TWO TEXAS POEMS

The following poems were written during a trip to Texas. Both, after returning to the Isle of Wight, found a home in Harbinger Asylum poetry magazine, based in Houston, TX.

 

THE PROPHET AMOS IN KATY, TEXAS

The withered top of Carmel
survives another flood

the shepherds cleave to rosary skies
hurled for Goliath’s repose

Amos your voice on the wind
travels for generations
provoked by mourning pastures

the dream cut with shards
from the Calvinist glass

a feasting robe denuded of skin
the seekers go astray

ash reclaiming its nothing
layers reliving their exile
launched with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind

sing, covenant of remembrance
sing, covenant of brotherhood

as fires devour the ribs of their living
this is your connivance with capital

Amos your voice on the wind
travels for generations
provoked by the mourning pastures

I keep in mind the cenobites
who watered seeds of wilderness

in a land plagued by “knowing”
as carts full of word-sheaves

weigh heavily on the broken string of affliction
as another empire’s language
creeps under the door.

 

ODE TO BORIS JOHNSON

Rachel has not gathered your tears, Boris
and you will have to answer to many broken lives

Rachel is out gathering tears, Donald
and the children of Amos hear shepherds weep.

The empire hews its stone, monstrance or sepulchre,
denying the faces of God.

Rachel has this to say to you:
only rivers of justice run free

and she merges skilled prudence with mercy
a child’s melody calling from the hills

we will reign
we are Reign
past the day of your lords

woe to those at ease in Zion
the monk-shepherds blessing
ringing out from Quarr.

Amos in Texas

The Prophet Amos in Katy, Texas

The withered top of Carmel

survives another flood

 

the shepherds cleave to rosary skies

hurled for Goliath’s repose

 

Amos your voice on the wind

travels for generations

provoked by mourning pastures

 

the dream cut with shards

from the Calvinist glass

 

a feasting robe denuded of skin

the seekers go astray

 

ash reclaiming its nothing

layers reliving their exile

launched with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind

 

sing, covenant of remembrance

sing, covenant of brotherhood

 

as fires devour the ribs of their living

this is your connivance with capital

 

Amos your voice on the wind

travels for generations

provoked by the mourning pastures

 

I keep in mind the cenobites

who watered seeds of wilderness

 

in a land plagued by “knowing”

as carts full of word-sheaves

 

weigh heavily on the broken string of affliction

as another empire’s language

creeps under the door.

 

In the prophet Amos I count eight essential, but not exhaustive, themes: (1) warnings against merely ritual religion, (2) warnings against indifference to injustice, (3) warnings against opulence at the expense of the poor and the land, (4) the dehumanising touch of lucre in human life, (5) the role of prophets in the collective, (6) God’s implacable hostility towards capitalism (profiteering and commodification of all things), (7) the ascesis of the prophet’s oppositional vocation, (8) divine wrath against human arrogance and the architecture of arrogance.

The voice of Amos echoes the fearless freedom of the wind, striking hammer blows of the Spirit today. ‘Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek’ (Amos 2:6-7). The structural injustice of capitalism today receives a stark warning from the Judaeo-Christian God. Today’s structures still sell the righteous for silver and the poor for gain. The poetic realism of Amos is a prophetic torch on collision course with the dynamic of dominion, to use a phrase from Pope Francis, which dominates society today. ‘And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the Lord’ (Amos 2:16). The heads of state, military leaders, CEO’s of global corporations, the vultures of financial idolatry – all will be stripped of the vestments of vapidity they flaunt and store.

One is confronted today by the entire theological arsenal of capitalism. It amounts to the ossification of injustice, where humanity is divided by those who ‘oppress the poor, who crush the needy’ (Amos 4:1). Instead, we are called to witness a vivifying, revolutionary metanoia: ‘For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live’ (Amos 5:4). Against the seductive voice of economic doceticism (which whispers that one’s financial prosperity and its ersatz theology of lucre is entirely distinct from one’s liturgical and ethical actions) we must sanctify our lives – and the lives of our sisters and brothers – with true love of the Incarnation.

