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Archive for December 18th, 2015

In articles on current cultural trends, this poem by Yeats is cited many times especially the verses I have boldfaced: 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.
 
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
 
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I thought of this poem especially in regards to the current presidential election season and the second boldfaced verse:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.
The citation of this verse is used to describe what I am concerned about.  The best lack all conviction because the “wise”, the “wisdom of the world” and the “debater of this age” (1 Corinthians 1) states there is no truth which has existed before you and I came on the scene.  All truth is relative, even the conspiratorial assertion that truth is used by the powerful to oppress the weak. This is the stuff of academia.  All truth is about power as a tool, not as words that guide and enlighten and are, well, true.  Then the worst are filled with passionate intensity and  the passionate convictions are loudly espoused by most of the presidential candidates and the endless cycle of blogging, political radio call-in shows, Facebook posting, articles, TV shows. 
What is the reason for all the passion?
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
The falcon can not hear the falconer, people do not want to listen to any lord but themselves.  What is put into the center?  Our Selves, our feelings, our passions.  We listen only to ourselves. “What is your passion?” is  a typical question which gets out of hand in the public arena.  Note how many times in a discussion we begin with, “I feel…”  and then comes the passionate intensity, as if that is an argument. It is not, it is not a conviction, but only a self-induced assertion. No one wants to say, “I know…”.  Ian Anderson, lyricist and lead singer of “Jethro Tull”, in his song, “Thick as a Brick” nailed it:  “I may make you feel, but I can’t make  you think.”  All of television which one endless treadmill of sound bites, has only one power:  to make you feel…good, bad, angry or sad, and then bend you.  Every commercial creator knows that…and so does the demagogue. With the human self at the center, which can not hold, though man idolatrously thinks so, the result?
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned
As a pastor, I think of “ceremony of innocence” as the Sacraments, rites and rituals of Christ’s Church, His Word to  us all.  Even the Word is packaged as a song to excite the emotions, the self, playing to the self, not singing to the Lord. Is mere anarchy loosed upon the world?  Yes.  Yeats wrote this poem after the end of the horrors of the first world war, “the war to end all wars”.  Then came the next “blood-dimmed tide” loosed:  the Second World War, then Korea, Vietnam, then the first and second Iraq wars and the terrorists’ war (we are against terrorists not a concept, “terror”) and in between too many genocides from Jim Jones to Pol Pot to Rwanda…and now the Islamic Jihadists’ War to unite all mankind under Islam.  They want to hold the “centre”.  Anarchy is loosed upon the earth.
Then comes finally comes the “rough beast” “slouching”to be born in Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Christ, is the anti-Christ, the lawless one, see 2 Thessalonians 2:  1-12.  Today’s Great O Antiphon is the one about God’s Law:
“O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.”
Before he is the anti-Christ, he is anti-Law, fleeing the center to become a law unto himself, the center.  So many so-called churches despise God’s Law but His Law always points out our sin to point us to the Savior, the true and only Center. What stops anti-Christ?  The rulers of this age are always  “vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle”.  This is as Yeats wrote, the “Spiritus Mundi”, “Spirit of the world”. As King Herod was so he slaughtered all the male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem.  The King who became a child will stop this once and for all in His last Advent, He came in weakness, He will come in power, when, “… the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” 2 Thessalonians 2

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