The Spring of 2020 witnessed something entirely unprecedented in the 2,000 year history of the Church. Under pressure from government officials the bishops of the world shut down the entire public sacramental life of God’s Church without a whimper of protest, and did so during the holiest season of the year, Lent and Eastertide. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. Under the most virulent Roman persecutions the Church was forced underground, but its sacramental life continued to flow and flourish in the chambers of the catacombs. The faithful continued to be fed in spite of the tremendous risk to life and property. The same can be said during the devastating plagues of the Middle Ages when priests and bishops continued ministering to the souls entrusted to their pastoral care.
In times of great crisis or mortal threat pastors well understood that the sacraments became even more so a necessary and efficacious means of strengthening their flocks against physical and spiritual perils. So what happened in 2020 represents an inexplicable and entirely novel reaction on the part of prelates to a supposed threat, callously barring church doors against their own people ─ on Easter Sunday no less! Rather than working to dispel fear, the fecklessness of many pastors only heightened the tension and enabled manipulative fear mongering by secular public authorities. Something had certainly changed in the general attitude of our cowering prelates. Had they never read the response posed by Peter and John? “Whether it is right to obey men rather than God…” (Acts 4:19)
Christ is the true Light of the world, but there is another, false light which ultimately leads one only into darkness. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world… yet the world knew him not.” (Jn 1: 5;9,10) And the reason it knew him not is because there has always been a competing, mendacious light in the world designed only to lead men astray. In the 18th century vicious pirates would sometimes light a fire at night along some rocky patch of shoreline hoping to lure unsuspecting ships to their destruction on the jagged shoals. Just so, the false light which the ancient enemy of God sets up as a guiding beacon is actually intended to lure unsuspecting souls into ruin on the spiritual shoals.
Such false beacons have taken various forms over the millennia, and one of the more dangerous of these deceptive “lights” has long been Gnosticism. Gnostic comes from a Greek word for knowledge, and Gnosticism encourages the notion that some secret learning or knowledge will somehow provide one the key to success and happiness. It treats the “light of reason” in the same way, as indeed a replacement for the Christian “light of faith.” Reason and knowledge is what will free one from this broken world of pain and evil. Sin is no longer a moral fault but merely the effect of ignorance. Spiritually this is a deadly notion because it deflects our attention away from combating sin, the real root cause of our unhappiness, and redirects the will to fighting other things like poverty and ignorance which are only the symptoms, not the real root of human problems.
This year marks the 500 anniversary of the great revolt of Martin Luther in 1517. Since that time years ending in ’17 seem to portend dire future events, and so it is with trepidation that we enter this 2017, even as a seismic wave of social unrest rumbles underfoot. It was 1517 that saw Luther post his 95 theses to a church door, an innocuous beginning to what grew into a total Reformation, or Deformation, of the Church ~ depending upon one’s point of view. The fight had been brewing for some time but it took this intransigent monk to light the fuse. The West has been living in the fallout from that explosion ever since.
A hundred years later, in 1617, Ferdinand was crowned the new King of Bohemia as part of a deal the Spanish Hapsburgs cut with the Austrian side of the family. It didn’t pan out so well, however. Within a year those saucy Bohemians had thrown the Hapsburg councilors out of a third story window in Prague, Continue reading