Conservatives and Liberals

I have just been reading the highly astute posting of Fr Jonathan Munn Blogday 2018: Oh! Grow up! Schoolmasters usually have experience in the shortcomings of human nature among children and adolescents who often find excuses to cover laziness and other moral failings. We are all expected to do our best in spite of all the obstacles we have in life and crosses to carry.

In response to this article and the events in the world in our times, I feel I need to grab the bull by the horns. I aim no accusations whatsoever in Fr Jonathan’s direction. He has had to deal with the so-called “liberal” ways of the Church of England and the modern education system in the same country. The issue we face is extreme polarisation essentially between two types of collectivist ideology, one calling itself conservatism and the other liberalism. They owe their origins respectively to the old order of Church and State, on one hand, and the revolutions of France and Russia against the Church and Aristocracy for their lack of concern or compassion for populations suffering from injustice and famine. Communism was fundamentally based on the theories of capital formulated by Karl Marx and refined by people like Lenin and various Russian nihilists and anarchists seeking blindly to destroy the old.

Today, in the UK, we face the probability of a no-deal Brexit, and our attitude towards it is formed by our world view – which caused us to vote “leave” or “remain” (I could not vote because I was out of England for more than fifteen years). Those two world views are essentially conservativism and liberalism, the second including various types of social democracy, socialism and commitment to green politics and ecology. The interplay of these two world views or “ideologies” has dominated the life of our country essentially since the early nineteenth century and to some extent since the days of the Cavaliers and Cromwell’s Roundheads. Sometimes, the revolutionary movement was far more fanatical in its religious ideology than those representing the old order. This is why we do need to be nuanced in our analysis and attempts to understand things.

When I speak of liberalism, I think of the noble aspirations that came out of Romanticism in the nineteenth century, seeking freedom and transcendence for the human person in a new “social contract” as Rousseau put it. To make things clearer, I refer readers to the Wikipedia article on Liberalism. Indeed, I am very much in tune with the early ideas of the French Revolution – until Robespierre took over and the guillotine did its grisly work. From a noble aspiration came a collectivist tyranny using the vocabulary of those it killed and banished.I do not wish to discuss economic liberalism or laissez-faire capitalism, because I do not understand it sufficiently well. I do however sympathise with a notion of moderate and regulated capitalism where emphasis is placed on the workers owning the means of production through cooperatives or small businesses. Distributism is an interesting idea, but I know of no successful and enduring distributist communities.

Modern “liberalism” is really the continuation of Robespierre’s totalitarian ideology rather than the love of freedom, our own and that of other people.I begin to drift away from the version of liberalism that becomes intolerant and fanatical. A later form of liberalism, as developed throughout the twentieth century, laid itself open to accusations of materialism and a lack of spiritual values. Various forms of conservatism including historical Fascism (the collective State above the individual person and his rights) believe that the liberal emphasis on individual freedom produces national divisiveness. In a religious context, liberalism tended to apply the Enlightenment to religious matters and refused miracles and the “irrational” elements of faith and spirituality. From the early nineteenth century the Roman Catholic Church and individual polemicists were condemning theological liberalism which morphed into some forms of Modernism against which Pius X fiercely reacted (see Sodalitium Pianum). Many are surprised when they discover that Fr Tyrrell’s approach was to oppose theological liberalism via Modernist methods (adapting apologetics to scientific progress).

The aspect that interests me in liberalism is the transcendence of the human person, the individual, and that person being free to enter into a social agreement with others with a mutual respect of rights. This is the antithesis of totalitarianism or systems that make the individual exist for the State.

Fr Jonathan has lived with this Jacobin kind of “liberalism” and found a benevolent conservatism in the Anglican Catholic Church, which has inherited more from the American Episcopalians than the Church of England. I have lived with intégrisme here in France amongst many traditionalist Roman Catholics and their lack of empathy or compassion with those who were not part of their exclusive society. I have settled in a kind of liberalism that formed the early aspirations of the Revolution and the Romantic reaction away from tyranny and cruelty.

This world is a difficult place to live with its lack of care or compassion. It is as unforgiving as outer space and the forbidding planets nearer our sun and further away from it. Earth with its kaleidoscope of colours is a very tiny object in this vast galaxy and universe. Foolish men have often speculated about going to colonise other planets. Even if we could get there and the chemistry was something like on earth, we as “refugees” from a world we have destroyed through our sins would not be welcome. Too much oxygen or too little of it would kill us. We also need water and organic life forms for food. Also, the aliens living there wouldn’t take too kindly to us taking their planet from them! So we would be cast again into the outer darkness where there would be wailing, gnashing of teeth, and no one to take any notice of our suffering. Do unto others as we would have done to ourselves – this is the fundamental principle of human empathy and Christ’s Gospel message. Christianity is the ultimate liberalism – but real liberalism.

