, I hear. Why have you done that?"

There was no answer. From where the priest stood he could hear laboured breathing on all sides, but not a man moved or spoke.

"Eh well then, I have come to offer you a last opportunity of submitting peacefully. In less than an hour from now the armed truce expires. After that we shall be compelled to use force. We do not wish to use force; but society must now protect itself. I do not speak to you in the name of Christ; that name means nothing to you. So I speak in the name of society, which you profess to love. Submit, gentlemen, and let me be the bearer of the good news."

He spoke still in that absolutely quiet and conversational tone in which he had begun. One hand rested lightly on the rail before him; the other gently fingered the great cross on his breast, naturally and easily, as the priest had seen him finger it once before in his own palace. It was unthinkable that such a weight in the world's history rested on so slight a foundation. Yet for a few frozen moments no one else moved or spoke. It is probable that the scene they witnessed seemed to them unsubstantial and untrue.

Then, as the priest still stood, fascinated and overwhelmed, he noticed a movement in the great chair before him. Very slowly the President shifted his position, clasping his hands loosely before him and bending forward a little. Then a dialogue began, of which every word remained in the priest's mind as if written there. It was in French throughout, the smooth delicacy of the Pope's intonation contrasting strangely with the heavy German accent of the other.

"You come as an envoy, sir. Do you then accept our terms?"

"I accept no terms. I offer them."

"And those?"

"Absolute and unconditional submission to myself."


Then, to the priest's eyes, it seemed as if some subtle change passed over his face and figure. Up to now he had spoken, conversationally and quietly, as a man might speak to a company of friends. But, though he had not noticed it at the time, he remembered later how there had been gathering during his little speech a certain secret intensity and force like the kindling of a fire. In this pause it swept on and up, flushing his face with sudden colour, lifting his hands as on a rising tide, breaking out suddenly in his eyes like fire, and in his voice in passion. The rest saw it too; and in that tense atmosphere it laid hold of them as with a giant's hand; it struck their tight-strung nerves; it broke down the last barriers on which their own fears had been at work.
"My children," cried the White Father, no longer a Frenchman now, but a very Son of Man. "My children, do not break my heart! So long and hard the labour—two thousand years long—two thousand years since Christ died; and you to wreck and break the peace that comes at last; that peace into which through so great tribulations the people of God are entering at last. You say you know no God, and cannot love Him; but you know man—-poor wilful man—and would you fling him back once more into wrath and passion and lust for blood?—those lusts from which even now he might pass to peace if it were not for you. You say that Christ is hard—that His Church is cruel, and that man must have liberty? I too say that man must have liberty—he was made for it; but what liberty would that be which he has not learned to use?

"My children! have pity on men, and on me who strive to be their father. Never yet has Christ reigned on earth till now—Christ who Himself died, as I, His poor servant, am ready to die a thousand times, if men may but themselves learn to die to self and to live to Him. Have pity, then, on the world you love and hope to serve. Serve it indeed as best you can. Let us serve it together!"

There was an instant's silence.

He stood there, his hands clasped in agony upon his cross. Then he flung his hands wide in sudden, silent appeal.

There was a crash of an overturned desk; the crying out of desperate voices all together, and as from the great tower overhead there beat out the first stroke of midnight, the priest, on his knees now, saw through eyes blind with tears, figures moving and falling and kneeling towards that central form that stood there, a white pillar of Royalty and sorrow, calling for the last time all the world unto him.

-- Robert Hugh Benson, The Dawn of All


We are Christ's sacramental, incarnate, visible Church.
We just want to be Catholic.  

And another angel came out from the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat upon the cloud: Thrust in thy sickle and reap, because the hour is come to reap. For the harvest of the earth is ripe.

--Apocalypse 14:15

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