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.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Two There Are"

DUO SUNT," SAID POPE GELASIUS I in a letter to Emperor Anastasius, "quibus principaliter mundus hic regitur."* "Two there are by which this world is ruled." Pope Gelasius I merely reformulates what is the teaching of our Lord, and which is part of reality, of what is, in the political world for those who bask in the benefit of Revelation. "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar, and to God the things that are God’s." (Matt. 22:21) Since Christ came into this world, the Christian knows that there are two public songs, and not just one, in the world.

The Catholic accepts the duo sunt as part of what is in the political world. There is therefore in the Catholic mind, both Church and State, and a natural and necessary separation of Church and State. But this separation of Church and State does not imply subordination of Church to State. Quite the contrary, though coordinate powers each with its proper sphere, in matters of faith and of morals, the Church is superior, for the State is here incompetent. In Christianity, the State is de-divinized, the Church is de-politicized. The State is not in possession of spiritual power. The Church is generally not in possession of earthly power. These powers are to work together for the common good. Duo sunt.

Both Church and State have public voices; both sing a song. The Catholic, both a citizen and a member of Christ’s faithful, hears both songs and both voices, for he or she knows there are two. But like St. Thomas More’s last words as he approached the scaffold and imminent death, the Catholic is “the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” One song, one voice in particular, the voice of God, the vox Domini Iesus Christi, holds him in absolutely thrall. He hears the song of his Master, whose yoke is easy, whose burden is light, and he hears to song of Caesar, and of the two songs he recognizes the voice of the Lord as the most lasting, the most beautiful, the most true. (Matt. 11:30)

When push comes to shove—and there is progressively more shoving and less pushing as the Western democracies in their recreation of society in man's own image jettison their Christian capital as if but flotsam or jetsam—the Catholic will say with St. Peter, "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29). The Catholic insists there are two voices, but also that there is one more beautiful and lasting than the other—for he hears them both and is able to distinguish them and he knows which is more beautiful—duo sunt.

Pope St. Gelasius I, Charlemagne, and Pope St. Gregory I
From a 9th Century Sacramentary of Charles the Bald

Like the singing Jewish captive by the rivers of Babylon, the Catholic would rather his right hand wither, and his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth, rather than forget the words to his song, the song of the sounds of heavenly Zion, duo sunt. (Cf. Ps. 137 (136):5-6) Duo sunt, duo sunt, duo sunt is the leitmotif of his song, a political and religious song which is not monophonic, but diaphonic. His political song has two voices which, if there is to be proper order, must try to sing in harmony.

Modernly, the Catholic is pressed hard between two groups that command center stage, and which have in their hands either power or violence (and there is but a thin line between the two). These two groups cry not duo sunt, but unus est. These are the secularists and the Islamists, and they seem to divide the world between them.

For secularists, the State is all there is; there is no spiritual power. In their zeal for power, the dogmatic secularists cry out like the high priests did to Pontius Pilate: “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15) The modern secular State is the Hobbesian “mortal God,” and there is no immortal God which competes for obeisance, for secularism subscribes to the Nietzschean view that the immortal God—the God of Jacob, Isaac, and Joseph—is dead. For them, Gott is tot.** Since for the modern secular State God is dead and sings no more, it, and it alone, is the final reality: unus est. It calls itself liberal, but it is not, since it can only hear one voice: its own.

The secularist knows no reality outside of what he makes for himself. Man is one dimensional, and he answers neither to God nor to any fixed nature. For the secularist, there is no such thing as an objective reality, one pre-existing him, one founded on nature or nature’s God, one which must be given public voice. But against the voice of the secularist who exclaims unus est, the Church insists in both the reality of the natural law and in the truth of the Gospels. Nature and Nature’s God. Duo sunt.

