Monday, September 06, 2010

In a Fallen World - Knox

WHAT ST. PAUL WOULD TELL us, I think, is that all this suffering is beastly, to be sure; but there is nothing surprising about it, nothing unexpected about it. It all fits in, you see, with the conditions of our life here, because we live in a fallen world.

"We ourselves, although we have already begun to reap our spiritual harvest" - although, that is, we have eternal life already abiding in us through our baptism - "we ourselves groan in our hearts, waiting for that adoption which is the ransoming of our bodies from slavery." We look forward to heaven not merely as a place in which our souls will be happy, but as a place in which our bodies, mysteriously restored to us, will share those conditions of happiness. Man, yes, if you like, man is a misfit, in this imperfect world which is all the world we know at present. Man so infinitely great, whose thought can read the secrets of nature, can sweep the heavens in their immensity, and look beyond them in thought, as he sees in them the hand of the God who made them; man so infinitely great, harnessing the forces of nature and taming the beasts to his will; man with all his splendid works of art, his exuberant fancy, his aspiration towards holiness, his capacity for receiving God. And man, at the same time, so infinitely little. Man, always making resolutions which he doesn't keep, always being blinded by prejudices and aversions which he can't account for; man looking back on his own conduct and knowing himself mean, and selfish, and degraded; there is no littleness like his. All you can say of him, then, is that he, too, is a misfit ... He gets bored, for example - the dumb animals don't get bored ... But man must be always amusing himself, distracting himself; he can't bear to be left alone with his own thoughts. Why's that? Because he is a misfit; he was born for a nobler world than this transitory world, and he lives here in exile ...

St. Paul would tell us that all the sufferings people are having to undergo, all the sufferings you and I may have to undergo, before the thing is finished, aren't really so very extraordinary; it's just the world, our fallen world, being true to form. Man is meant to lives, not in enjoyment of this world, but in hope of the next. All his efforts to settle down and make himself comfortable here defeat their own ends; all the civilization he is so proud of only results in horrible bloodthirsty affairs ... which do their best to turn us all into savages. You can't ever really feel at home in this world until you realize that you're an exile. You can't ever really make the best of this world until you begin to understand that it's only an out-of-date model which has got to be scrapped. That is how the saints have lived; that is how the saints have managed to alter the course of the world's history - by not minding much whether the course of the world's history was changed or not. St. Paul, for example, whose preaching changed the face of Europe; and all the time he was saying to himself, "Heaven! The adoption of the sons of God! It can't be far off now; thank goodness, it can't be far off now! The creaking machinery of this imperfect creation must surely run down at last."

- Ronald Knox

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