I believe it is a mistake to think of today’s society as atheist. It has its gods, before which it prostrates itself: profit, careerism, commodification, consumerism, money. It is neither atheistic in word nor in practice. The type of skilled and calculated motivation many demonstrate does not come from indifference, disbelief, or confusion. It comes from the deep seated piety of economic theology: the theology of filthy lucre. It is a system seeking to turn each individual – the more easily to coerce us – into those ‘who turn justice to wormwood, and lay righteousness to rest in the earth’ (Amos 5:7). Amos draws a stark portrait of such a coerced and captive population: ‘They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly. Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right’ (Amos 5:10-12). Amos excoriates elements of systematic sin: denial of free and open speech, forcible extraction of taxes, the institute of private property, the incarceration and murder of many martyrs of justice and the Reign, and indifference to the plight of the impoverished.

The prophet asks each one of us directly: is your faith merely ritualistic or does it fully take into account the Gospel’s precious flower of justice? Does your liturgical activity truly integrate itself with the ongoing Passover it requires of your whole being? Does it transcend an exclusively ritualistic and disembodied note of piety without radical fidelity to the Beatitudes and Maledictions? ‘I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream’ (Amos 5:21-24).

The prophetic sword seeks to cleave even the shadow of hypocrisy, and the distress of dis-incarnation, in two: ‘Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria’ (Amos 6:1). Ease, indifference, self-seeking, spiritual careerism, empty moralism, faith without works, and faith without radical challenges to the class conflict created by capitalism – all are questioned by Amos.

Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat? The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works. Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt’ (Amos 8:4-8). One is confronted by theory and practice which constitutes a rhythm antonymic to the aim of Christian life: antonymic to soteriopraxis, and inimical to the incisive action of Scripture: ‘For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12). And to the Incarnation itself. Ours must be an incarnational antonymicide, rooted in the mercy and love shown humanity in the Incarnation. Saint Athanasius sings hymns of metaphysical realism to the tenderness of the Incarnate Word: ‘having mercy upon our race, and having pity upon our weakness, and condescending to our corruption, and not enduring the dominion of death, lest what had been created should perish and the work of the Father himself for human beings should be in vain, he takes for himself a body and that not foreign to our own’ (On the Incarnation, p57).

Capitalism has its “damned” and its “elect”. It drinks from the well of secularised (or polytheistic) Calvinism. It has its egocentric and immature puritanism (the puritanism of the market!). Many today forget the words of poet Geoffrey Hill: ‘in the half dark of commodity most offers are impositions’. Let us not be guilty of this amnesia. Our examination of conscience and practice should ask the question, are we children of the prophets or children of profiteers?

In such a climate the Christian task – the apostolic charism of all Christians – is to be neither one of capitalism’s “elect” nor one of its “damned”. Both imply captivity, and Christ came to lead captivity captive. Let ours be a soteriopraxis of subversion set ablaze by the fiery sacrament liberty (paschal torch so loved by the apostles!), renouncing and denouncing the laws of filthy lucre. Let ours be the bellipotent[1] tenderness of the Beatitudes, reciting with Amos the lyrics of mystery and vocation: ‘I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit’ (Amos 7:14).

 

[1] Recorded in Samuel Johnson’s 1735 Dictionary with the meaning of ‘mighty in war’.

Poems from South-West France

1. AT LOURDES

Bernadette,
ascesis of anguish,
your wooden shoes
carved the sacred tree

how many waters of sound part the silence?

Knives of stone clarity
jagged prayer of watchful hills
battered Reign, we beg, do not abandon us

to the ascetic night of spiders
drawn in silver webs of grace
flowing outward, beyond

as pain recoils
from love
a last time

saint of severed bone
fingers worn in rosary stream

stations on the way of liberation
we share in the banquet of the broken

 

2. AT THE CHURCH OF SAINT QUITERIA IN AIRE-SUR-L’ADORE

To live this day
in folds of martyring night
where blood loves its soil
spent in the winepress’ brisk rage

your grave to call us home
withering sheen of another’s tomb
your credo white, a poetry of wildflowers,
the lilies’ longing raw: go out in green

sacramental, free, and carve the stone
you would have call you its home

red words engrafted white
down the stairs of Saint Quiteria’s flight
where silence heals beheadings
and doves bury your sister

the way moss psalms its sorrow bright
aspiring to name colours of ancient loves
in the crypt a sarcophagus stays
a hesychia anointing each day

 
3. AT THE CRYPT OF SAINT GIRONS

Saint Girons the martyr’s claw
churns the soil fertile and raw
as the Abbey’s outline plays its tune

and Charlemagne’s moon secures its pitch
adoring plainchant of lily and land
cupped for wine in evangelists hands.

Will I go down the stair unknown
to rise prostrate in martyr’s groves

and will you retrieve the Word-sewn flesh
pining light pure in personified rest?

