Monday, August 06, 2007


This Feast day happens to be the day upon which, in 1945, the United States military decided to initiate nuclear war. I recommend this piece for any thoughtful Christian about the difficulties (impossibility?) of reconciling modern warfare with the Gospel. (I distinguiah modern warfare from the highly stylized and professionalized warfare practiced by Christian states from medieval times until either the American Civil War or the Great War.)

What the Apostles witnessed on Mount Tabor is a reality infinitely beyond and superior to earthly realities. This in no way denigrates these earthly realities: Jesus remains recognizable as a human being, as do Moses and Elijah. The brightness of the Transfiguration is compared by the evangelists to earthly realities: the sun, snow, bleach. When we receive baptism and become united to the life and Love of the Holy Trinity, earthly realities become infused with their true meaning, to lead us to blissful union with God and with His creation.

By contrast, the Devil is a Murderer from the beginning and the Father of Lies. Violence and falsehood are his tools against the goodness of Truth and reality. We human beings should be extremely cautious about the legitimate use of force and the prudential withholding of truth in our political lives, lest they imperceptibly bleed over into outright violence and lies. Without pointing fingers at those involved, I believe that Christians should be forthright in condemning the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as totally immoral. This is rarely done because prudential justifications of these actions have taken the place of the 'searching and fearless moral inventory' all Christians ought to make. This rationalizing is especially unnerving at a time when so many on the Christian right (disclosure--this is where most people would put me) seem to think that strength of character is demonstrated by a willingness to threaten violence--aka bombing Mecca and Medinah--rather than suffering for the sake of Truth.

In the preface of today's Divine Liturgy, we are instructed by the Church to pray, "He revealed his glory to his disciples to strengthen them for the scandal of the cross." In his Apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata, Pope John Paul II similarly taught that the Transfiguration is an event meant to strengthen us against falling away in the face of threatened violence against ourselves. The destruction of human life is contrary to the message of the glorified human body of Jesus Christ. Do we lack faith in God's power when faced with threats to our way of life? Is saber-rattling really the best way to make the world safe for democracy?

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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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