Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Light Came, Fear Fled

God is Logos. We must add a second point: Christian faith in God also affirms that God, the eternal reason, is love. He is not a relationless existence circling around its own self. Precisely because he is sovereign, because he is the Creator and encompasses all things, he is relationship and love…
Values in a Time of Upheaval, 112-3
Reflection – The great primeval fear of humanity is touched on in this brief passage. Namely, God is not love. The universe is a cold, dark, dead place, and at the heart of reality there is either Nothing or nothing good.
This primeval fear is the source of all our monster movies, horror stories, and much of the primitive magical practices surrounding the ancient religions of mankind. We’ve got to keep the darkness at bay—break out the garlic!
We had a priest visit MH some years ago. He was from a part of Africa that had only relatively recently been exposed to the Christian Gospel. In fact, he himself had grown up the son of a ‘witch doctor’, and his family and village had become Catholic Christians when he was a boy.
So he had a certain authority on the subject. He told us that, before the missionaries arrived, they lived in fear—fear of the dark primitive forces of the universe, fear of the ‘gods’ who had to be placated and kept at bay. When Christ came, light came. When Christ came to them, fear fled.
It’s this whole business of God revealing Himself to us as relationship, as love. That which is at the heart of all reality is not some mute implacable force, some anonymous energy, some inhuman mystery. The center and ground of the universe is a Father to us. The mystery at the heart of all mysteries is a mystery of love and gift.
In a world where there is, indeed, suffering, darkness, and terror, this is not always the easiest thing to believe. There is a reason all the primeval terrors of mankind arose and continue to abide in us. We have reason to be afraid.
It is the specifically Christian revelation that shows us God not only as some kind of loving Father ‘up there’ or ‘out there’ or… well, somewhere. God in Christ penetrates to the heart of darkness. Jesus who is God, who is the utter center of all reality, embraces us not only in some vague abstract way, but in our very encounter with death and suffering and evil.
Because of this we can, and do, have hope. And it is the martyrs (as I have said more than once on this blog) who show us the deep truth of this hope. They had the grace to enter with Christ into the very heart of the world’s pain and darkness, and even though they died, prevailed. They were not defeated, even though they suffered and were killed.
I guess my thoughts run this way because the world is losing this hope (at least the corner of the world that used to go by the name ‘Western Civilization’). Slowly, darkness and fear are seeping back into our deepest hearts. The magical rituals don’t involve garlic or witch doctors usually. Instead, ‘better living through science’! We will conquer the universe with technological mastery. We will eradicate suffering by the unfettered power of our minds and our wills.
It doesn’t work. It never works. The results are an increase in suffering a hundred-fold. And so we Christians are in a serious position. Both facing (maybe) a steady increasing pressure to compromise our beliefs in particular around sanctity of human life and the sacred quality of human sexuality, and possible persecution as we don’t, and at the same time holding out to the world the true hope and light and peace it desires.
It is a serious position, but we need to take heart in it. And the ‘heart’ we need to take is not our own—it is the Heart of the World, the heart of all reality. We do have a Father. And a Lord who has gone before us and done everything for us already. And a Spirit given to us so that we can prevail, even if (yes!) we are martyred.
Take heart, stand firm, and hope in the Lord.

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