Fiducia Supplicans An epic passage between Scylla and Charybdis (4)

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Homeward-bound in the ark of tradition (4): an epic passage between Scylla and Charybdis @PaterElias

How the last two instructions of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) creates genuine feelings of unease @PaterElias #FilioQueInEnglish 

Homeward-bound in the ark of tradition (4) 

In ‘FilioQue in English, the catholic trademark’ Father Elias Leyds c.s.j. tries to distinguish in both written and spoken word the truth from the false, the Word that has become flesh, always in search for Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life. “As a priest, a foot soldier in the Lord’s trenches, I should not comment but explain, because Clarity is the only munition of the gospel of life”.   

December 2023, Oisterwijk

Let’s set out on the quest for clarity, so we may focus our hearts and minds on the revelation of Jesus Christ, whose countenance we hope to contemplate in the glorious clarity of the resurrection. Let’s be aware that we have to avoid falling into the trap of a dialectical mindset and of its counterpart, the gnostic mindset. Or, put in another way, let’s avoid getting caught up in revolutionary or esoteric traditions, that have a murky origin and lead nowhere. But in what direction do we go? While questioning the present Magisterium respectfully and with the same parrhesia as the popes of the past used to give answers, we cannot neglect to navigate the narrows of our personal lives and local communities. Amongst the rocky islands that the present and the past worlds have to offer, to which island do we sail? Aren’t we like Odysseus, hero of the Greek epic named after him, who was heading home to affirm his fidelity to Penelope his wife, and help Telemachus their boy to become a man? The toughest part of his journey must have been to quit the comfort zone of Ogygia Island, after seven years of concubinage with a goddess called Calypso. Living with a woman that will never wrinkle, in a liaison that will never entail the inconvenience of offspring, what else could a hero dream of when war is over?

At one moment Odysseus and his men had to face a danger similar to ours, as we are sailing the high seas of tradition. Just like he had to navigate the narrow straight between Scylla and Charybdis, we must avoid the dialectical and the gnostic mindsets. Scylla was a violent monster residing on a rock, ready to eat any flesh within reach. Charybdis was a monster on the opposite shore, hiding under a tree yielding fruits of pleasure – a fig tree. Three times a day, but unpredictably, Charybdis would gulp down an indeterminate mass of sea water, with everything living in it or floating on it. Odysseus decided to stay away from Charybdis in order to avoid a nameless, shameless death referring to lust, followed by a terminal, complete, eventless and timeless loss of identity. He preferred to risk the flesh in order to save souls and navigated dangerously close to Scylla. He lost six members of his crew, whose names they would remember, but the survivors could continue their homeward voyage. Had Charybdis swallowed them, they would have been lost and forgotten forever.

In a similarly epic way, we are called to avoid the dialectical monstrous mindset on our left and the soupy slimy gnostic mind on our right. Or should we rather say: in a similar apocalyptic way? For doesn’t the dialectical, ever confrontational, mindset remind us of the beast, image of the dragon that John saw rising from the sea, whose head was wounded but has been healed?[1] Is this not a satanic caricature of the Heart that was pierced in death but now lives to communicate the Spirit of Truth? And doesn’t Babylon, city of narcissistic debauchery and comprehensive vanity, remind us of the gnostic all-inclusive fake completion?[2]

As we sail on, while watching attentively, we may feel powerless, aghast at the spiritual hecatomb on our dialectic left and our gnostic right. On our left, souls, often youthful, are now ravaging their own flesh in dialectic fury. They fall victim to the sterile chaos of passions, left behind by the sexual revolution, where they find no other way to affirm freedom than by mutilating their own body. The body must be deprived of the organs that remind the soul, that sexuality is a given arrangement, provided by a supremely undemocratic decision – our creation.