These concepts of conservatism and liberalism exist and are uppermost in our minds. If I consider liberalism in the terms I have described above and with which I sympathise, I will do a little exercise of contrasting the kinds of conservatism we find in America, Europe and our own country with this liberalism (not the tyranny of Robespierre).

Conservatism reflects many aspects of natural humanity in common with many species of animals, the first being the Darwinian principle of the survival of the fittest. Life is a competition and winner takes all. The individual fears for his life and livelihood, and builds up a tribe so that those qualified to be in that tribe can survive. The extreme expression of this idea in America is the “prepper” who goes to live in a wild and remote place and collects an arsenal of weapons against any possible enemy. Mors tua vita mea – the exact antithesis of Christian martyrdom and the love that consists of laying down one’s own life. Many dominant humans (I will use the terms applied to animals like dogs) live by competition and winning. This instinct can be simulated harmlessly through sport, or in reality through politics and warmongering. The apotheosis of this instinct took the form of Hitler’s perversion of Nietzsch’s Ubermensch, the super race who would win domination of the world. However, conservatism comes in degrees and is not always expressed in the psychopathy of the worst criminals of history. It is not black and white – but a spectrum from one opposite to the other.

In contrast, liberalism (my kind), is self-consciously non-competitive and sees a more benign and kind world. There are bad things in the world, but humanity is essentially good and persons care for each other. The community is built through dialogue and compromise, through consultation and agreement. The aim is the common good of all and each person. It is not always easy to be optimistic, but we have to seek the good and distinguish it from evil and darkness.

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Midnight Mass

Here’s my chapel and Crib at this most magical feast of the liturgical calendar.

CHRISTE, Redemptor omnium,
ex Patre, Patris unice,
solus ante principium
natus ineffabiliter,1
JESU, the Father’s only Son,
whose death for all redemption won,
before the worlds, of God most high,
begotten all ineffably.
Tu lumen, tu splendor Patris,
tu spes perennis omnium,
intende quas fundunt preces
tui per orbem servuli.
The Father’s Light and Splendor Thou
their endless Hope to Thee that bow:
accept the prayers and praise today
that through the world Thy servants pay.
Salutis auctor, recole
quod nostri quondam corporis,
ex illibata Virgine
nascendo, formam sumpseris.2
Salvation’s author, call to mind
how, taking the form of humankind,
born of a Virgin undefiled,
Thou in man’s flesh becamest a Child.
Hic praesens testatur dies,
currens per anni circulum,
quod a solus sede Patris
mundi salus adveneris;3
Thus testifies the present day
Through every year in long array,
that Thou, salvation’s source alone
proceedest from the Father’s Throne.
Hunc caelum, terra, hunc mare,
hunc omne quod in eis est,
auctorem adventus tui
laudat exsultans cantico.4
Whence sky, and stars, and sea’s abyss,
and earth, and all that therein is,
shall still, with laud and carol meet,
the Author of thine Advent greet.
Nos quoque, qui sancto tuo
redempti sumus sanguine,
ob diem natalis tui
hymnum novum concinimus.5
And we who, by Thy precious Blood
from sin redeemed, are marked for God,
on this, the day that saw Thy Birth,
sing the new song of ransomed earth.
Iesu, tibi sit gloria,
qui natus es de Virgine,
cum Patre et almo Spiritu,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.
All honor, laud, and glory be,
O Iesu, Virgin-born, to Thee;
whom with the Father we adore,
and Holy Ghost forevermore. Amen.

 

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Happy Christmas to all my Readers

I would like to wish all my readers a happy Christmas.

For some, Christmas is the prefiguration of that day sometime in the future when our divided humanity will be recapitulated and incorporated into the divinity of Christ the Incarnate Word. For others, it will be a time of drunken feasting and conflicts with families. For others it will be a sad and lonely time at home or banished to the streets of our cities where no one cares.

