Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Joy Delights in the Beloved

This Rock Magazine (Catholic Answers' bi-monthly magazine of Catholic Apologetics and Evangelization) continues to stun me with the quality of their articles.  The current issue (May-June 2010; Volume 21, Number 3), which I had the pleasure of reading today during a 10-hour flight, was no different.  It contained a handful of powerfully written and pertinent articles, and one in particular, like Father Frank Pavone's article When It Is Okay to Disobey from the March-April 2010 issue, was one I could not help but share.

Professor Anthony Esolen's article, Joy Delights in the Beloved, is not yet available on the 2010 forum as of this posting, but below are some excerpts that will hopefully give you a good enough preview that you'll want to read it for yourself.  In his article, Esolen draws on his expertise as the editor and translator of the Modern Library edition of Dante's Divine Comedy to contrast Dante's portrayal of true, timeless joy and beauty (in Purgatorio and Paradiso) with the cheap counterfeit of temporal and material satisfaction that secular society would have us swallow instead.  Commenting on the manner in which secular society seeks to reduce the depthless wonder and beauty of the unique and irreplaceable human being, created in the image and likeness of an infinitely beautiful, good, and unfathomable God, to the level of a mechanically functioning machine, Esolen writes:

If I am right, then we might define contemporary secularism as the cultural analogue to a machine.  Imagine the vast and intricate stainless steel contraption used to print a little "m" on pieces of candy, hundreds at a time, indistinguishable from one another.  There is nothing veiled about it.  It is reducible to a blueprint, frank and simple.  It is naked metal.  It does what it is supposed to do.  More to the point, it does not do what it is not supposed to do.  It will not surprise.  It will not muse about the past...It does not fear the future, the day of judgement...
It is only a machine.  The trouble is that man does not only fashion machines for his purposes; he too often fashions himself after the purposes of his machines.  That is especially true of the contentment offered by the secular state, and its subordinate machinery in the schools and what is tellingly called the entertainment "industry."  If man is conceived in the mechanistic terms, then the best we can do with him is to make him predictable--to strip him bare of mystery--and engineer the public domain so that what is left of his personality will be reasonably content.  What is offered to man instead of the genuine adventure of joy and abundance of life is a managed, planned satisfaction of material desires.
He continues, again contrasting the false joy of the secular world with the veiled and gradually-revealed true joy--a life lived "more abundantly" (cf. John 10:10)--that God, through the person of Christ, offers us by welcoming us into eternal communion with himself.  In Dante's allegory, this welcoming was represented in the character of Dante's beloved Beatrice, who remains veiled to both Dante and his guide, Virgil, as she leads them through the joy of anticipation in Purgatorio to the threshold of the fulfillment of joy, knowledge of the inexpressible beauty of the unveiled Godhead in Paradiso:
But we grow used to treating persons as if they were mechanisms, and the things of the world as if they were inert matter, manipulable according to our wish.  That secularism which reduces one's fellow man to a chemical machine lays bare the natural world, as if the blade of grass were no more than a sunlight-converter.  In such a world turned wrong-side out...we close off the possibility of joy, and our awareness of God recedes into numbness.  The false familiarity whereby we think we know what a star is...is analogous to the demand, among some radical secularists, that God become the object of that same false familiarity, else we shall not believe in him.
and later:
Whenever God shows himself, he necessarily also veils himself, and if we isolate any such showing and take it as final and definitive, we risk falling before an idol, with presumption and despair soon to follow.  God not only must remain infinitely beyond our power to grasp, but, by his love for us and our answering love for him, we cannot wish it otherwise, just as Dante could never wish to come to an end of the light of Beatrice's beauty.
Pick up a copy or subscribe to This Rock to read the full article or a variety of others.  I hope that they will remind you, as they have reminded me, of the unfathomable beauty and depth of our faith.

1 comment:

  1. I will never look at M&Ms the same way again!!

    Wow!! What powerful imagery! I never thought of man fashioning himself after a machine. And isn't that true in our expectations (and judgment) of others. We have ideals of what the "perfect mom" or perfect _______ looks like and if we don't match it, we are failures. What joy when we can let Jesus take those shackles off our feet and DANCE! He didn't make us to be cookie cutters of our neighbors. He made me to be ME!

    Thanks for the great post!