Do something politically incorrect every day to stay in shape for the Eschaton. — Fr. Aidan Kavanaugh
The Eschaton, of course, refers to the glorious return of Christ at time’s end when He will judge the living and the dead and will, as David Bentley Hart tersely words it, “judge much of history to be damnable.”
This quote from Fr. Kavanaugh, like many of his pithy phrases that drip with irony, captures the tensions latent in a Christian’s witness to the coming Kingdom of God, i.e. that “normality” for people of faith will always find itself an abnormality, more or less awkwardly out of step and in tension with the dominant culture of postlapsarian (sinful) humanity. Even as the faithful are called to consecrate the world to God, to submit the world to a sustained epiklesis, we cannot be so naïve as to think that the world as a whole gratefully awaits the coming of the Refiner’s Fire.
As with Archbishop Oscar Romero in the moment of his martyrdom, we must realize that the act of offering the world to God for consecration is supremely subversive, dangerous and threatening to those invested in maintaining to their own advantage the world’s disfigurement. Like him, we may find ourselves in the cross hairs of others’ fear, anger and hatred as we seek to reclaim the artifacts of culture — music, politics, business, law, economics, literature, marriage, sex — for the Transfigured One who makes all things new.
Our Catholic theology of the Liturgy proclaims that the Eschaton is, under the form of sacramental Mystery, already upon us, crashing into our world in the Ascending Christ’s falling-like-dewfall Spirit, translating this world into the next by a transubstantiating heavenquake. We think here especially of the Holy Mass, in which the Risen Christ comes to us bearing the entirely of the celestial wedding feast of Paradise, i.e. the Mass is the fons et culmine, “source and summit” of the Church’s mission to make present God’s Kingdom “on earth as in the heavens.” Liturgy thus conceived is what the emissaries from the pagan Prince Vladimir reported back to him after experiencing for the first time the Divine Liturgy celebrated at the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople in 988:
Then we went on to Greece, and the Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty.
But we also proclaim that, by Baptism and Confirmation, every Christian has been rendered into a ceaseless Liturgy, a new creation raised from the watery womb, reborn from above. We proclaim that every Christian has been made a priest, altar and sacrificial victim on, in and through which this world becomes susceptible to the Life-giving and Truth-bearing Spirit of Jesus. By means of our daily fidelities and our acts of prayer, we become for the world a mini-Eschaton, the End and Consummation of all things already now at work in us, joyously threatening with rebirth a world grown old in sin.
The world has become our Cross on which God consecrates. A world-made-Cross represents the threatened, fearful response of a fallen world when confronted with the prospect of resurrection; of a corrupt world confronted with the prospect of incorruption; of a sinful world confronted with the prospect of mercy; of a dying world confronted with the prospect of new life. To be Christian is to be co-crucified with Christ, is to co-confront the world with the prospect of its own restoration, reconciliation, redemption, re-creation and every other imaginable re- that, though it may be judged by the world as “incorrect,” is nothing other than the world’s — and God’s — deepest longing.
But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. — Galatians 6:14-15
“Answer me, LORD! Answer me” — 1 Kings 18:37
St. Edith Stein, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, 1939 (three years before being gassed at Auschwitz), wrote these words (referring to the Nazis) that I will leave you with today. She was truly a New Elijah who brought into the camp of the pagan priests of death the Sacrificial Fire of God.
More than ever the cross is a sign of contradiction. The followers of the Antichrist show it far more dishonor than did the Persians who stole it. They desecrate the images of the Cross, and they make every effort to tear the cross out of the hearts of Christians. All too often they have succeeded even with those who, like us, once vowed to bear Christ’s cross after him. Therefore, the Savior today looks at us, solemnly probing us, and asks each one of us: Will you remain faithful to the Crucified? Consider carefully! The world is in flames, the battle between Christ and the Antichrist has broken into the open. If you decide for Christ, it could cost you your life.