As I intimated a few days ago, I find Christmas a little sad in comparison with the bright lights and glitter of our supermarkets. It represents a small light in the midst of a great darkness, the Ungrund of Jakob Böhme, the primaeval chaos and disorder, from which comes our illumination and quiet joy in the silence. Some of my best Christmas feasts were spent at seminary or serving the little parish near Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme where I was in 1995 until 1996 and my decision to return to France. It is essential to hear the quiet voice of the Christmas message in the midst of the hubbub of noise, bright lights and people having a good time.

If you understand French, I recommend this salutary Christmas story from Alphonse Daudet, the famous author from Provence who wrote Lettres de mon Moulin. I lived in Marseilles briefly from 1993 until the summer of 1994. It is another France, another culture near the Italian border. Les Trois Messes Basses is a story of intemperance and temptation, of another era. A priest is tempted by the Devil to get through the three Masses of Christmas as quickly as possible to enjoy the festivities. As he tucks in to his meal, he chokes of a piece of meat, dies and has a hundred years of Purgatory to endure. The story is profoundly human and full of the charm of Provence.

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New Unity

I am just about set for the organ removal from Newington Green Unitarian church to re-install the instrument in the parish church of Vermenton in the Yonne region of France. I have been making use of the skills I acquired from a tiny fragment of an apprenticeship with Harrison & Harrison of Durham and a three-year course in harpsichord making at the London College of Furniture from 1978 until 1981. I am not a professional organ builder, but I concentrate on doing what I can do well, namely the experience I had with a tuner working for Harrison’s who taught me about the nuts and bolts of overhauling, repairing and tuning organs. My first and most ambitious “job” was a 1913 Arthur Harrison organ from Holy Trinity Fareham which I installed in the old abbey church of San Martino al Cimino near Viterbo in 1995 after it had been in storage at my old seminary since 1991.

My organ work has been considerably reduced over the past twenty years, but some priests of a religious community I got to know during my diaconal stint in the Morvan have asked me to find and install an organ in the large medieval (heavily restored in the nineteenth century) church of Vermenton.

I have various resources for finding redundant organs in England, and I was precisely seeking a two-manual instrument with mechanical action, easy to dismantle and reassemble with a minimum of repairs or restoration and which can be transported in a 3 1/2 ton van which can be driven with a car licence. The typical specification involves four or five stops on each manual and a bourdon on the pedal. As I corresponded with those responsible for disposing of organs, the “successful” one is in Newington Green Unitarian church. I am due to be there with my hired van in the third week of January to take the organ down and bring it to France.

Newington Green Unitarian church is a handsome eighteenth-century building which underwent some modifications in 1860.

Here is the organ I am to move.

The instrument is basically Victorian, installed at Newington Green in 1902. It bears the builder’s plate of Henry Potter. The instrument was examined in the 1970’s by Noel Mander, a highly reputable London organ builder, who had no knowledge of Potter. Mr Mander surmised that Potter was a journeyman working for Bishop & Son. Manders did some work on the instrument, and when the bellows was opened, they found out that this instrument was built by Banfield of Birmingham in 1862, for Lord Calthorpe of Elvetham Hall. It is without any real tonal distinction, but I am confident that I could improve it by opening up the pipe feet a little to enhance the natural harmonics of the pipes. It was regularly tuned up to September 2016 and is still playable.

I plan to work from the Monday to the Friday morning so as to get back to Dover for the night ferry. Why are they disposing of this instrument? It is mainly because the church has received a grant for restoration of the building in a general state of wear and tear. I also suspect they will be removing the Victorian pews to create a more versatile space to be used for different social and cultural functions. They have a grand piano and use other instruments, and obviously have no need of an organ, which in any case would have to be dismantled for the work on the church. It will therefore have a new life in France.

This evening, I began to do some research on this community, because my father has spoken very kindly about one of his friends who is a Unitarian minister in Kendal. I also from time to time follow the blog of Adrian Worsfold, who is a Unitarian, which is more concerned with politics but occasionally discusses ecclesiastical eccentricities. I knew very little about Unitarianism, even though I had contact with the Quakers when I was at Wennington School in 1971. The two denominations are completely distinct. The name distinguishes them from Trinitarians, in that they deny the Trinity. There is one God, and Jesus was a good man and spiritual guide, but not God. In this, they are distinct from nearly all Christian denominations – approaching a more rigorous monotheistic notion of God like in Judaism and Islam. They also reject original sin, predestination and the inerrancy of the Bible. They are now the most liberal and radical of all Christian denominations. Unitarianism seems to be a reaction against some of the excesses of classical Protestantism. Its roots were in the mid sixteenth century in Transylvania and Poland. They faced fierce persecution from the Roman Catholic Church in continental Europe and the Anglican establishment in England.