The secularist does not like this, and he is a proud spirit who does not endure to be mocked. As James V. Schall states in his book The Sum Total of Human Happiness, there is, in the modern world, a real hatred to those who sing the song of duo sunt. There is, he says, "a real hatred of man as he is pictured in natural law and in the Gospels."*** Anyone who insists on this picture of man is likewise hated, is a persona non grata. And so it is in his encyclical Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II adverts to these singers of duo sunt, those "convinced that they know the truth and firmly adhere to it," and he recognizes that they "are considered unreliable from a democratic point of view." (No. 46) In the face of the secularist state, we are unreliable citizens because we believe in an objective reality, because we believe in duo sunt. Christians are not to be included in the public secularist choir which sings songs only of unus est, as it worships not God but only itself.

In the main, secularists like to think themselves liberal, but they are intolerantly liberal. They are tolerant of all intolerance but their own, to which intolerance they are blind. And that intolerance is aimed at particular ferocity at those who insist on an objective reality outside of that which we make for ourselves. This includes those who insist—the way Catholics must do if they are think like a Catholic—of the truth of duo sunt.

To be sure, the liberals being effete do not like blood. But though they wince at drawing blood, they are not shy at wielding power, much less moral suasion. The problem they confront, as James Schall puts it is "how to silence Socrates without the nasty business of killing him, and how to tame the teachings of Christ without putting Him on the Cross."† Their schemes to do this are legion, including ridicule, public banishment, the closing of the public square to them, and—increasingly—legal burdens and legal constraints. There are ominous signs of worse things to come.

Why this foreboding? "The claim that certain actions are wrong," Schall observes, "is implicitly a threat to the [modern] state, which is designed to prevent strife and which is neutral to all values except to intolerance . . . . In this sense, the theory is already in place that makes Christians enemies of the state. We simply await its enforcement, either by converting or coercing Christians to live according to secular norms or by marginalizing or eliminating those who insist in calling wrong what the state guarantees as 'right.'"†† What Schall sees coming is secular dhimmitude. Unless things change, there will be a time where, like Christ, we will be "handed over" to the secular authorities. So, at least, the trajectory appears to be going.

Resurgent Islam falls into the same trap as secularism, but from another angle. For Islam, the Ummah—the Islamic “nation/church” for lack of a better word—is all there is. Islam is composed of “three ds,” din, dunya, and dawla—religion, social life, and state; there is nothing outside of it. In traditional Islam, there is no division of church and state. Islam is comprehensive. In Islam, like in the modern secular state, unus est.

Both the secularist State and resurgent, traditional Islam seem therefore to have divided the world between. One wants to be victorious through military power and advanced technology. The other wants to become victorious (since they do not yet hold the reins of power) like their alleged prophet Muhammad purportedly said in one hadith, "through terror."†††

Both secularist and Islamist refuse the Christo-Gelasian truth of duo sunt. In rejecting the duo sunt, and in accepting the unus est as the only reality, each has succumbed to its particular temptation.

The secularists have fallen prey to the temptation “you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5) It is the temptation of Satan which, as Milton put it in his Paradise Lost, was enshrined in the political motto "evil be thou my good."‡

The Islamist—as heir to Muhammad’s clumsy fall to the temptation of the kingdoms of this world that Christ nimbly side stepped—has succumbed to the temptation to rule all the kingdoms of this world in the name of Allah. The Muslim historian at-Tabari relates the instance of Muhammad summoning his tribesmen the Quraysh to accept his message that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger. It is this message, Muhammad argues, "through which the Arabs will submit to them and they will rule over the non-Arabs," that is all other nations.‡‡ Rejected in Mecca by his tribesmen the Quraysh, Muhammad was offered political power by the non-Jewish tribes of Medina. Muhammad took what Christ rejected as something offered by the voice of Satan. Muhammad wanted the kingdoms of this world. And Islam has been burdened by the falsehood of unus est ever since, and probably ever shall be, despite the valiant efforts of Muslim reformers whose work of the last two generations appears to have unraveled in the so-called "Arab Spring."

To the secularists, Catholics are the enemy of the state. To political Islam, Catholics are the enemy of God. Like Christ, our Lord, we are “despised and rejected by men,” Isaiah 53:3, Islamists on one side and secularists on the other. This ought not to surprise us. "And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake." Matt. 10:22. “Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No slave is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." They will persecute us because we insist in the truth: Duo sunt.