To our right, the war for souls may be less obvious. This is not surprising. Gnostic minds like to retreat and circulate in esoteric circles, far away from the non-initiated nattering scum. However, by a merciless law of nature, when the mind gratifies itself with the gnostic delusion of consummate knowledge, in the flesh reality vindicates its right and claims its share. Whatever its opinions, the human mind by nature keeps its focus on material reality, which offers only fleeting climaxes of power and lust. Thus, vainglory of the initiated may metastasize in tyranny or in sexual disgrace, or in both. To illustrate this, we can examine the tradition of student fraternities in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic (especially protestant) cultures. Their common symbolism reveals a doubtlessly masonic origin. As public societies, they turned into brotherhoods of the academic elite, morally liberal in the classical sense, that is, an education for responsible entrepreneurship and conscientious citizenship. This education did contain sound moral elements. Unfortunately, from the beginning their elitist and closed character made them vulnerable to decadence and gradual degeneration. As today their intake is still largely from well-to-do notable families, but now shares in society’s loss of hierarchy and responsibility, sound liberalism has turned into narcissistic, smug yet vulgar, libertinism. It comes as no surprise that these student fraternities are not just hated, but also held in contempt by common people, who are ruled by former members of those fraternities, but are forced by reality to have common sense.

In our real not so epic world, left and right interact with each other in unpredictable ways. Also, between left and right, there is a middle course, or rather, there are many courses. And not all of them are good. Without reference the middle can be a stagnant comfort zone of intellectual vanity, illusionary neutrality or tolerant indifference. Moreover, left and right extremes touch to interact, but also intermingle and dissolve into each other to form a hub where only solitary individuals feel at home. In our modern time such a comfort zone is provided for by the internet, where left and right are united and violence and lust have no rules or frontiers. Yet so-called ‘virtual reality’ has no chance of becoming even close to being virtual, for it is entirely unreal. Its only completeness is its total non-existence. It offers fleeting moments of ultimate reality, that are no reality at all. Addicts to internet and social media are like flies bouncing in vain against neon lighting until they die having seen nothing.

The internet and social media represent a deceptively comfortable danger zone also for believers who receive and love tradition. They might take a dialectic stance, criticizing and commenting without risky responsibility. They might oppose with reason injustices and lies, but forget to deepen the wisdom of foresight that shows the only way to transcend opposition and contrariety. Anyone keen on not losing hope in his lonely echo-chamber, must not forget to interrogate the King personally about His seemingly scandalous and often startling permissions – “O Lord, wherefore doth thee alloweth this drama to unfold before our eyes?” Only wisdom shows us the way forward and gives us the strength to look ahead in a realistic way, allergic to utopian delusions.

On the other hand, without the quest for wisdom, which is only possible if reality comes first, tradition is, even without dialectics, reduced to a stable, yet stagnant, complete set of truths that guarantees a secure subsistence in this world, similar to an idealized past, it becomes an ideology. Traditionalism is but another kind of gnosticism, albeit rather exoteric than esoteric. Its public character and its rational language are part of its catholic legacy and procure some immunity for moral degeneration. But the delusion of completeness always actually reduces the full truth and leads to blundering judgment. A tragic example of this is mgr. Viganó, former nuncio, whom many traditionalists accord a disproportionate authority. His views on the so-called patriarchate of Moscow reveal a mind-blowing ignorance of both past and present. It shows contempt for thousands of martyrs and innocent victims of the Muscovite secret services, who in 1943 exhumed and inflated that patriarchate as part of their totalitarian apparatus.[3]

With all this in mind, let us remember that revelation offers us a set of immutable ‘dogmatic truths’, which immediately originate from the divine essence and the divine will, but remain unfinished and incomplete if only known. Knowledge never saves us and never completes us, because all human knowledge is incomplete, even if it concerns God. Truths of faith cannot be proven and must be understood as having been received from God personally, or to be precise: through the second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Word who has become flesh and gave Himself to us. And they do not guarantee a secure and comfortable life in this world. On the contrary, these revealed truths are risky, for they are to be completed by our self-giving acts in the flesh, lest they be given to us in vain.