Saint Girons the bark still gnaws
cut from trees obscuring shores
as the chapel’s outline plays its tune

 

4. AT THE BIRTHPLACE OF SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL

The bells caress Our Lady of Buglose.

Ink filled with Pentecostal glow
baptising the paper on which I write

dry bones ignite
the rain’s incensing wind

small Passover storms
dissolving the riddle of self.

Relics call the fever of dawn
ascesis of light
where faith gnaws its cloth
in the shape of Christ.

Palms of the Way
waters of shade
in prayer-spray’s Reign
I will go and die with him

lighting my loneliness
with Easter’s presence
burning the silence with flames kindled
by knees bent in love

arc of sternum drizzled in blood
fingers crying the severed night

as bells caress Our Lady of Buglose.

(poems from Wildflower Psalms out now via Wild Goat Press)

Excerpt from Wildflower Psalms

1. MEMORY OF QUARR ABBEY

Straying in grass and wild flowers
colour-calls of memory christen
the sun’s harsh rays

rhythms genuflect
and litanies name themselves

returning forms an angelus
in the grasshopper’s strum
in the glass shudder of flies’ wings

all in all: prep the knot

the matte of body under wind-shivered monstrance,
maize-heads gaunt and poised

the orchard of Quarr a decade ago
pear-bronze in its autumn nest

2. ISLAND ELEGY

Basilic bone braves the river
as utopia waters our dawn.
I have lived a lifeless shell
the wind forgetting to stay my course.
Yet the stones in Bayonne guide the wait
Pointing across the ditch.
Hands full of night
the mourning bray our light
the Gospel ruby in sockets bright.
A way has cleared another for freedom
utopia dissolves our dawn.
I have died in deathless wells
if only the words were mine.
And I have seen from Portsdown Hill
the island’s psalm surging white
the spine’s redeeming song so bright.
Basilica uncrowned
recalling fair sea-strewn oak
sands of quarried sisters buried
in cloisters warm with hope.
The island’s psalm surging white
The island’s song a sun-robed night.

3. TRACES OF THE REIGN

fog like incense on the fields this morning
maize heads rise like monstrances

traces of the Reign
in seed-dark beds

all is mission

traces of the rain
in moss-barbed thread

pilgrims lie in wait for thunder

traces of the reign
in sin-dark bread

pilgrims astride the waiting storm
to you a scent of jaundiced vine

faces of the Reign
in seed-dark beds

flowers of liberation in the soil of death

fog like incense on the fields this morning
maize heads rise like monstrances

(poems from Wildflower Psalms out now via Wild Goat Press)

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LAZARUS AND CHRISTIAN FAITH

In Chichester cathedral stands a Romanesque sculpture of the Raising of Lazarus. Looking at it became a meditation on the nature of Christian faith. To me it conveys the grave responsibility of the Christian calling. The shape of Lazarus suggesting birth, rebirth, baptism, resurrection. He is inscribed in the tension of human life. Each human person bears within them sacramental wombs of liberation (some licit and others illicit). Here the spirit bears witness to the conflict between grace and sin, fertilised by the former and sterilised by the latter, as it were. The history of salvation alternately suffers and is praised by many permutations; the mystery being that of co-responsibility and refusal. Coheirs in the mystery of life and resurrection – that, I thought, was the Way of Christian life. We all perhaps resemble Lazarus: receivers of life, resurrection (one which touches us), and forgiveness bestowed with gratuity. As an echo – an echo in stone and flesh – of the Incarnation, of embodiment, it also suggests the realism of salvific incarnation: shock, immediacy, awe. All of these are inscribed on the faces assembled here. It conveys an overall sense of being caught – in body and soul – in the inexorable dynamic of grace. One feels the irrevocable pull of apostolic turbulence, the present Gospel insurrection indicated by its challenge to personal and socio-historical malpractice: ‘Therefore if any person be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and ‘be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God’ (Romans 12:2).

Reflecting on the transformative clarity of the Gospel, along with the real presence of structural and collective greed and injustice begs the question: what does the spirit and practice of capitalism mean for Christians? The presence of capitalism in the world signifies two things: the mystery of iniquity and collective sin. Apostolic turbulence (‘they are those that turned the world upside down’!) is demanded of our Christian vocation. We are obliged to be memories of Saint Paul’s words: ‘where sin abounds, grace more abounds.’ We are followers of Jesus Christ, ‘who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’ (1 Timothy 1:10). Ours ought to be a discipleship of soteriopraxis rooted in the present Reigning of God, fearlessly mobilised by resurrection and revolution. Our parresia (fearless speech) parting the waters of cowardice and ill-gotten consent.