One distinguished member of the Newington Green community was Mary Wollstonecraft, the pioneer of feminism, wife of the philosopher William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement and mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (who married Percy Byssh Shelley). Mary Shelley‘s best known work is Frankenstein. Unitarianism appealed to many Romantic authors and philosophers through its radical position in regard to establishment churches and dogmas. It seemed ideal for an anarchical mindset and a passionate desire to serve the cause of humanity and justice. Newington Green is located in the constituency of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has received considerable publicity for his involvement in the Parliament debates over Brexit. Here, Jeremy Corbyn is interviewed in the Newington Green church about Mary Wollstonecraft.

Like many of the Romantics, like William Wordsworth, Madame Wollstonecraft was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution. She also saw the work of the hard-line Jacobins and the guillotine bloodbath – and quickly returned to England in fear for her life. Whatever we may think about left-wing politics today, it is interesting to see a politician’s ideas rooted in the depth of Romantic thought and the profound vision of a new world and age. With this in mind, the allegation of Mr Corbyn calling Theresa May a “stupid woman” with a sexist overtone is quite striking, especially as he affirmed that he eschews all sexism and misogyny.

Returning to Unitarianism as a philosophical expression or religion in a very restricted meaning of that word, I see many themes with which I can sympathise (though I am a Trinitarian – to the relief of my Bishop!). One is a great intellectual freedom in interpreting sacred texts and the notion of the human conscience. It is also a theme of various forms of liberalism and modernism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, largely arising from Romanticism.

The Newington Green community is quite surprising, now named New Unity. If you go to their site, you will be quite astonished by the fact that it defines itself as a non-religious church. I assume they are using the vocabulary of the average English person of our times, used to seeing religion as a source of intolerance, bigotry and violence. I assume that is what is meant. Also, they repudiate the idea of a supernatural God (what is “supernatural” for them – since I would soften the distinction made by classical theology between natural and supernatural). Anyway, let’s get ahead. It looks to me like a humanist philosophy aiming for the nobility of spirit I have often mentioned in my articles. Believe in Good, the idea being to seek the good in every person.

We believe that there’s potential for good in every person, no matter how wounded they may be, or how buried that potential may lie.

We believe that although today’s world is riven with injustice, we must always hope for – and work towards – a kinder, fairer future.

We believe that the world can be good – and can grow ever better. And this responsibility lies firmly in our own hands.

Why be a church community? The idea of a secular humanist church with an atheist minister is new to me, but there are aspects from which we other Christians could learn from rather than trying to take advantage of the rich and powerful of this world. This kind of idea is very widespread in the world, especially in South America with the basic communities and liberation theology. My criticism of those would be the fact that Marxism is a very flawed philosophy of human nature and analysis of economic systems like capitalism.

It promises to be a very rich experience for me as I discuss things with people as I pack organ pipes into rolls of newspaper and the wooden crates I have made. I am persuaded that institutional Christianity has a lot to answer for and many of its woes have been of its own making. I assume those people believe that Christ existed and had a beautiful message to convey, at least that. I will not be trying to persuade them that I’m right, but rather to understand how they relate to our modern world and whether they have any notion of transcendence. Perhaps the theme of Romanticism may serve as a bridge to enable us to understand each other and dialogue.

I look forward to this new adventure… I am again brought to that wonderful poem of Walt Whitman:

Down from the gardens of Asia descending radiating,
Adam and Eve appear, then their myriad progeny after them,
Wandering, yearning, curious, with restless explorations,
With questionings, baffled, formless, feverish, with never-happy hearts,
With that sad incessant refrain, Wherefore unsatisfied soul? and Whither O mocking life?

Ah who shall soothe these feverish children?
Who Justify these restless explorations?
Who speak the secret of impassive earth?
Who bind it to us? what is this separate Nature so unnatural?
What is this earth to our affections? (unloving earth, without a throb to answer ours, Cold earth, the place of graves.)

Yet soul be sure the first intent remains, and shall be carried out,
Perhaps even now the time has arrived.

After the seas are all cross’d, (as they seem already cross’d,)
After the great captains and engineers have accomplish’d their work,
After the noble inventors, after the scientists, the chemist, the geologist, ethnologist,
Finally shall come the poet worthy that name,
The true son of God shall come singing his songs.

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Sol Invictus!

Today is St Thomas and the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere. Let the daylight not only be unconquered but grow as a sign of grace from the Incarnate Son of God!

