Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiness and the Unholy Inquisition

Sunday Dec. 4, 2016

         "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" rings the unending cry of the four seraphim surrounding the Throne of Yahweh in Revelation 4:8b. This is the absolute holiness of the One who lives for ever and ever, all-annihilating, unapproachable save for one small doorway at the end of a long and narrow path. It's a mockingly small doorway by any worldly measure, just big enough for the faithful to enter through if they grovel on hands and knees with their faces in the dirt. The holiness of the Lamb shines ever brighter as Church history yields ever more to the scrutiny of the present-day Christian conscience. The flashlight beam in the above illustration could represent God's "Holy-Vision" as He looks into the hearts of His human creatures and into the heart of the world we created along with the prince of darkness as its First Citizen. We are each born into many different kinds of ignorance but the most profound of these is the ignorance of God. We wallow in the darkness that is separation from God, and to be reunited with God is to have that Holy-Vision look on us, through us, and at last transform us into a channel for its own singular life. When this happens we become living channels in whom His own delight can manifest --through us-- into a dark world. We become the Body of Christ, the City of God. 

     Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov contains a prose-poem story told by Ivan to his brother Alyosha called "The Grand Inquisitor." It takes place in Seville, Spain during the Inquisition (1478-1834). The Grand Inquisitor, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, has at his mercy a prisoner whose identity is never confirmed but playfully suggested by Ivan (or Dostoyevsky) to be Jesus the Christ returned to earth after many centuries of absence. The bulk of the story is the Inquisitor's florid rant in the presence of a silent yet attentive prisoner. Judging from what he says, the reader learns that this old man, this Grand Inquisitor, is the uber-Pharisee. Arch-traitor to the cause of Christ. A viper from a brood of vipers. An unholy terror in the hearts of many. But why? Why did the Christian Church, founded on the rock of Petrine witness by Christ Himself, suffer such profanation? (Here I refer to the ekklesia of Dostoyevsky's little parable as much as its nonfictional counterpart). So, what happens after the City of God has been dashed against the gates of hell for twenty centuries? How much longer can this go on? In Matthew 16:18 (KJV) the promise given by Jesus to Simon Bar-jonah upon being called as "Peter" assures us that the Communion of Saints will endure the power of hell and the oblivion of the grave. I have seen how the corruption worms its way into the heart of all things holy and godly. This is a war of attrition in the spiritual realms. The unholy fire of auto da fé was the power of hell hungrily consuming the flesh of the Inquisition's most hated victims, the so-called Holy Office's most impenitent heretics. It was an unholy fire in the spiritual realm, striving to quench the Holy Spirit fire first poured out on men at Pentecost. Our God is an all-consuming fire, and it is God's Enemy that has been allowed to make war on the saints for the time being. 


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