Returning to the Romanesque, the raising of Lazarus seems to provide the following insights. Christians are witnesses to the gratuitous ferment of grace and life amidst anxiety, apprehension, unwillingness, and collective self-hatred. The grief-marked faces of Christ, apostles, Lazarus and family are poignant today in the midst of consumer society’s graceless dance of servile sorrow: ‘The joy of our heart is ceased: our dancing is turned into mourning. The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, because we have sinned! Therefore is our heart sorrowful: therefore are our eyes become dim’ (Lamentations 5:15-17). The sculpture includes a touching gesture of benediction, showing all those present as receptors of salvific liberation. This grace interplay between hands, arms, and facial expressions is saturated in sacramental dynamism. It addresses the viewer directly, saying: you are called to be incarnate notes in symphonies of salvific transformation. We must try, every day, to repeat the words of Thomas the Twin: ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’ (John 11:16).

Seeing as one ought not to speak of conversion without having acted upon it, I will here include some autobiographical details. During my sojourn in academic life, the threat of censorship was, during PhD studies, intended to chastise me. I had used irreverent, highly critical, and – in their eyes – heretical language in referring to some of the modern world’s chief idols: nation, state, and bourgeois intellectuals. The 26-county southern Irish state was – and in my opinion still is – an illegitimate neo-colonial entity. It is an insult to what so many republicans lived, fought, and died for. The reality of Anglo-Irish history, far or near, consists of Ireland, particularly the North, being maimed by genocidal imperialist practices and projects. The war in Northern Ireland was precisely that – a war. Referring to the historical experience (and we all know that history is always present and future) of a people as one of being maimed and the conflict in Northern Ireland as a war, was seen as outside the pale of academic etiquette. I had refused the obscene pretence of neutrality. This was the final straw in my excommunication. The work of so many “professional scholars” – if that’s not a contradiction in terms – in my area of research deserves a response of indignation and interrogation. Their crime (sin of deliberate omission) was systematically obscuring the Irishness of Samuel Beckett’s writing, and therefore deliberately (for political, national, and racial reasons) misinterpreting it. So much of it is superficial propaganda for English imperialism. In short, ideologically contrived rubbish. My forensic analysis clearly expressed my view. For this I was called ‘polemical’ and cast out, eventually to be made redundant. A badge of honour if ever I received one. From this experience, one of many similar experiences, I saw first-hand the grotesque corruption of careerism in any and all forms; I was victim and resistor of the mercenary ethos of academic life. The scholarly rigor and contribution of my work was never questioned: it was attacked from the viewpoint of political and financial interests. It was obvious that these forms of greed and selfishness subvert the beatitudes and lacerate the Gospel and do so willingly. From then on I made choices concerning the logical consequence of these events on this basis: ‘No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’ (Matthew 6:24). ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows’ (1 Timothy 6:10). ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God…. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort’ (Matthew 6:20/24). ‘That which men magnify is abominable in the sight of god.’ ‘For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted’ (Luke 14:11).

If my social, financial, and intellectual failures are seen in the pattern of an emerging religious vocation, they all contain a glimmer of the paschal candle. Redundancy, given to me by slaves of filthy lucre, was the crowning of my career. From this grave I arose, recalling Lazarus. Angry, weary, battered. Then penitent and increasingly ascetic. Mortified. Accompanied in eremitic vigil by the harsh ascetic realism of fourth-century desert monk Evagrius Ponticus. Immersed in prayer. Then forgiving. Then changed. Purged. I received Confirmation (no sacraments in 29 years and suddenly 3 in the space of 2 days!). I went on retreat: “to the Desert of Quarr to seek refuge in the ‘honeycombs of holy Scripture’[1] and to hear the Flemish bricks sing the ‘mellifluous name of Christ.’[2] Meditating on the hyssop of humility, I seek cisterns of Truth to carry water of life from the darkness of the pilgrim chapel and from the incisions of light dancing through the Abbey Church.” Certain. Then in a new beginning: loved by the Gospel and fired by the witness it required. The theology of liberation a revelation to me. Awakenings. Called. My calling to a religious life emerged, clear and strong. Renewed in the furnace of apostolic peace and evangelical turbulence.

