At the conclusion of the central section of the Church's great Credo—the part that recounts the mystery of Christ, from his eternal birth of the Father and his temporal birth of the Virgin Mary, through his Cross and Resurrection to the second coming—we find the phrase: “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. From the earliest times, the prospect of the Judgement has influenced Christians in their daily living as a criterion by which to order their present life, as a summons to their conscience, and at the same time as hope in God's justice. Faith in Christ has never looked merely backwards or merely upwards, but always also forwards to the hour of justice that the Lord repeatedly proclaimed. This looking ahead has given Christianity its importance for the present moment. In the arrangement of Christian sacred buildings, which were intended to make visible the historic and cosmic breadth of faith in Christ, it became customary to depict the Lord returning as a king—the symbol of hope—at the east end; while the west wall normally portrayed the Last Judgement as a symbol of our responsibility for our lives—a scene which followed and accompanied the faithful as they went out to resume their daily routine. As the iconography of the Last Judgement developed, however, more and more prominence was given to its ominous and frightening aspects, which obviously held more fascination for artists than the splendour of hope, often all too well concealed beneath the horrors. In the modern era, the idea of the Last Judgement has faded into the background...
Spe Salvi 41-2
Reflection - Well, we're on the downward tilt of the year, and there's no mistaking it. While we're enjoying in Combermere an unseasonably warm and gorgeous stretch of days, there is no question that 2011 is a dying year.
As the calendar year dies and we head towards winter, the Church begins to move our attention to this whole question of the future, of the coming of Christ, of the new world being reborn from the old.
Of the end of all things that we know, and the beginning of an entire new reality that we know little of as yet, but look forward to with hope. 'Every tear will be wiped away... the Lord will remove the mourning veil... he will set before us a banquet of rich meat and fine strained wines.' So goes the first reading in today's liturgy.
The one thing we do know is that there is a single bridge between this world and the next, between this order of reality, so beautiful and yet so broken, and the one we anticipate where all wounds will be healed. And that bridge is Jesus Christ. The only way across, the only One who can get us there.
That's what all this business of final judgment is about, it seems to me. Are we going to let Jesus carry us across the threshold of hope, as Pope John Paul II called it? We may have lived very good lives; we may have lived horrible lives. But our life, no matter what, will not suffice to bear us into the kingdom. Will we let Him carry us?
'Prepare to meet your Maker' is the semi-comical cliche we use. But our Maker is also our Lover, our Savior, our Re-Maker. So while it is fearsome, of course - this is our eternal destiny, life and death, heaven and hell in the balance - love can overcome fear here.
Lots of people read my post yesterday about Occupy Wall Street and my open invitation to all those well-intentioned to come hang out with us up on Dafoe Street, Combermere. And the offer holds (call first, though, eh? Just so we know how big a porridge pot we need...). But this is the hope that gives us the courage to take on life, the world, the global economy, the environment, war, peace, terror, or whatever it is you have to take on today.
The faith that there is One who made us, who loves us, who sustains us, and who meets us at every turn, and who alone can see our lives through to a Happy Ending, to a successful end, to the banquet that never ends, to the place where tears will never flow again.