We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, he draws us to himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Decadence. The desert calls.

The West has become thoroughly decadent. Again. And, again.
  • blood sports
  • child sacrifice
  • corrupt civic, regional and national politicians
  • shameless public immorality, perversions of human behaviour celebrated as virtue
  • propaganda machines formerly known as the media
  • re-education centres formerly known as universities
So, why not flee?

In centuries past, people young and old did not and could not abide the complacency of their peers and give society a second, third or thousandth chance to reform in some vain hope that a culture would come to its senses. No, those who sensed the futility of cooperating with a system that was rife with disease—materialism, war, hedonism, indifference, etc.—knew well to flee to the desert or the hills or an island, a removed place, to pray for people ensnared by the evils of contemporary society. Those who flew from the tyranny of "civilization" knew well enough to trust in the Lord our God Who, being the Author of all that is good and reasonable, called them out of society to be the seed, the salt, of a new beginning.

To many Catholics, sadly, the religious life, solitary and/or communal, is a colossal waste of time and effort, a coward's venture, an avoidance of responsible citizenship. Jesus, however, called His disciples to citizenship in another city, a new Jerusalem. Monastics follow in the same steps of our Master, the Lord. They are signs of hope. Their are warriors fighting an invisible battle. Invisible, that is, to those who have allowed themselves to be co-opted by the illusory promises of worldly living.

It takes courage to abandon the life with which one has become ably comfortable. By leaving the trappings of a familiar world, one embraces the world and its people. Contrary to the disappointments of those who enjoy the rat race, the monk or nun ventures with sober joy into reality, a reality that slaves to a system cannot clearly see precisely because they are accustomed to slavery. As Jesus took on the sins of the world, monks and nuns take on the complacency of their siblings who, fond of their society-approved lives, have settled into an obstinate resistance to the life to which God calls us... all of us. Beware the comfortable Christian.

The monk or nun flees to the monastery (cave, mountain, island...) to escape the invisible walls which surround even many believers who, thinking themselves free in their comfortable suburban castles with neatly manicured lawns, deride those who choose to serve the Lord Jesus without reservation. To the borderless, the walls of the monastery may seem like a prison, a retreat from honesty. The walls of the monastery assist the monastic in his or her training to jump over the barriers to grace hidden in the deepest recesses of the soul.

Those who imagine themselves free simply because they believe they live on their own terms in a cozy apartment or trendy condominium or three bedroom house in a quiet suburban neighbourhood are mistaken. The ties that bind are many in suburbia—mortgage, property insurance, car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, property maintenance. If life is so carefree in Happy Valley USA and Pleasantville Canada, why must people exert so much effort to ensure they keep their so called freedom? What are they afraid to lose?

Banded together, bound together, the cenobite and eremite remind us, well,... more  than remind, really... . They compel us to enter into greater dependence upon the Lord. The neat, tidy, warm and familiar experiences that certain believers imagine to be the worship of the Lord are soon exposed—at least in the presence of the living God Who established authentic worship on Holy Thursday—to be mere commercialism, a prosperity gospel that is foreign to the Gospel of the Cross.

Flee. Flee from sham (c)hristianity, the religion of Sunday morning "praise and worship" services which are to Christianity as plastic surgery is to natural beauty.

Flee. Flee from those pastors who thrill to a cult of personality.

Flee from the toxic world of indifference and sloth.

Seek the Lord while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6).

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