I am disturbed by the brutal meaninglessness of capitalist society. I refuse to be enslaved by an economic system which is the embodiment of iniquity. I believe Christian discipleship requires implacable hostility towards the natural intransigence of affluence. I believe that to be truly Catholic is to be revolutionaries of the Reign, passionate disciples of the Incarnate God, and living paschal candles of liberation. I believe in the radical soteriopraxis of the beatitudes and maledictions. I believe it is masochistic and selfish to allow the anagogical to torture, through commission or omission, the anthropological…and vice versa. ‘And we have not hearkened to the voice of the Lord our God according to all the words of the prophets whom he sent to us. And we have gone away every man after the inclinations of his own wicked heart, to serve strange gods and to do evil in the sight of the Lord our God’ (Baruch 1:21-22). We Christians – troublesome creatures that we are – are heirs annexed to the Good News of Jesus the Liberator, and to the Immaculate Heart of Liberation which pumps paschal blood through the veins of Mary. Aren’t we called to be veins and vessels carrying this blood throughout the body of the church and amongst the body of the crucified peoples of the earth, which show radical continuity with the suffering flesh of Jesus, still scourged by structural sin and injustice?

Finally, the question I ask is this: are we willing to anaesthetise ourselves and others – through consumerism and its cancerous appendages – at the expense of anathematising ourselves in the eyes of the Good News?

Saint Oscar Romero, bless us all, so that we do not betray the beautiful cross of Christ. May the God of life, the God of Jesus, bless us. And may the Liberator Mary – tender before the shepherds, harrowing to the rich and powerful – guide our steps.

 

[1] Aelred of Rievaulx, Spiritual Friendship, p56.

[2] Ibid.

Fleeing the Tomb

‘So long as domination and protest have not been overcome completely, so long as sinfulness and conflict perdure in history, Jesus will ever remain present as a “dangerous” memory and a point of crisis. He will remain to call our own path into question on the basis of his own historical path.’[1] By conserving its structures of sin, the Western world flees the possibility of encountering the Risen Christ in the Third World’s ‘crucified people.’[2] It shows itself like the women in Mark’s gospel: they were terrorised by fright; they fled the tomb, saying nothing. This is how we appear when we act – collectively and in counter-revolutionary collusion – with indifference, saying no words, carrying no deeds, of revolutionary, sacramental love for our despised and dehumanised neighbours in the Third World.

This callous lack of effective, apostolic solidarity on our part, poses serious questions regarding not only our personal and collective will to communion with the life and path of Jesus of Nazareth, but our will to truth.[3]  ‘”The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again”. But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him’ (Mark 9:31-32). Does this not describe the wound of our situation? How can we presume to know the liturgical and Risen Christ if are not willing to follow the concrete conditions of discipleship in communion with the historical way and life of Jesus[4], who is, at this very hour, in continuity with the crucified people of the Third World, delivered into the hands of men? If we disengage from the Way[5] of the historical Jesus, ‘we should either be failing to grasp the nature of the primitive Christian concern with the identity between the exalted and the humiliated Lord; or else we should be emptying that concern of any real content, as did the docetists.’[6] By avoiding the abstract and impartial Christ – easy prey for ideological manipulation – we choose ‘to adopt the historical Jesus as our starting point….Our Christology will thereby avoid abstractionism, and the attendant danger of manipulating the Christ event. The history of the church shows, from its very beginning as we shall see, that any focusing on the Christ of faith will jeopardise the very essence of the Christian faith if it neglects the historical Jesus.’[7]

Catholicism’s universality, its favouring of the poor and dispossessed, and its epistemology of doceticide, are all spear points of the cross penetrating the old Adamic skull of Golgotha – symbolising our own truncated, partial discipleship – that we may have new and real life as followers of the liberator Jesus, catching sight ‘of the God who saves, the God who liberates.’[8]

[1] Jon Sobrino, Christology at the Crossroads, p138.

[2] ‘The third world in fact has been turned into a Christ. It is what we have often called, from the viewpoint of faith, “the crucified people”….faith tells us that this people with problems, this “crucified people,” is where Christ is really present; it is where he wanted to be’ (Ignacio Ellacuria, Essays on History, Liberation, and Salvation, p34).

[3] Christians in the First World, if faith is to be truly humanising, let alone deifying, must recover a sense of the three-fold engagement with reality spelled out by Ignacio Ellacuria: ‘becoming aware of the weight of reality…shouldering the weight of reality…taking charge of the weight of reality…’ (Essays on History, Liberation, and Salvation, p88).

