On a rainy morning, the day after Pokrov (our celebration of the Virgin's Protective Veil over the Holy City), we are bludgeoned with the party announcements that welfare-recipient AIG (and probably other Wall Street dole-addicts) is rewarding itself with Gomorrah-bonuses for successful necromantic antics. A few blocks away, Goldman Sachs is handing out $23 billion in bonuses to itself for Christmas (I am willing to call this a sin, especially as it is money derived from indentured servants – how's that for a non-ambiguous, non-ethical-board-attenuated-and-sans-committee-studied position statement?).
One percent of America has more dough than everyone else put together.
I will resist, for now, the temptation to wax despairing on Babylonian hijinks. Alas.
But I wonder, for now, about one troubling, vexing question.
The Church tells us that the Cross and Resurrection rendered the old pagan pantheon of gods – Olympus, Valhalla, Tenochtitlan, Angkor Wat – powerless once and for all. No matter what our moonlight and crystal friends say, whilst promenading around the maypole, there is no going back to Tír na nÓg. There is, if the Christian witness is to be believed at all, only the Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ is the only Word.
I know that's pretty offensive, but that's that in the Easter optic. There is no other god on the horizon after the cosmic cataclysm of Pascha.
This is old stuff. We know this already.
But god-making is always appealing. The wilderness of modern living makes one long for a golden calf, as opposed to the headaches and frustrations one gets from the rumbling lugubrious cloud on the Mountain.
So after Zeus and the Dagda, Odin and Quetzalcoatl and Shiva have been shown the cranial door, the modern world has been very busy at the fire, gold-plating one object -- or conceptual framework or weltanschauung or critical theory -- after another.
Not "gods" (God forbid), but certainly cognitive structures that wield divine-looking authority. Not "myths" in honest full disclosure, but certainly organizing and criticizing cultural constructs that have their own modern – but very religious-looking – categories of sacred and profane, clean and unclean, open-minded and close-minded, modern and contemptible.
Still, Pascha has given those sneaky gods, too, the pink slip. There is nothingness behind their vapor.
And here I must admit to no little nostalgia: I would rather the old honest pagan gods than these new post-Christian ones. At least they were less bloodthirsty: the twentieth century wars were, after all, occult liturgy. Every modern battle (i.e., fought for policy or ideology instead of morals) is really an incantation.
But the new gods are the philosophies and schools, the narratives that were fashioned in the shadow of the receding Church that's been retreating back to the catacombs ever since the statecraft of 1500 and beyond. These are the attempts to stand on one's own in time and space and meaning, without any reference to Heaven.
I wonder, today, while I and our Father's House are covered by the Protective Veil, whether "Christ or Nothing" applies to just the gods of old. I wonder if it also applies to everything that functions as a golden calf. I wonder if it applies to the non-theistic theologies of Adam Smith and Marx, Rorty and Lawrence, and to the just as non-theistic fundamentalisms of Hitchens and Dawkins, along with those of Kristol, Perry and DeMint, Falwell and Osteen.
I wonder if the Paschal light not only portends the Twilight of the Gods, but also the twilight of meaning and knowledge. Take away the Word, how is any sentence possible? Take away the primal Story of the Incarnation (which is the DNA, if you will, of Time), and how can there be any narration at all?
I wonder – stupid proletariat anti-abortion creationist and agnostic-capitalist that I am – while I am told that bonuses are good for the country and that anything that Obama does is bad for Christian America – I wonder if meaning itself can stand by itself, for very long at all after it leaves the light of Pascha?
It is a sad thing that well-intentioned people like Eliot and Lasch, and good people of the earth like Berry and Hanson, really hope for the renewal of culture, or – as Lasch put it – its "redemption" and "conversion." These are Christian words: even the concept of "renewal" – in the grammar of critics – is really an idea that cannot be divorced from its familial setting in the Church. I think their hope is misplaced.
Has cultural conversion ever happened, apart from apostolicity?
Is conversion even possible when the logos of nature – both outside and inside, human and extra-human – is forgotten, despite our microscopic analysis? Is it possible when people's experience is becoming even more vicarious and less direct? When their language carries less ideas and more mere data? Like bees communicating to the hive where the pollen is to be found?
After the Word is forgotten, will sentences fall apart?
But here in the precincts of the Veil, we hope that the salt and light will continue to illumine and preserve, even in the courts of the agora. Here, apart from the cosmic muzak in the mall-flourescence, there is Sacrament and Tradition to save us from the many-headed hydra of the gnoses. There is still the Story told that keeps history intact, still enables the mind to articulate thought in complete sentences.
Still, there is Prayer to the Trinity that keeps the world turning round, even with so many who refuse to believe this is true. Even with so many who flock to a new slavery, who trade their minds for the patently modern comforts of consumption and demagoguery. Even with so many who have so much but rejoice so little.
Under the Veil, in the Holy City, the Paschal Light so shines before men.
But outside, in the rain, the sentences get shorter.