Updated: Dec 15, 2020
One of the most sacred mysteries of the Christian faith revolves around the related ideas of redemption through suffering, wisdom through ignorance, life through death. In church a few weeks back, the following passages were read:
Psalm 19 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork. One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another. Although they have no words or language, and their voices are not heard, Their sound has gone out into all the lands, and their message to the ends of the world.
1 Cor. 1:18-25 The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. . . . For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
I sat there meditating on those words, and then Fr. George spoke to us in his homily about honoring the parameters God has set for us in this life. Those words floated so easily from his lips, and yet I knew all too well that he’s earned those words, and he spoke them with a resolve and gentleness that befits a man of his station and experience. I thought about the rest of us, how we, too, must somehow figure out how to honor the parameters that God has set for us. I think of the couple whose baby daughter has been abducted, and the agony they must be going through as the world searches for her. I think of the young 7 year-old boy whose father, the sentry for all that stands for goodness and courage and honor and meaning in his young little life, lies in a bed dying from the ravages of cancer, and how that little boy will never again be the same. I don’t think of genocides or holocausts or tsunamis because they are too large to make localized in my little heart ~ they are merely depressing statistics. But when I think on a small scale ~ a little girl’s fear, a little boy’s sadness, a wife or mother or father or friend standing alone in the breach where madness and despair mingle ~ or the plaintive wail of a dog chained to his life in the backyard of some person he loves simply because dogs don’t know any better ~ I then think of God’s fierce love, forced to play by the rules that he himself set for us, stuck in parameters of his own doing, and I begin to contemplate the anger and sadness and cosmic impotence he must feel in the face of it all. And then I think, he could only see this all come to pass because the light awaiting us on the other side must be so blinding, so utterly cleansing and healing, that all the sadness and despair that has ever been experienced in the entire history of the universe will not even hold a candle to the raging and everlasting fire of heaven that dries to a mist all the tears that have ever been shed on every cheek, all the heartbreak that has ever been felt in the pit of someone’s stomach.
I think about these things and I then rage against all of it, rage against God, against the parameters he set for us, rage against his silence, and am left with nothing to do but cling with every fiber of my being to hope, which, as I grow older, becomes more and more the deepest epistemic virtue left to any of us, any of God’s children who dare to keep half an eye open to this beautiful and tragic world, to the localized and small sufferings that our blank existence has turned into a cold, dry, and tired habit. We are, as the prophet Zechariah put it, prisoners of hope.
We must keep the feast. And God damn it if we don’t.