“In you the Church of Christ is alive and free. In her, we move and live through Christ, Who is her Head, and have full freedom, because we learn the Truth and the Truth makes us free. You are in Christ’s Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, when you help someone elderly walk more easily, or when you give alms to the poor and visit the sick.
“You are in Christ’s Church when you cry out, ‘Lord, help me.’ You are in Christ’s Church when you are patient and good, when you refuse to get angry with your brother, even if he has wounded your feelings. You are in Christ’s Church when you pray, ‘Lord, forgive him.’ When you work honestly at your job, returning home weary in the evenings but with a smile upon your lips, bringing with you a warm and kind light; when you repay evil with love—you are in Christ’s Church.
“Do you not see, therefore, my friend, how close the Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church upon you. You are the rock of His Church against which no one and nothing can prevail, because you are a liberated rock—a soul that is fulfilled within His Church… Let us build churches, my friend. Let us build churches from the depths of our hearts ablaze with the light of the Sun of Righteousness, Who is Christ Himself, Who has told us that by faith we are free from sin. Let us build the churches of our faith which no human power can pull down, because the ultimate power of the Church is Christ Himself.”
+Father George Calciu, confessor of the Romanian Church; from Interviews, Homilies, and Talks
In the middle of the night when I have lost my way back to the Land of Nod, I sometimes listen to a book that I wouldn’t mind falling asleep to; that usually indicates one I’ve already read. Recently I chose The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton, which seems to work well enough. It’s been so long since I read it in print, I do hope I might go back and really pay attention again one day. The feeling of exhilaration that book gave me still lingers.
In the meantime, the nighttime stories remind me of my ample supply of quotations by the author that are always useful for the opposite purpose, to make me wake up and think. The one I chose for today is both by and about Chesterton, from a lecture by Dale Ahlquist, which I noted that I’d found on the Chesterton Society site, a lovely place to browse if you want to read more.
“Not only has no one expected him to write about religion in a secular newspaper, he writes about religion in a way no one expects. Not surprising then, that he says religion must be paradoxical. Chesterton was already becoming famous for his paradoxes, and many of his readers and admirers assumed that he was being merely paradoxical by defending religion in general and Christianity in particular. But the jovial Chesterton was quite serious even if he was quite funny.
‘All paradoxers,’ he writes, ‘if they be also honest men, are aiming joyfully at their own destruction. We have paradoxes, and it is our effort, day and night, to turn them into truisms.’ What he is striving to achieve is not the paradox, but the platitude. ‘Every man who is fighting for his own beliefs is fighting to take it away from himself. He may be clever in dull places and important in mean places; but in the land that he desires he will be nothing—a reed with the reeds in the river.’ A truism is a popular truth, a paradox an unpopular one. But they are both true.”
Dale Ahlquist is President of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton and has written five books about Chesterton.
“What, I ask, is the truth of water? Is it that it is formed of hydrogen and oxygen? … There is no water in oxygen, no water in hydrogen: it comes bubbling fresh from the imagination of the living God, rushing from under the great white throne of the glacier. The very thought of it makes one gasp with an elemental joy no metaphysician can analyze.
“The water itself, that dances, and sings, and slakes the wonderful thirst – symbol and picture of that draught for which the woman of Samaria made her prayer to Jesus – this lovely thing itself, whose very wetness is a delight to every inch of the human body in its embrace – this live thing which, if I might, I would have running through my room, yea, babbling along my table – this water is its own self, its own truth, and is therein a truth of God.
“Let him who would know the love of the maker, become sorely athirst and drink of the brook by the way – then lift up his heart – not at that moment to the maker of oxygen and hydrogen, but to the inventor and mediator of thirst and water, that man might foresee a little of what his soul may find in God. If he become not then as a hart panting for the water-brooks, let him go back to his science and its husks. … As well may a man think to describe the joy of drinking by giving thirst and water for its analysis, as imagine he has revealed anything about water by resolving it into its scientific elements.
“Let a man go to the hillside and let the brook sing to him till he loves it, and he will find himself far nearer the fountain of truth than the triumphal car of the chemist will ever lead the shouting crew of his half-comprehending followers. He will draw from the brook the water of joyous tears, and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountain of waters.'”
“I am not myself very much concerned with the question of influence, or with those publicists who have impressed their names upon the public by catching the morning tide and rowing very fast in the direction in which the current was flowing; but rather that there should always be a few writers preoccupied in penetrating to the core of the matter, in trying to arrive at the truth and to set it forth, without too much hope, without ambition to alter the immediate course of affairs, and without being downcast or defeated when nothing appears to ensue.”