Sunday, November 20, 2016

final holy door

Save yourselves, and us.
That's what I'm doing here.

Fr. David's homilies usually contain a line or two like that. A wry joke, some saucy spin on a pious sentiment that refreshes the taste of something tawdry and hackneyed with a little spice. Today Fr. David focuses on the political aspect of this feast: a feast that was established in 1925 as Europe began to roil in political movements that would break into violent chaos.

To all of this, the Church, who for so many centuries had been another political player on the chessboard of Europe, said: no. No, we have no king but Christ, you can keep your Caesars. We are not afraid of them one bit.

How does one man, in 36ish AD, hang on a cross (a weapon whose ubiquitousness usually negates its horror, until sometimes, in certain lights and particular moods it sweeps over you, chilling you with its cruelty,) with a sarcastic sign above his head declaring him "Rex Iudaeorum," become in 1925, crowned "Christ the Lord, King of the Universe"? How does his kingdom reach from a small hill outside Jerusalem to Alpha Centauri and beyond?

It is completely mind-boggling that the meaning of the life, the world, and everything, was contained in one man, in one location, in one generation of history. How can the key to the sun and stars be this one story? It's frighteningly particular. How does the king of the Jews become the king of us all? How can it be that this one particular tribe of people, that this one particular race's story has become the story of all of creation?

It is in these moments that the crucifix is no longer a tame wall decoration. It is the picture of the torture victim, of the one we forget, of the poorest who suffer, those who bear the bruises of humanity's ugliness. And somehow, this one particular torture victim, who is God, has all of the answers to the questions that have driven humanity from its conception.

I do not know what to make of this. Except that perhaps nature's focus is not the laws of physics, that keeping gravity at play is not the sole focus of the cosmos. Perhaps human beings, with their stories: their falls, their tumbles, their pains, their victories, and their rebirths are more central to the task of the natural world than we imagine. It is not the secrets of the atom that are clamoring to be parsed, but the secrets of our neighbor and our selves.

Story is not tangential to the task of the world. It is its only task.

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