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Blue Flower delayed

I’m afraid the Blue Flower normally scheduled for Christmas 2018 is going to have to be delayed. One reason is a series of vast technical translation orders taking up time and energy. Bread-earning work has to take priority. Another, frankly, is my diminished capacity for work since last summer due to anxiety, partly due to our political crisis in England and its consequences in Europe, and also for reasons closer to home including sorting out my paperwork for my French driving licence, residence permit and nationality application. These applications went in a month ago, and the system works very slowly. France will give us a period of grace beyond Brexit Day during which we British expats will not become illegal immigrants before having obtained our documents.

I have started an essay combining the themes of cosmopolitanism and nobility of spirit as expressed by German Idealism and Romanticism and other sources in history. I have also had difficulty establishing a coherent plan to unite the various fragments I have been writing.

In January, I will be going to England to dismantle and transport an organ from a Unitarian church in north-east London. Fortunately, it seems to be a straightforward instrument with nine stops, tracker action and two manuals, so something in which I have experience. To take short breaks from my translating work during the day, I have been organising the job and assembling tools and materials. I need also to make a pipe crate for the 4-foot bottom and tenor octaves. The van is hired and the boat is booked, so I hope there will not be political demonstrations in the ports either side of the Channel. The organ is going to a church in the Burgundy area of France, and I will probably do the reassembly, repairs, adjustments, voicing and tuning in February-March 2019. The dismantling and transport will take a solid week and then I count on finishing the reinstallation in about two to three weeks assuming there are no complications.

It might also be my last time in England for some time depending on the consequences of a no-deal Brexit from 29th March 2019. The leavers think it will be hunky-dory after only a few weeks of chaos. I am more sceptical. We’ll see what happens. We also have problems in France, but the Gilets Jaunes protest is morphing and contracting as the weeks go by.

I will try to do my article and an editorial in early and late January and February, and maybe publish the second issue of The Blue Flower for Septuagesima or Lent.

Fr Jonathan Munn has written me a nice article on Transcendence, Truth and Reality: A Mathematician’s Fumble. I invite others to send me anything they would like to write so that this initiative may continue to contribute to thought in our troubled times. If you would like to contribute in this spirit, please see The Blue Flower and contact me by sending a comment. I will be able to find your e-mail address and I will write to you asking for an e-mail with the attachment in MS Word format (doc or docx).

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Cry to the Night

Words fail me as I look at the news and Facebook pages and see the blindness descending upon England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. It now seems late in the day to denounce details of the political process leading to Brexit and a new definition of democracy in our country. To speculate would lead to my being accused of scare-mongering. Who knows? The honeymoon might be quite glorious. Then what? It is said that if there were to be a new referendum, “leave” would win again, and perhaps by a much bigger majority.

In these gloomy Advent days, I mediate on the words of Novalis in his Hymnen an die Nacht, which I read in English translation. I also find inspiration  in my favourite Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev. Both he and Freidrich von Hardenberg were inspired by the great German cobbler and mystic Jakob Böhme. The theme of the night (the Ungrund) pervades Christian mysticism, especially the Carmelite saints like John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila. Holiness comes through suffering and long periods of desolation and spiritual hardship. Winter is a time when the days are at their shortest, but the true Sol Invictus, the incarnation of God in Christ, brings us light and inner deliverance within from whatever can befall us.

Without comparing our political crisis (there is another in France and all over Europe – and elsewhere in the world) with past tyrannies, I quote Thomas Mann in the mid 1930’s:

How on earth will it end? This nightmare has been going on for three years, and who knows how long it will last. The barbarous and reactionary forces have made a pact with everything that is the enemy of intellect and culture, a diabolical pact of fear and bitterness. Erudition and thinking are obviously unwelcome, and the savage, sadistic propaganda spreads a political view that is hostile toward the future and lacks any vision or ideas. Nowhere can one descry anything grand or noble.

Berdyaev reflects the ideas of Joachim of Fiore, the best-known being that of the three ages. The Age of the Father corresponds with the Old Testament, obedience to God’s Law. The Age of the Son would be from the Advent of Christ to about 1260, the New Testament. Then would come an Age of the Holy Spirit, heralding the freedom brought by the Christian message. In this new age, the institutional Church would be replaced by something like the Franciscan Order. The Church never condemned Joachim himself for heresy, but many aspects of his theories were condemned, notably by St Thomas Aquinas. Some of the movements he inspired were severely persecuted by the Inquisition. There is almost a Romantic aspiration to an age of beauty and light.

