Sunday, 2 January 2011
Order Out of Chaos
I watched a rather fascinating documentary over Christmas called 'Wonders of the Solar System', presented and narrated by Professor Brian Cox, who, quite bizarrely, used to be the keyboard player for D:Ream, the 90s band that gave the World the hit, 'Things Can Only Get Better'. By all accounts, it is an awful song, made all the worse for being the hit tune that ushered in the age of Blair, Mandelson, Brown and the torturous years of de-Christianisation that would be for us a horror movie entitled 'Nightmare on New Labour Street', but, apparently, he was still playing keyboard for D:Ream while he was studying for his physics degree.
When he isn't explaining the mysteries of the Universe to us on the BBC, he's smashing protons and electrons together like ping pong balls at an FA cup quarter final draw at the Large Hadron Collider in a bid to discover the 'God Particle'. Now there is a man who hasn't wasted time! I wish I could say the same thing myself, because I am still really rather useless.
Watching the programme and thinking about it afterwards I was struck by this concept of 'order out of chaos'. Somehow, by methods know only to Him and very knowledgeable physicists who spend their time probing His Universe, God establishes order out of the chaos of Creation. Space, time and laws of the Universe (for surely very few scientists believe that the Universe is without laws) are established, over could have been millennia. Still, Time, in the words of the Rolling Stone's song, was, is and always will be on His side, yes it is.
Yet, so it was and is and always will be with His Most Holy Creation, the Holy Catholic Church, to which Christ Himself is united and will be 'until the end of the ages' and beyond. This should give us great hope in tribulations. We can see the same Divine Hand that establishes order in the Universe at work in the Church's history and we can see it better in history than we can today, even clearer looking back, than today, yes even today when the Ordinariate has won for Christ new and enthusiastic converts from the chaos of Anglicanism. Looking back, even on yesterday, we can see a glimpse of the Divine Hand establishing order in chaos and much like our own lives, we cannot point to the Church and at the same time point to an institution in perfect order and harmony, much as we should like Her and ourselves to be. While there is, structurally and sacramentally, order in the Church, if the Year for Priests showed us anything, there, too, is plenty of chaos! This is because She is a Divine institution made up of human beings.
Blessed Cardinal Newman expressed, through his writings and his prayers, a profound appreciation for this eternal truth, that God uses human weakness and even human nothing-ness and useless-ness in a marvellous and inexpressibly transcendent way. I am sure that Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, when or if he is canonized will look down and think of himself as patron of the mediocre, for though he was holy, his life was not ablaze with miracles and spectacular achievements. The same can be said for the short life of St Therese of Lisieux who, as far as the other sisters of the Convent were concerned, was famed only for being kind, humble and falling asleep at Mass, only to die at the age of 24! Now she is Patroness of the Missions and when she comes to the United Kingdom, thousands queue round the block just to venerate and touch her relics!
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta's story is the story of God's rays of light and grace in the slums of Calcutta. She had nothing but the love of her Master, the Crucified, and yet, out of nothing, out of the chaos and the squalour of the gutter, God's love reaches the poorest and she becomes a beacon of hope in a World in which the light of Christ appears to be dimming, in danger of being extinguished. Out of the chaos of these slums comes order, an Order, the Missionaries of Charity, who devote themselves to the service of the poorest of the poor.
The same can be said of St Francis of Assisi, who was thought by nearly all to be utterly deranged as he begged for stones to rebuild San Damiano Church in a little Italian town, having stripped himself naked in front of his father and his Bishop and dedicating his life to being a little poor man of God. The Saint may or may not have looked at himself and thought, 'Now that was an achievement!', depending on his somewhat unpredictable temperament and yet here we are 800 years down the line and the man has innumerable devotees and thousands and thousands of lads and ladies who have followed in his wake and joined his Orders - Orders born, seemingly, pretty much out of total and utter chaos! Yet now, how we can see the Divine Hand behind it! Did the little poor man of Assisi ever imagine or dare to dream of the splendour of Assisi's incredible Giotto-interiored Basillica then? St Francis, like the founders of other great ordesr, perhaps even more than others, saw himself as just a brush in the Hand of the Artist.
And then we can go back further, to the Blessed Life of Christ and the lives of the Holy Apostles themselves. In Our Lord Jesus Christ was Order itself, for through Him, 'all things were made'. The God who becomes Man enters into His own Creation, a Creation full of disorder and in total chaos, the Prince of Peace Himself is born and where? In the smelly, dirty, poverty stricken setting of a stable, surrounded by filth and beasts, somewhere totally unfitting for the King of Eternal Glory! He lives and teaches in the chaos of a sinful World, a World in darkness that impels Him to the Wood of the Cross, where, nailed and scourged, the Divine meets His own Creation and His own Creation murders Him! 'Where is the order in this!?' wonder His Apostles, nearly all of whom have abandoned Him to His fate out of fear! There He is upon the Cross! Betrayed by His friend! Denied by His own Pope! And yet, three days later, the Apostles and the rest of His Disciples were to be overwhelmed with the joy of the Risen Christ!
Could St Peter, as he hung upside down, crucified, have possibly foreseen the splendour of the Eternal City of Rome, of the Vatican and have imagined that the Throne of St Peter, upon which would sit his Successors for over hundreds of years, stood in such opulent surroundings in its very own nation state!? We do well to remember that, in the words of the Holy Saint Francis, 'God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the base things of the world and the despised, so that all excellence in virtue may be from God and not from the creature, in order that no creature should glory before Him, but '"let him who takes pride, take pride in the Lord," that honour and glory may be only God's forever.'
God's wisdom is greater than ours and that God uses foolish things to shame the wise. That is why, even when we are downcast by our own failures, our own sense of inadequacy, our sins and even our state of life, and yes, the state of the Church, that it is only when the sun has gone down on the Earth, that we can see the stars at which we wonder in awe at God's power! God's glorious stars, created, out of nothing for His glory, were there all along, but we just could not see them yet! God does marvellous and amazing things, much of which remain hidden from our eyes. The Church is already Triumphant in Heaven. Whatever we see in ourselves or in the Church that make us ashamed and downcast, we must keep hope in God, Who alone has the power to create order, out of chaos. Yes, the ways of God, like the ways of His Universe are a profound and impenetrable Mystery! How can we possibly begin to fathom them?!
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