Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thursday's Post

As last week we considered the Scourging, so this week we consider the
Crowning with Thorns. [See Mt 27:28-31, John 19:2-3]

Again, we must state that GKC barely touches this scene directly, but
his indirect comments are very rich and moving. In this particular scene
of mockery, one is reminded of our Lord's humility, set against our
sinful pride. Perhaps no single essay of GKC is more important for us in
this regard than his "If I Had But One Sermon To Preach" in The
Common Man
, which unfortunately is too long to post here.
But it is a favourite topic. Long before his conversion, he had this to
Humility is so practical a virtue that men think it must
be a vice. Humility is so successful that it is mistaken for pride. It
is mistaken for it all the more easily because it generally goes with a
certain simple love of splendour which amounts to vanity. Humility will always, by preference, go clad in scarlet and gold; pride in that which refuses to let gold and scarlet impress it or please it too much. In a word, the failure of this virtue actually lies in its success; it is too successful as an investment to be believed in as a virtue. Humility is not merely too good for this world; it is too practical for this world; I had almost said it is too worldly for this world. ...Now, one of these very practical and working mysteries in the Christian tradition, and one which the Roman Catholic Church, as I say, has done her best work in singling out, is the conception of the sinfulness of pride. Pride is a weakness in the character; it dries up laughter, it dries up wonder, it dries up chivalry and energy. The Christian tradition understands this... [GKC Heretics CW1:72, 107]
A bit later, in his incomparable glimpse into what should be called "the Philosophy of the Story", he wrote:
There is the chivalrous lesson of "Jack the Giant Killer"; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. [GKC Orthodoxy CW1:253
But does this relate to our mystery? Yes, and here is why.

Read more.

Because in pride we are dealing with the falsehood called a mockery: it is an affront to a Person, and hence even to an image. Remember Genesis 1:27? "And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them."

In mocking the God-Man, the Romans mocked Man also:
For religion all men are equal, as all pennies are equal, because the only value in any of them is that they bear the image of the King. [GKC Charles Dickens CW15:44]
This is no place to expound a philosophy; it will be enough to say in passing, by way of a parable, that when we say that all pennies are equal, we do not mean that they all look exactly the same. We mean that they are absolutely equal in their one absolute character, in the most important thing about them. It may be put practically by saying that they are coins of a certain value, twelve of which go to a shilling. It may be put symbolically, and even mystically, by saying that they all
bear the image of the King. And, though the most mystical, it is also the most practical summary of equality that all men bear the image of the King of Kings. Indeed, it is of course true that this idea had long underlain all Christianity, even in institutions less popular in form than were, for instance, the mob in mediaeval republics of Italy. A dogma of equal duties implies that of equal rights. I know of no Christian authority that would not admit that it is as wicked to murder a poor man as a rich man, or as bad to burgle an inelegantly furnished house as a tastefully furnished one. But the world had wandered further and further from these truisms, and nobody in the world was further from them than the group of the great English aristocrats. The idea of the equality of men is in substance simply the idea of the importance of man. [GKC A Short History of England 147]

If any modern man should say, “You make too much of the sufferings of
Jesus of Nazareth,” it is a strictly logical answer to say, “It might or
might not be too much for the sufferings of Jesus of Nazareth; it is not
too much for the sufferings of Jesus Christ.” If his theory were
true, that Jesus was not merely a human being but almost a historical
accident, then indeed we might seem to be making too prolonged a
lamentation over such an accident. But if our theory is true,
that it was not an accident, but a divine agony demanded for the
restoration of the very design of the world, then it is not in the least
illogical that the lamentation (and the exultation) should last as long
as the world. The sceptic, who is also the sentimentalist, is engaged in
his usual game of arguing in a circle; he is merely saying that if the
Passion was what he thinks it was, it is very wrong of us to treat it as
what we think it was. Certainly, if Christ was not of the very substance
of omnipotence, it becomes relatively pointless to point to the paradox
of his impotence. But we do not necessarily admit we are wrong, merely
because our version of the story is the only version that gives it a
point. That there has been a dreadful and even deadly insistence upon
that point is perfectly true, and for us perfectly consistent; there has
been an everlasting energy in driving in that point; in pressing upon it
as upon the thorns; in hammering at it as at the nails. But we are not
bound to consider the critic who is merely annoyed by the hammering or
puzzled by the pressure, without even seeing the point.
[GKC The Way of the Cross CW3:548-549]
Perhaps this
is the most American of the Mysteries: the first of the famous
self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence ought to bring
this image to our thoughts. Yes, here, our own scalps were torn, our
faces were struck, we were spit on. We deserve it for our pride, but in
His humility He accepted it so we would be spared - if we follow His
Way. It's up to us who "bear the image of the King" - even in America.

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