“'Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.'" (Matthew 20:21)
Happy Feast of Saint James the Greater! The sons of Zebedee do end up sitting on the right and the left of Jesus in a real sense: James as the first of the apostles to die, John as the last. Long or short, life in Christ is a dying to self and world, for the revelation of unconquerable love in the flesh.
From the first Mass reading: "We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies." (2 Cor 4:7-10)
All authority in heaven and on earth is meant to serve love's coming to be in the flesh, in the body of anguished humanity. Saint Paul speaks precisely of the paradoxical contrariety required for glory to have a habitation in time.
And Jesus brings the paradoxes to their head, in terms of power and authority:
“'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.'” (Matthew 20:25-28)
There is NO authority outside of love--self-abasing, ever-weaker love. No authority at all, the office objectively bearing authority, in the end, notwithstanding. For there is one LORD, and there are not two truths. And so Christianity is revolution and fire. It will burn up every pretension of every one of us Christians, and it will burn up every weapon turned against the weaker.
There is only one true thing urging from the invisible depths, only one Heraclitean fire: the love of Christ (objective and subjective genitive). That alone impels forward, upward, towards universal reconciliation.
This day was once for me a thing it can no longer be, but this fact, like every personal history of tortuous love, only proves the thesis of today's feast: the coming of true love is intricate and arduous, but it comes, along the river of hearts' blood.
I wrote this poem last year for the occasion. It is worth posting one last time.
The Last Anniversary
On the Feast of Saint James
O pilgrim, mark the days along the way,
The art provisioning so whimsically,
Yet modestly, the part that we must play,
Befitting tests spun tragicomically.
Quaff satin-bedded, honest tears that lens
The chalice of the astral morning glory,
And hark the trumpet creeper which portends
That there is life—and it is transitory.
Will you walk with me, and ponder riddles,
Say, how anniversaries can come to end?
The nets cannot be mended, so our little
Time must be for vines left unattended.
It is enough to revel and to mourn
As we process through laurel and through thorn.