So, how do we navigate between the dialectic Scylla, the gnostic Charybdis, while avoiding to stagnate in the middle, where we may die without having really been alive? Which are the causes worth living for, and even worth risking one’s life for? That the latter do exist, Jesus has shown convincingly, even if this verity is hard to live with. But whatever the risks we have to take and whatever certainties guide us, the crux of our problematic voyage lies in the fact that we mediate between time and eternity. We do not pacify revolutionaries or reconcile them with conservatives by promoting a dialogue that leads to full agreement of all parties. Our peace is not from this world and our negotiations are not exclusively human. On the contrary, in awe of the eternal Almighty, we must try to meet our fellow human beings, in the bottomless void of our shared incompleteness, which so often man fills with delusions of collective and ultimately destructive insanity. But through adoration this void becomes a communion of openness with respect to the Word incarnated. The source as well as the final sense of our mediation is in eternity, which covers our past as well as our present and future. And so, while navigating on behalf of our Lord, we must seek beacons in the past, present and future.

Primordial is the acceptance of the present reality as it is. This is where we exist. The present moment of our existence in itself reflects the existence of the Eternal, who is who He is. But then, as we not only exist but live, we are going somewhere. And then, if we want to plot a route parallel to paths of eternal Providence, we realize that we’re going nowhere if we don’t know where we came from. On our line of conduct point Alpha and point Omega schould unconditionally be put in the unlimited realms of eternity. And then, while holding that line, we will not overcome any difficulty without reminiscence of the saints, whose love in Christ was victorious over despair and the pangs of death. This is the treasure our tradition offers to sharpen the focus of our moral compass. But even this is not sufficient, as the challenges to our faith and hope in this passing world change and trials do not repeat themselves. The example of Jesus Christ and of a multitude of saints is to be followed, but cannot be copied literally. So, we need a special vision about the present and the future. And through His angel Jesus Christ has provided this vision: the Apocalypse. This reveals His victory already won, our struggle to take our share of it, and the demonic intrigues to keep us away from it. He has communicated the Apocalypse to the apostle John, while this last surviving of the Twelve was in exile on the island of Patmos.

In the next two articles I shall first examine events of the past that shaped our tradition and try to find anything analogous to the singular crisis the Church has to endure today. By retracing the destiny of our ancestors in the genealogy of charity, we shall find a helpful example of how to react. Then I will turn the Apocalypse and try to discern the deeper eschatological meaning of today’s crisis beyond the disheartening appearances. The Church offers no significant tradition to source from. Catholics have grossly neglected the Apocalypse, and have left the interpretation of it to doomsday sects. Many of those interpretations are not just heretical, but downright blasphemous. So we have to reclaim the Apocalypse on behalf of our Lord. We shall see that in fact, only Christians of pre-protestant traditions can underpin an understanding of its visions. And they simply have to, lest they lose hope in the confusion of this age. Thus, we’ll discover analogies between the epic voyage of Odysseus towards his spouse and the apocalyptic journey of the Church towards her Bridegroom.

When we have aligned our itinerary with eternity, we shall see that instead of avoiding Scylla and Charybdis, we’ll make common cause with God and His divine wisdom in taming them. There is no reason to annihilate disordered irascibility and disordered concupiscence, represented by Scylla and Charybdis respectively. The human potentials of anger and pleasure are part of creation and therefore good. We have to destroy disorder, not what is disordered. Evil has no meaning in itself; evil is disorder amongst things that are good in themselves. The first instant of evil is a conscious turning away from God. The distinction between evil, disorder and natural passion is rational, objective and necessary, and therefore is a scientific discernment. Strictly speaking science is the rational capacity to deduce what is necessarily so, and cannot be otherwise. This is the original sense of the term science. Subsequently wisdom completes science by knowing and showing how to order, re-integrate and reorder everything purified from sin and healed from evil. Thus, for Christians the wisdom of the Cross sheds an ultimate light: the final consequence of evil is death, but in the sacrifice of Christ His death has become the source of the new divine order. In that order, involving not just the world, but the whole universe, the light of glory illuminates and integrates all things from within, no longer hindered by sin.

+ Father Elias Leyds c.s.j.

 

 

[1] Ap. 13,1-10

[2] Ap. 17 & 18

[3] The Moscow patriarchate existed from 1589 to 1700. After 1917 the Bolshevik regime suppressed attempts to restore it and quietly let patriarch Tikhon die without a successor. Stalin and his executioner Beria, leader of the NKVD, recreated it in 1943 to revive the broken Russian identity during the war, for victory’s sake.

 

 


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