To the pompous and bombastic voice of the secular State—Caesar divinized, divus Caesar—the Catholic, like Ulysses responding to the voice of the Sirens beckoning him unto shipwreck on the rocky shores of the three small islands of the Sirenum Scopuli, will either put wax in his ears or will tie himself to the mast of Peter's barque so as to reject the siren songs of unus est which lead to the tyranny of relativism, and hold fast to the truth that will spare him shipwreck, the truth of duo sunt.

To the triumphalistic and irrational entreaty of the radical Muslim’s da'wah, like Orpheus and his Argonauts, who faced the same temptation as Ulysses in another time and place, the Catholic will take out his psalter and, like Pope Benedict XVI did in Regensburg, sing the hymns of duo sunt so loudly as drown out the opposing voices of the Muslims who sing the false songs of unus est. They sing of a tyrannous God who is not Father, who did not become one of us, and indeed could not become one of us, and so is a God of a different kind entirely. And while thy sing simplex, they slaughter or oppress their adversaries--such as the Chaldean Catholics in Iraq and Iran, the Copts in Egypt, the Christians in Nigeria or Sudan--who sing duplex believing (since they only hear one voice) they have warrant for it. Muslim nations, we were recently reminded by the 2012 World Watch List report by Open Doors, made up nine out of the top ten countries where Christians face the "most severe" persecution.

The moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre ends his splendid book After Virtue by noting that we are not waiting for a secular, relativistic and ultimately meaningless Godot, but rather for a new St. Benedict. But in this respect MacIntyre has got it wrong, or, more accurately, only partly right. What Catholics and indeed all Christians—who confront both dogmatic secularism on one side and dogmatic Islamists on the other—need is not only a new St. Benedict, but also a new Charlemagne.

We need both a St. Benedict and a Charlemagne. Why?

Because we know the political song has two voices. Because political reality is not unus est, but duo sunt.

*Duo sunt quippe, imperator auguste, quibus principaliter mundus hic regitur, auctoritas sacrata pontificum et regalis potestas, in quibus tanto gravius pondus est sacerdotum quanto etiam pro ipsis regibus hominum in divino reddituri sunt examine rationem. nosti etenim, fili clementissime, quoniam licet praesedeas humano generi dignitate, rerum tamen praesulibus divinarum devotus colla summittis atque ab eis causas tuae salutis expetis hincque sumendis caelestibus sacramentis eisque, ut competit, disponendis, subdi to debere cognoscis religionis ordine potius quam praeesse, itaque inter haec illorum to pendere iudicio, non illos ad tuam velle redigi voluntatem. si enim quantum ad ordinem publicae pertinet disciplinae, cognoscentes imperium tibi superna dispositione conlatum legibus tuis ipsi quoque parent religionis antistites, ne vel in rebus mundanis exclusae ... videantur obviare sententiae, quo, oro te, decet affectu eis et convenit oboedire qui praerogandis venerabilibus sunt attributi mysteriis? ... et si cunctis generaliter sacerdotibus recte divina tractantibus fidelium convenit corda submitti, quanto potius sedis illius praesuli consensus est adhibendus quem cunctis sacerdotibus et divinitas summa voluit praeminere et subsequens ecclesiae generalis iugiter pietas celebravit? ... rogo, inquam, ut me in hac vita potius audias deprecantem, quam, quod absit, in divino iudicio sentias accusantem.
**The statement "Gott is tot," God is dead, first appears in Nietzsche’s
The Gay Science (Die fröhliche Wissenschaft) in sections 108, 125, and 343. It also appears in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also sprach Zarathustra).
***James V. Schall, S.J., The Sum Total of Human Happiness (South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 2006), 39.
†Schall, 40.
††Schall, 45.
†††Sahih Bukhari, 4.52.220.
‡"So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear, / Farewell remorse; all good to me is lost. / Evil, be thou my good." Paradise Lost, IV, ll. 108-110.
The History of al-Tabari, Volume VI (Muhammad at Mecca) (New York: State University of New York,1988) (W. Montgomery Watt, trans.), 95.

1 comment:

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