[4] ‘The historical life of Jesus is the fullest revelation of the Christian God’ (Ignacio Ellacuria, Freedom Made Flesh, p27).

[5] The term ‘way’ carries in Mark’s gospel ‘a specialised sense of discipleship and following a road of suffering’ (R.P. Martin’s Mark: Evangelist and Theologian, p214).

[6] Ernst Kasemann, quoted in R.P. Martin’s Mark: Evangelist and Theologian, p44.

[7] Jon Sobrino, Christology at the Crossroads, p9.

[8] Ignacio Ellacuria, Utopia and Propheticism from Latin America, p55.

REVOLUTIONARY SOTERIOLOGY

With grieving openness one asks the question: is there salvation in history[1]? In this dark night of capitalism’s reign discernment can become malnourished, corrupted, co-opted. With searing honesty Ignacio Ellacuria stated: ‘the coming of Jesus does not appear to have turned history into a history of salvation. It does not seem as if salvation, insofar as it comes from Jesus, has made enough of an impact as to divide history into what came before and after his birth. It might have seemed so when history was confused with Western civilisation and during the ten centuries or more when Western civilisation was dominated more by ideology than by Christian faith. Even then, without denying the great contribution of faith to improving history, we were far from being able to speak of a human history, let alone a divine history.’[2]

Humanity can seem to be mere chattels of sin and evil, possessed by bitterness and hatred, as the enveloping absence of the Reign – and of salvation – continues relentlessly. This attitude must be acknowledged honestly and fought against. Looking through Christological lenses, we may ask: ‘Did Jesus fail, during his mortal life, in the proclamation and realisation of the Reign of God? Did that experience of failure force him to describe the task of realising the Reign in less historical terms? Was it necessary to resort to an imminent Parousia in which a triumphal second coming would correct the failure of his humble first coming?’[3] From fighting the good fight of faith, and from the spiritual trenches of the Lamb’s War, we have this to say: ‘the fact that salvation has not reached a satisfying fullness in history is not a definitive proof of its failure. Rather it proves that human beings, especially those specifically called to proclaim and historicise salvation, have failed in their mission. In the covenant, God’s promise has not failed, but rather humans’ responses have failed.’[4] This is our word of hope, the source of our contumacious tenderness, and our revolutionary apostolic duty.

The theology of liberation speaks of the crucified people of the global South. In the North, society is terminally diseased. Signs of ‘how far history is from being a reign of freedom and of self-giving love’[5] are everywhere. Its populations are both captive to neoliberal capitalism and in a state of collective mortal sin. Western society, after thirty years of this pernicious ideological and economic system (and over 300 years since England made its fatal covenant with capital), is the place of today’s crucified people. What can we Christians do – coheirs of the Reign of apostolic revolution – but unleash the Good News of God crucified and leading captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8), liberating and giving life in abundance? Isn’t it about time we treated these wounds of crucifixion/oppression? Shouldn’t we give spiritual chemotherapy to this cancerous dehumanisation/alienation? Will the risen Jesus then be recognised among us, rising anew even now, in this cruel night?

We urgently need collective coproanalysis (examination of faeces). We in the West have made ourselves into the faeces of capitalism’s reign. Our Christian task is opposing this barrage born of centuries of alienation and dehumanisation, let alone de-Christianisation. Luckily we have a deadly weapon (and it’s one close to the sacred heart of Jesus): the Reigning of God with and for human beings!

Revolutionaries of incarnate soteriology, we must take seriously and make concrete Christ’s word to closed hearts and minds of today’s western human being – ‘Be opened’ (Ephphatha, Mark 7:34). We must build trenches for the Lamb’s War, taking with us all the prophetic words of scripture. To the place that calls itself the “first world”, we Christians have something to say: ‘many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first’ (Matthew 19:30), and ‘all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted’ (Luke 14:11).

Christians ought to become mothers, sisters and brothers of Lazarus, crying out and striving as the crucified and risen Jesus points the Way to God’s Reign.

In this complex dance of grace and sin, life and death, we must keep vigil at the foot of the cross, constantly stirring up hope, liberation, and Good News.

Let us bear witness in our lives to the agapic prophesies falling like lightning strikes of grace upon us, pouring from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and sweeping us up in the transcendental tide of Christ’s own Sacred Heart.

[1] History here is used in the sense of being within time, space, the present, and concrete reality.

[2] Ignacio Ellacuria, Essays on History, Liberation, and Salvation, p185.

[3] Ibid, p186.

[4] Ibid, p188.

[5] Ibid, p185.