We are come to the end of the liturgical year. We are obliged to remember.
Another enemy of humanity has died. Fidel Castro, like all totalitarian tyrants, besides killing the body, tried to kill the soul. No ideology in the history of the world approaches the body count heaped up by communist terror. Not even close. But it is a thing to consider that the tortured body is merely the beginning of the red horror. [The only more murderous regime is the biopolitics that brutally disciplines the fertility of women through abortion, but both communism and bourgeois consumerism site the female body in that penal colony, exterminating the smallest and weakest human bodies.]
We must hear from victims on such occasions. Let this serve, from one of the premier testaments to the memory of the victims, The Gulag Archipelago, by the prophet Solzhenitsyn: “The Universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it. Each of us is the center of the Universe, and that Universe is shattered when they hiss at you, ‘You are under arrest.’”
Against justice, dark power places in chains, and I tell you it is profoundest violation.
May God have mercy on the soul of Fidel Castro, and show him the mercy he never showed the noble people he tried to crush.
May God grant peace to his victims.
In the lectionary today, we finish a whirlwind traversal of the Book of Revelation. We see the great image of Trinitarian intimacy and healing and physical delight: “An angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations” (Rev 22:1-2).
True to Johannine form, the river here is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
And through the Holy Spirit, all of our wants are met and wounds healed, both as individuals and as political bodies.
We remember that when the fifth seal binding the book of history is broken by the slaughtered Lamb, we see the victims of history under the altar in heaven (Rev 6:9). I say to you there is no question this includes the victims of communist terror. Christ on the Cross identifies Himself with every single victim of injustice from Abel on. The ecclesia ab Abel is constituted essentially by those who have been ground down by superior power. If the comfortable can also belong to the Church, it is only because the victims would have it so. The world goes on by the sufferance of the suffering, and no way else.
Thursday’s first Mass reading was from Revelation 18, in which we hear of the fall of Babylon. This means the fall of the anti-city, the anti-nation, the anti-church, the anti-body, the anti-human, founded on worldly success and the cruelty of materialist luxury (capitalist or communist) and loveless power:
“A mighty angel picked up a stone like a huge millstone and threw it into the sea and said: ‘With such force will Babylon the great city be thrown down, and will never be found again. No melodies of harpists and musicians, flutists and trumpeters, will ever be heard in you again. No craftsmen in any trade will ever be found in you again. No sound of the millstone will ever be heard in you again. No light from a lamp will ever be seen in you again. No voices of bride and groom will ever be heard in you again. Because your merchants were the great ones of the world, all nations were led astray by your magic potion.’ And there was found in her the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who had been slain on the earth” (Rev 18:21-24).
After this we hear doxologies in honor of the justice of God. And who that has suffered unjustly does not yearn for that justification?
But is it too harsh? “Alleluia! Smoke will rise from her (Babylon) forever and ever” (19:3).
I will only quickly note here the indispensable insights of Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr. Besides the fallen angels, hell at least contains also the effigies of each of us, the impossible possibility that is our sinfulness. Each time we sin, we “form” a parody of ourselves, a distortion of the good Father’s eternal vision of who we are.
Metaphysically, of course, evil is privation. But in the flesh of lived existence, it is not metaphysical nullity we experience when we suffer; rather, we feel the existential weight of darkness. The outrage enacted on the bodies and souls of victims is NOT an existential nullity. If a child is harmed, there is an eternal weight to the “thing.” And if there is any love or justice in reality (that is, if the metaphysics of being is real), then that effigy must burn forever and ever.
In heaven, the correlate is the eternal stigmata in the body of the eternal Son. The vulnerability of love belongs to the thing itself. It never disappears. And that yields the imperative of all Scripture, which we hear at lauds today, the only Way that love can conquer all: “Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them” (Romans 12:14).
With Castro, with any person who hurts and hurts and hurts others without mercy, we are confronted with the mystery of reprobation. Our vocation as Christians, our vocation as suffering victims, is to offer our sufferings up for the salvation of the victimizers, so that it is only the effigies that burn, and not a single human. To suffer is the state of divine election, and that election is for nothing else than to save the lost.
It is night. Pain envelops us. But Love is coming. He has promised. Amen. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!