Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending, Andrew Davis & the BBC Symphony Orchestra, 2006.
I watched the movie “Fury” on the weekend. I found it moving and very powerful as a courageous expression of the theme of sacrifice of self for the good of the other, which it faced graphically and unflinchingly in all it’s implications, in a way that “Saving Private Ryan” tried, but somehow failed to follow through on (for me, your mileage may vary).
I found “Fury” to be one of the better renditions of the great Christian story of “Greater Love Than This No Man Hath …”. That theme and everything flowing from that 2000 year old wellspring of love finds no natural expression in the modern progressive human heart. That’s where “Private Ryan” dropped the ball, turning this motif into a tribute to noble humanity without explicitly referencing the source of all nobility in the human creature.
Sacrifice of self is an especially alien concept in a culture dedicated utterly to the glorification of self, even at the expense of the other. If “Ryan” had emphasized this eternal message it would have spoiled it’s competitiveness for awards and recognition which would have jeopardized chances for boffo box office. Of course all the critics disagree with my take – how could they not, as paid shills for secular progressive humanism.
Love, it really all boils down to Love or the lack of same. I believe that most reviewers missed that facet of this gem and, really, why would that be a surprise from the arts and media establishment press. The entire human drama of all history reduced to the choice between the worship of self or the sacrifice of self for the good of the other. The media are all about the worship of self.
David Warren has an excellent little piece here : which ends with:
“Bear constantly in mind this motto, taken from that fine Swiss perfesser of Germanistik, Emil Staiger (1908–88), exquisite commentator on Goethe and others. By the grace of God I first encountered it when still young (in the front of Albin Lesky’s enthralling history of pagan Greek literature); and by a further grace soon realized that it was entirely and unanswerably true:
“The organs of recognition, without which no true reading is possible, are reverence and love. Knowledge cannot dispense with them, for it can grasp and analyze only what love takes possession of, and without love it is empty.”
and so we read in John 2:23-25
“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; but Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man.”
and John 3:1-21
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these things that you do, unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Truly , truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you ‘You must be born anew’. The wind blows where it wills , and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes, or whither it goes; so it is for everyone who is born of the spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can this be?”
Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man, and as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believed in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who has not believed is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.
and John’s 1st Epistle 1 John 2:15-17
“do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (“the arrogance of earthly things” – the Greek translation) is not of the Father but is of the world. and the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
“The evil one”: the devil, is explicitly mentioned several times in this epistle; he is the enemy of the children of God (2:14; 5:18); a sinner from the beginning (3:8); and has the world in his power (5:18-19; cf Jn 16:11).
“The Apostle John writes; ‘You have overcome the evil one’! And so it is. It is necessary to keep going back to the origin of evil and of sin in the history of mankind and the universe, just as Christ went back to these same roots in the Paschal Mystery of his Cross and Resurrection. There is no need to be afraid to call the first agent of evil by his name – the Evil One. The strategy which he used and continues to use is that of not revealing himself, so that the evil implanted by him from the beginning may receive its development from man himself, from systems and from relationships between individuals, from classes and nations – so as also to become ever more a ‘structural’ sin, ever less identifiable as a ‘personal sin’. In other words, so that man may feel in a certain sense ‘freed’ from sin but at the same time be ever more deeply immersed in it.” (Saint John Paul II, Letter to Youth, 31 March 1985)
John writes “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.” The term “world” has a number of meanings in Sacred Scripture. Here it has the pejorative sense of the enemy of God and man and includes everything that is opposed to God – the kingdom of sin. Following Christ involves a radical choice: “No one can serve two masters”; “friendship with the world is enmity with God”. “the pride of life” (the usual Latin translation) is also expressed as “the arrogance of earthly things” (in the Greek translation). The two translations are compatible because reliance on material things leads to pride.
The list of signs of a worldly life which St. John gives in his epistle summarizes everything opposed to fidelity to the love of God. The first enemy, “Lust of the flesh is not limited to disordered sensuality. It also means softness, laziness bent on the easiest, most pleasurable, way, any apparent shortcut, even at the expense of fidelity to God … We can and ought to fight always to overcome the lust of the flesh, because , if we are humble, we will always be granted the grace of our Lord.
St. John tells us that the second enemy is the lust of the eyes, a deep seated avariciousness that leads us to appreciate only what we can touch. Such eyes are glued to earthly things, and, consequently, they are blind to supernatural realities. We can, therefore, use this expression of Sacred Scripture to mean or to indicate that disordered desire for material things, as well as that deformation which views everything around us – other people, the circumstances of our life and of our age – in a merely human way.
Then the eyes of our soul grow dull, and Reason proclaims itself capable of understanding everything, without the aid of God. This is a subtle temptation which hides behind the power of our intellect. The God-given gift of intellect is seduced by temptation and the human mind appoints itself the center of the universe, being thrilled with the prospect of being like God. So filled up with love of itself it turns its back on the love of God. In this way do we fall prey to the third enemy – that is “pride of life” the “arrogance of earthly things”, not as a passing thought of vanity or self-love, but rather as a state of general conceit, and this is the worst of all evils and the root of every false step. (from “Christ is Passing By”, St. J. Escriva)
So, this “arrogance of earthly things” indeed can be seen to have manifested itself in the worst of all evils and the root of every false step. Starting in the mid 1500’s with professors and intellectuals, coming to full fruition in our day. spreading the message of death into every sector of society. St. John cautions thus:
(1 John 2:18-22) Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that is the last hour. They went out from us but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it and know that no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”
… and denies all that proceeds from Christ … and uses Christ’s Sacred Scripture to further his own human (or perhaps inhuman) ends, his own human message. Just look about you at “the world”.