The Heart of Hearts

And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. –Luke 24: 28-29

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Samuel Beckett was one of the premier existentialist novelists and playwrights of the mid-20th century. In one of his later plays he depicts two men taking cover in the midst of a massive bombing raid. They see a small child in an open field who will surely be killed if one of them does not save him. One man says, “We have got to save him.” The other replies, “Leave him there, it just doesn’t matter.” The second man was right; if God does not exist, nothing really matters. Whether we live 100 years or one year, it all amounts to the same thing: Nothing really matters. The existentialists did us a great service by pushing the ultimate question in our faces: Did Christ rise from the dead on the third day? They, the existentialists, said, “No, Christ did not rise from the dead on the third day.” But the existentialists did not think that was good news. They responded to their discovery that Christ be not risen with despair, which is how we should respond to that terrible news. The liberals’ reaction was different from the existentialists’ reaction; they were and are delighted with what they claim their scientific brains have discovered – that Christ be not risen. Now joy can reign supreme if only we can get rid of whiteness and become black, pure black inside. Of course, those who will not become black, pure black inside, must be eliminated. That includes thee and me.

Every denominational branch of Christian Jewry has denied the Holy Ghost. In Dostoevsky’s Brother Karamazov, the Grand Inquisitor hurls two charges at Jesus Christ. Both charges seem to be unanswerable. First, the Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that He thought too much of men; He should not have given them free will, because they don’t want it. They simply want material guarantees that they will have security in this world. And secondly, the Grand Inquisitor tells Christ that He is a liar: He said He would return to earth and set all things right, and He did not return. He left mankind bereft, He left them orphaned. In his original notebooks, Dostoyevsky had Christ give a rational answer to Ivan’s Grand Inquisitor. But he changed his mind, and in the final manuscript Christ simply embraces the Grand Inquisitor and kisses him. Unfortunately the churchmen could not resist the temptation to give a rational explanation to the Grand Inquisitor. Every Christian sect has given us their rational explanation to the Grand Inquisitor’s accusations against Christ, and every Christian sect’s rational explanations have driven their followers into the arms of Satan. The answer to the Grand Inquisitor can only be found in the human heart, where the Holy Ghost resides. If you bypass the human heart, because it can lead men astray, and bid them look to pure reason, you have left them without the Comforter, who tells us, through the mystical, undefinable virtue of charity, why Christ has not left us bereft and why He has not thought too much of us in giving us the freedom to choose heaven or hell.

There is a third charge that Ivan, stepping away from his Grand Inquisitor persona, makes against Christ. Ivan rejects Christ because of human suffering. A loving God, if He was a merciful God worthy of our love, would not permit such suffering. That is Ivan’s contention. And Alyosha has no rational answer for him; he merely points to Christ on the cross. Did I say merely? That merely is all in all.

Liberalism has spread as our scientific knowledge has expanded. Christ did not come back as He said He would, nor has He alleviated human suffering, despite the fact that He claimed to be a God of mercy and compassion. That is the liberals’ seemingly unanswerable charge against Christ. So the liberals demand that we hand our wills over to them so that they can give us what Christ cannot or will not give us, the alleviation of our physical suffering through science and the alleviation of our emotional and ‘psychic’ ills (they no longer use the term ‘spiritual’) through the science of psychology. And for the ecstatic moment, the sense that we are in direct contact with the divine? The liberals have given us the sacred negro. What more could a man want out of life?

The churchmen have responded to the liberals’ assault against Christ as the false comforters responded to Job. They were defeated, their rational apologetics are no match for Ivan Karamazov, so now they just say “amen” to whatever the liberals put forth. It is a pathetic spectacle. But our people, the antique Europeans, did not cave in to liberalism despite the fact that they suffered much while they looked for His return. Why did they believe? God has sent us a comforter who has given us the answer to that question. There is nothing more comforting, more uplifting, than that passage in St. Luke in which he describes the walk the two disciples took with Christ on the road to Emmaus and their subsequent reaction to His divine presence at the Inn: “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Christ has not broken His promise to us and He never will. Search the scriptures with your heart, and you will find Him.

And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. –Luke 24: 33-36

Let me share, in closing, four quotes from the heart of Christian Europe that have become part of me. If you are a regular reader, you will recognize the passages because I have used them often.

First, there are the lines from The Wind in the Willows. Ratty’s love for his river describes my love for Christian Europe. I don’t care about any nation outside of that nation.

‘I beg your pardon,’ said the Mole, pulling himself together with an effort. ‘You must think me very rude; but all this is so new to me. So—this—is—a—River!’

‘THE River,’ corrected the Rat.

‘And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!’

‘By it and with it and on it and in it,’ said the Rat. ‘It’s brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and drink, and (naturally) washing. It’s my world, and I don’t want any other.

Secondly, there is Thomas Nelson Page’s response to all those who attack our European kith and kin:

On the instant stood revealed, as though he had blown down the ages, a pure Goth, unchanged in any essential since his fathers had left their forests and through all obstacles, even through ranks of Roman legionaries, sword in hand had hewn their way straight to the goal of their desires. He was a Goth in all his appetites and habits, a Goth unchanged, unfettered. True to his instincts, true to his traditions, fearing nothing, loving only his own, loving and hating with all his heart—a Goth. –Under the Crust

Thirdly, there is LeFanu’s vision of the light that shineth even in the face of death:

Next day was the funeral, that appalling necessity; smuggled away in whispers, by black familiars, unresisting, the beloved one leaves home, without a farewell, to darken those doors no more; henceforward to lie outside, far away, and forsaken, through the drowsy heats of summer, through days of snow and nights of tempest, without light or warmth, without a voice near. Oh, Death, king of terrors! The body quakes and the spirit faints before thee. It is vain, with hands clasped over our eyes, to scream our reclamation; the horrible image will not be excluded. We have just the word spoken eighteen hundred years ago, and our trembling faith. And through the broken vault the gleam of the Star of Bethlehem. – Uncle Silas

And finally, there is the Gentle Bard of Avon, who tells us about the living God who transcends our and Horatio’s philosophy:

SONNET 31
Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,
Which I by lacking have supposed dead;
And there reigns love and all love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.
How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye,
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things remov’d, that hidden in thee lie!
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did give;
That due of many now is thine alone:
Their images I lov’d I view in thee,
And thou (all they) hast all the all of me.

-William Shakespeare

Christ Has Risen!

Indeed He Has! +

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