Friday, April 1, 2016

Quo Vadis, Domine?

"The Roman Pantheon-turned-church and the Church of St. Geneviève-turned-secular-mausoleum embody two conflicting stories of the role of biblical religion in the rise of the modern West. Today’s statio illustrates one storyline: the civilization of the West grew out of the fruitful interaction of biblical religion, Greek rationality, and Roman law. The Parisian shrine illustrates an alternative understanding of the Western civilizational project: the God of the Bible had to be overthrown so that men and women could be truly free. The stational celebration at the Roman Pantheon during the Octave of Easter proposes that the God of the Bible came into history as a liberator who calls humanity into communion with him by love, and who demonstrated that love in the Paschal Mystery. A different kind of celebration took place in Paris in 1940: then and there, the Panthéon witnessed the triumphal march of a militant totalitarianism that, having declared war against the God of the Bible, also declared war against reason and law, leaving vast human suffering in its wake. A tale of two cities; a tale of two pantheons; a tale to be pondered in imagining the human future." (Weigel, George (2013-10-29). Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches (Kindle Locations 5442-5450). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.) 

In a very nice Easter note from a longtime and dear friend, the message or bottom line was that through His Cross and Resurrection the victory has indeed been won for us in Christ. Alleluia! The context, as it so often is, was of our failure to embrace Christ's victory for our tendency to be impressed by the wind and the waves and thereby to lose our footing while walking on the water toward Christ Who calls. The desecration of the votive church of St. Genevieve in Paris, as an ongoing scandal and defiance of Christ's Kingship, looms somehow or other large over Easter joy...

Just today on April 1st, another friend here in Bern linked me to an article purporting an accord for the shared usage of a non Catholic church for use by night as a disco bar providing in rental enough annual income to keep the building open for Sunday morning services for an ever dwindling flock. A covenanted desecration, perhaps? I suggested to him that it could very well be just an April Fool's Day joke. If true, where is the victory in such folly? As realistic as the need to pay the light bill and keep the roof from leaking are, these concerns or similar cannot predominate. The proverbial tail cannot wag the dog. Space claimed for the sacred should remain so. Where is the victory, St. Genevieve?

As amidst the wind and the waves, having stepped out of the boat to walk to Christ, St. Peter foundered for fear and distraction, despite the visible presence of the Lord before him, so we risk foundering if we succumb to panic, rage or connivance for all the attacks or threats against the Church and the integrity of the faith which comes to us from the Apostles. We are indeed foundering if we fudge or hedge on His great victory over sin and death, as we play His Kingship false.

The Roman legend goes that St. Peter, fleeing persecution in Rome, encountered Jesus, bearing His Cross, heading in the direction of Rome: "Quo vadis, Domine?" Lord, where are you going? Jesus' response was enough to turn Peter around to face both persecution and his own death through crucifixion. Victory, yes ultimately a resounding victory over pagan darkness and all that was rotten about Rome in that day! The witness to the young Coptic martyrs in Libya tells of the evident serenity, even joy, with which they died, the Holy Name of Jesus upon their lips. It is so that we must understand victory, as once and for all, as absolute in Christ.

The Glorious Cross has been unveiled for us to see and to embrace, without dread of the encircling tumult. May we claim Christ's Victory as our own, without calculation, without compromise.


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