Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Canticum Spei

“AND NOW ALSO THE AXE IS LAID unto the root of the trees." (Matt. 3:10) So preached St. John the Baptist, the precursor to the Christ whose sandal he was unworthy to untie. For the West, the former lands of Christendom or those lands of the New World informed by it, it is, perhaps, a Johannine moment, a time for conversio, for metanoia. The window of opportunity does not seem to be of long duration: the axe is laid at the root of the trees. It is a matter of time before the axe is used, the bole and roots have lost all sap. There does not seem to be much more time before wholesale moral collapse in the West.

Without such a turn, may not, as part of natural consequence, and as part of God's terrible Providence, another doctrine arise and come in to fill the vacuum left by our moral irresponsibility?
For behold, I will raise up the Chaldeans, a bitter and swift nation, marching upon the breadth of the earth, to possess the dwelling places that are not their own. They are dreadful, and terrible: from themselves shall their judgment, and their burden proceed. Their horses are lighter than leopards, and swifter than evening wolves; and their horsemen shall be spread abroad: for their horsemen shall come from afar, they shall fly as an eagle that maketh haste to eat. They shall all come to the prey, their face is like a burning wind: and they shall gather together captives as the sand. And their prince shall triumph over kings, and princes shall be his laughingstock: and he shall laugh at every strong hold, and shall cast up a mount, and shall take it.
Habakkuk 1:6-10. Are we facing another terrible Habkkukian moment with the swell of a confident Islam breathing down the dissipated West's neck, perhaps not with axe in hand, but with an equally dangerous scimitar?

It is no longer a matter of conservative and liberal: we have moved way beyond those categories. Neither these political movements avail us much. Even if--per impossibile--we were able to conserve and hold the moral line where it is, we still confront guilt for horrible violations of the moral law, and the Furies of conscience pursue and pressure us to continue down our horrible path, that slippery slope of moral demise. Europe and America are not exceptions to the laws of morality. God and his nature are not mocked for long. We have to confront the terrible reality: "Without a turning back, there can be only a going forward," which really means a going down. Budziszewski (2003), 213.

We are not condemned to go forward or down into a moral demise, for the future is ours as an exercise of freedom. But we are not free to remove ourselves from the effects or consequences of our free choices, if they are wrong. America is not exceptional in that way.

To predict human future is to deny human nature, for men and women are endowed with the perilous gift of free will. We can turn back the other way. Even so, free will does not mean that anything is possible. I cannot will that I do wrong, yet not be guilty. I cannot will that I shall be guilty, yet not suffer the impulsion to do further wrong. And I cannot will that I shall be unrepentant, yet stay the same.

Budziszewski (2003), 216. That is to say, we are under the natural law willy nilly: whether we will to obey it, or will not to obey it.

It is true. The return will not be easy. It will required consummate courage:
It is a fearsome thing to recover sanity, almost as fearsome as not recovering it. For there are no half-measures in conscience; when the Furies loom behind you, there is no running in place. And so, to avoid traveling in the next dark stretch of the road, there is no alternative but to make peace with the Furies, and travel back on the stretch we have lately come.
Budziszewski (2003), 216.*

Here is the necessary recipe, the unavoidable reality. It is time to reverse recent history, return to our natural law roots where we have erred, and begin history down another, better path.

To set our faces against [imminent] infanticide, we must repent abortion. To desist from viewing pregnancy as an illness, we must abjure viewing fertility as an ailment. To reprove perversion, we must repent lasciviousness. To turn from infidelity, we must forswear divorce and impurity. To withdraw from killing "in the interests of all concerned, " we must rue the vain dream that our interests lie elsewhere than in innocence. To mourn treating the image of God as tissue to be harvested in hope of cures, we must sorry over our sick fancy that there is nothing worse than physical disease. To turn back from the boundary of animal nature, we must repent that we defiled the sanctuary of human nature. To honor the inbuilt purposes of our design, we must honor the Designer who inbuilt them. And to honor the Designer, we must weep that we ever thought to take His place.

Budziszewski (2003), 216.

That seems impossible! How do we turn back the course? The Four Witnesses--deep conscience, the design (ratio ordinis of the cosmos), the design of human nature, the principle of natural consequences--do not inform us of how this may be done.

The strand of the Natural Law and the
strand of the Gospel make one rope

Yet there are two answers, not independent, but dependent. The answers are distinguishable: yet they run intertwined sort of like a the strands of a rope which are blended together into one lay. One strand is based upon reason, the other upon faith.
[A] kind of help, a lesser help has been implanted in the very manner of our making. This too is part of the created order. If once the Turn is made, then just as there is a momentum to evil, so there is a momentum, not to virtue, but to repentance. As there is something in our design like Furies to drive us down, so there is something in our design like Angels to help us up. If it were not so, we could not even be told about it. Yet we can. The indestructibility of our longing for lightness, for purity, for music is like a small star of hope in a darkened sky, and inkling of the Star that rules the day.
Budziszewski (2003), 216. That help is the natural moral law, which, at its most basic, speaks to us from our heart about what is right and what is wrong. We have to be open to the fact that such an objective moral realm exists, and that it may be found through right reason.

The witnesses of the man, the ox, the lion, and the eagle:
Luke, Matthew, Mark, and John

There is, we must not forget, another strand to the rope that shall haul us out of our current trend downward. The "Four Witnesses" of our nature do not speak of it. There are, however, four other witnesses that testify to this other strand, witnesses in the form of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle:

It is said [through these four witnesses and through thousands, indeed millions of others] that the Designer Himself took the form of His designs, that He came into our night, that he wrought with the powers of darkness; it is said that joy comes in the morning.

Budziszewski (2003), 217. The other help is therefore the Gospel which is proclaimed in Scriptures and through the Church. The words quoted above are J. Budziszewski's words. Another witness many years ago wrote it in words that used to be said at the end of the old Latin Mass:
In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est. In ipso vita erat, et vita erat lux hominum: et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebræ eam non comprehenderunt. . . . Erat lux vera, quae illuminat omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum. In mundo erat, et mundus per ipsum factus est, et mundus eum non cognovit. In propria venit, et sui eum non receperunt. Quotquot autem receperunt eum, dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri, his qui credunt in nomine ejus: qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt.

Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis: et vidimus gloriam ejus, quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae et veritatis. . . . Et de plenitudine ejus nos omnes accepimus, et gratiam pro gratia: quia lex per Moysen data est, gratia et veritas per Jesum Christum facta est.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. . . . That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
The natural moral law and Christ, the law of the Gospel. These are the strands of the rope that, if we so will, must needs return us to the proper path of our calling.
*We boldly faced it once when as a nation we willed to end slavery or the civil rights gains for African-Americans.

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