The aspirations to such a new age and renewed humanity proved to be largely illusory, as the same legalism and inhumanity continued, firstly in the institutional Church, then in political authorities and man’s lust for money and power. The “blue flower” is beyond our grasp in this world, but is the object of our love and yearning. It is not a new religion, but a fulfilment of Christian revelation, true universality that transcends both globalism and nationalism.

We look through a glass darkly (cf. I Corinthians xiii.12 –For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known). In the religion of freedom and the Spirit, there will not be authorities, rewards and punishments. The legalistic idea of Christianity has to disappear as we are transfigured within.

After this night of Advent, of winter and the dark days ahead for our country (though I am clear about the shortcomings of globalism and European federalism), we can only aspire towards and try to create a new human and humane fellowship. How? I don’t know. We have our churches and liturgies and our silent witness in the darkness. Joachim was wrong about the year of his promised Age of the Spirit. We have yet to pass through shadows and the night. Nature is devastated by man’s greed, history is denied and changed by materialism and the mind is taken away by psychological manipulation. Humaneness is disappearing as we don’t care about each other and horrible acts of cruelty are committed. As Nietzsche cried out, it is if God himself had died. We must ourselves die and face the hereafter with courage.

However, man is not condemned because he carries within himself a spark of divinity, and image of God, possibilities of greatness, beauty and sublimity. We participate in Christ’s universal consciousness. This is something we can believe in and be encouraged to withstand the evil day and everything we have to suffer.

Like democratic centralist politics, lukewarmness is no longer an option. We enter a time of radical choice and division, where we have to eschew “moderate” Christianity and seek the mystical way, not even more polarised political ideologies and violence. Pope John Paul II was often criticised for his “cult of man” in his vision of human dignity and transcendence. Here is one characteristic quote from this man who lived in the darkness of both Nazism and Communism:

As a Christian, my hope and trust are centred on Jesus Christ, the two thousandth anniversary of whose birth will be celebrated at the coming of the new millennium . . . . Jesus Christ is for us God made man, and made part of the history of humanity. Precisely for this reason, Christian hope for the world and its future extends to every human person. Because of the radiant humanity of Christ, nothing genuinely human fails to touch the hearts of Christians. Faith in Christ does not impel us to intolerance. On the contrary, it obliges us to engage in a respectful dialogue. Love of Christ does not distract us from interest in others, but rather invites us to responsibility for them, to the exclusion of no one . . . . Thus as we approach the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Christ, the Church asks only to be able to propose respectfully this message of salvation, and to be able to promote, in charity and service, the solidarity of the entire human family.

Revelation of God is accomplished in man and humanity. We also live a terrifying crisis of our creativity, not only through poetry, music and art – but also our capacity to make families and procreate children.

Before we see the light, we must face an age of darkness and destruction, where evil seems to triumph over God himself and becomes inevitable and banal. We are afraid of being “replaced” in the world with which we have been familiar all our lives, but our own culture is shallow and ugly. Yet our aspiration and longing can never be taken away. But, this is not a passive longing, but also a determination to transfigure the world through creativity. God will help those who help themselves and discover our transcendence.

Like Thomas Mann and Berdyaev in the 1930’s, we stand on the brink of the abyss and cry to God in our prayers and supplications. We are torn apart, crushed, disappointed, ignored by those who don’t care, and we live in dread and anxiety. The monster of the 1930’s was finally defeated in 1945 at the cost of millions of lives and monuments of human culture destroyed forever. We are still reduced to tears by the atrocities committed against innocent men, women and children more than seventy years ago. Have we learned the lesson? I don’t think so entirely. I was born into an era of optimism and aspiration to freedom and joy, a reaction against the war and social conservatism. Many errors were committed, but there was an aspiration at the bottom of the anarchy of “flower power” and drugs. Liberalism has come to an end, and we must face authoritarianism and the brute struggle for money and power all over again. We can guess the form that will take, not of military dictators but a class of obscenely wealthy oligarchs leaving the rest of us to find a new way to rebuild some kind of new civilisation.

We are concerned about being on the right or wrong side of history. The present time has brought a sense of hopelessness and anger against the old elites and the dinosaurs of this world. Nothing is endless or inevitable. History has not ended with neo-liberal capitalism, nor with blind and angry populism, but will go on beyond our own limit of earthly life.

The end is a Divine-human matter. And the final word, which belongs to God, will include a word of man, as well.

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