Monday, February 06, 2006

Church Militant

I came across a passage from the French poet and spiritual writer, Paul Claudel, that I’d like to share. It’s a kind of call to arms for the defense of the Faith—but not only that, since it shows how we have to be vigilant at all times and to realize that we have to fight, in one way or another, for what we believe in, if we are to become strong and mature Christian people.

“It is often by means of the opposition [the Faith] arouses, the variety of resources it must summon in order to stand its ground and hold fast to its principles, and the strength of the resistance it encounters and, one might almost say, provokes, that a passive faith becomes active, takes on form, movement, and expression; that after being dormant it becomes aware and, instead of remaining ingeniously defensive, becomes vigorously and courageously militant.

“Having accepted this criterion, we can say that there is no doctrine more creative, more revealing, more searching, and more quickening for man than our Christian and Catholic faith. Its value lies not only in that deep and intimate harmony with our original nature which it sustains in us, but in its open and determined opposition to what I will call the counterfeit and the idolatrous, to everything in us that is the work of second nature, of weakness, error, bad judgment and bad practice.

“To bring about the conversion of all our faculties, to spread the Gospel to all the provinces of our souls, to put fire and sword to all our savage instincts, to drag the plowshare through this hard and ungrateful soil, to take arms against the monsters of concupiscence and imagination—this is not the work of a day, and, even with the help of grace, it is not always the triumph of a lifetime. It is impossible to be a Christian without effort. It is impossible to bring forth the new man without a painful and often heroic cooperation with the God who made us and who asks our help to make us anew.

“This unremitting warfare that the Christian’s vocation obliges him to wage with the inferior side of his own nature, with the carapace of his own ignorance, and with the ferment of rebellion always seething within him, prepares and arms him for the external arena and for the struggle with this world, which, until it has been overcome and subdued by the Cross, as we have been promised, will not spare us its assaults. Man needs a banner. He needs a cause. He needs a leader. I will even say that he needs an enemy whose incessant activity forces him to the examination of his own actions, the assessment of his own resources, and the mobilization and deployment of his own energies. It is not only ourselves we must defend; it is the idea of a personal God, a superior reality without which man reverts to the beast, and civilization to chaos…

“It is not merely our own lives that are at stake—it is the spiritual salvation of mankind for which we are all responsible in our own way, and in whose interest we can never muster sufficient information, moral force, or supplies for the battle and the sacrifice… Only by becoming men who are fully aware, only by donning the shining armor of our calling, will we realize the vocation that has been given to us…” (Contacts et Circonstances).

Are you up to it? There’s no Church Triumphant unless the Church Militant perseveres courageously to the end and finds salvation.