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Posts Tagged ‘anti-Christ’

In articles on current cultural trends, this poem by Yeats is cited many times especially the verses I have boldfaced: 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.
 
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
 
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I thought of this poem especially in regards to the current presidential election season and the second boldfaced verse:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.
The citation of this verse is used to describe what I am concerned about.  The best lack all conviction because the “wise”, the “wisdom of the world” and the “debater of this age” (1 Corinthians 1) states there is no truth which has existed before you and I came on the scene.  All truth is relative, even the conspiratorial assertion that truth is used by the powerful to oppress the weak. This is the stuff of academia.  All truth is about power as a tool, not as words that guide and enlighten and are, well, true.  Then the worst are filled with passionate intensity and  the passionate convictions are loudly espoused by most of the presidential candidates and the endless cycle of blogging, political radio call-in shows, Facebook posting, articles, TV shows. 
What is the reason for all the passion?
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
The falcon can not hear the falconer, people do not want to listen to any lord but themselves.  What is put into the center?  Our Selves, our feelings, our passions.  We listen only to ourselves. “What is your passion?” is  a typical question which gets out of hand in the public arena.  Note how many times in a discussion we begin with, “I feel…”  and then comes the passionate intensity, as if that is an argument. It is not, it is not a conviction, but only a self-induced assertion. No one wants to say, “I know…”.  Ian Anderson, lyricist and lead singer of “Jethro Tull”, in his song, “Thick as a Brick” nailed it:  “I may make you feel, but I can’t make  you think.”  All of television which one endless treadmill of sound bites, has only one power:  to make you feel…good, bad, angry or sad, and then bend you.  Every commercial creator knows that…and so does the demagogue. With the human self at the center, which can not hold, though man idolatrously thinks so, the result?
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned
As a pastor, I think of “ceremony of innocence” as the Sacraments, rites and rituals of Christ’s Church, His Word to  us all.  Even the Word is packaged as a song to excite the emotions, the self, playing to the self, not singing to the Lord. Is mere anarchy loosed upon the world?  Yes.  Yeats wrote this poem after the end of the horrors of the first world war, “the war to end all wars”.  Then came the next “blood-dimmed tide” loosed:  the Second World War, then Korea, Vietnam, then the first and second Iraq wars and the terrorists’ war (we are against terrorists not a concept, “terror”) and in between too many genocides from Jim Jones to Pol Pot to Rwanda…and now the Islamic Jihadists’ War to unite all mankind under Islam.  They want to hold the “centre”.  Anarchy is loosed upon the earth.
Then comes finally comes the “rough beast” “slouching”to be born in Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Christ, is the anti-Christ, the lawless one, see 2 Thessalonians 2:  1-12.  Today’s Great O Antiphon is the one about God’s Law:
“O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.”
Before he is the anti-Christ, he is anti-Law, fleeing the center to become a law unto himself, the center.  So many so-called churches despise God’s Law but His Law always points out our sin to point us to the Savior, the true and only Center. What stops anti-Christ?  The rulers of this age are always  “vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle”.  This is as Yeats wrote, the “Spiritus Mundi”, “Spirit of the world”. As King Herod was so he slaughtered all the male children under the age of 2 in Bethlehem.  The King who became a child will stop this once and for all in His last Advent, He came in weakness, He will come in power, when, “… the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” 2 Thessalonians 2

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Recently my wife, my mother-in-law and I went to The Cloisters.  My wife and I enjoy thoroughly The Cloisters.  It is a museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.    The Cloisters is a reconstruction of  large segments of abandoned ruins of European medieval monasteries and churches  on the Palisade in northern Manhattan, overlooking the Hudson River. It houses an exquisite collection of Medieval Church art. You can read more about it here.During our recent visit, this painting gripped me:  St. Michael Slaying the Anti-Christ:

Artist: Master of Belmonte (Spanish, Aragon, active ca. 1460–90) Date: 1450–1500 Culture: North Spanish Medium: Tempera and oil on wood Dimensions: Overall: 85 1/2 x 47 in. (217.2 x 119.4 cm) Classification: Paintings-Panels Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1955

 

The portrayal of the anti-Christ is the reason I was taken aback. This is the photo I took of the detail:

P1030224

What is the meaning of the anti-Christ’s body with reptilian arms and especially the leering, grinning faces from his body?

First, this portrayal reminded me of 20th Century Modern as it is akin to surrealism. 

Second, this portrayal is non-Biblical and rare because Michael defeats the devil (Revelation 12:7), not anti-Christ, though, we could say the anti-Christ is  devilish.

Third, it looks as if the figure of the anti-Christ is guiding Michael’s spear into his/her/it’s mouth.

Adding up those 3 observations comes this conclusion: this portrayal is lurid.  One of the definitions of lurid is:  “very vivid in color, especially so as to create an unpleasantly harsh or unnatural effect”.  This lurid portrayal is clearly contrasted with St. Michael, splendid in the whole armor of God, an angel, powerful and resplendent.  Yet, before this, the anti-Christ, sitting in the Temple, saying he is the Christ, redefining sound doctrine was certainly well hidden in his faux beauty.  As the anti-Christ seems to guide Michael’s spear, in an almost phallic way, this foul beast is now shown for his/her/its true colors, but it’s true lurid colors is flesh without spirit and the Holy Spirit, every part of the body leering forth its utterly narcissistic pleasures.  C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, his fiction of letters between a chief tempter in hell and a sub-tempter novice, says this:

“Humans are amphibians– half spirit and half animal…As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for as to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation– the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks”

C. S. Lewis also calls the human body, “those vast and perilous estates” which we think we own and control and the anti-Christ sets up his own religious rule that says, Yes, you do and you can be like God, controlling good and evil.  Like an amphibian with the Sword of the Spirit, that is, the Word of God thrust down anti-Christ’s foul mouth of teaching heresy, he mutates into pure flesh, even grinning from the crotch.  That grin is surely the smirk of our lustful times. The anti-Christ’s message is lawless, see 2 Thessalonians 2:3, that is without the Law of God showing us our sin, so that man can not see his Savior, Jesus, the Son of the Father, light from light, very God from very God (Nicene Creed).  Notice the devilish lie in Lewis’ depiction:  “constancy…is undulation”.  It is not!  Constancy is change?! This is what the whole vain dark world has been teaching and screeching about for along time now.  Constancy is steadfastness in the Lord’s steadfast love for us in Christ Jesus which purifies all our loves: and so:

“The night is far gone;  the day is at hand.  So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 12: 13).

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The Lessons

The Text for the Sermon:  St. Luke 21:  5-36

Signs, signs, Everywhere there’s signs, Jesus said. They are signs about the end, the last day…and the beginning of the new heavens and new earth.  Can’t you read the signs?  Therefore, the Lord gives the disciples this crucial tutorial in reading help for the signs of His coming again. Signs point us in the right direction so that we do not get lost.  The world, the flesh and the devil want to darken the true path of righteousness of faith in Jesus Christ, especially as He is always near to those whom He has saved in Baptism and faith:  you, His Church.  As recorded in St. Matthew, our Lord Jesus refers to the signs as “birth pains”.  As the delivery gets closer so do the contractions, of the heavens and the earth, pain in child bearing:  in sea and sky, in persecutions, in wars and rumor of wars, in all that is anti-Christ.    Signs, everywhere signs…it is the sign of the those who say I AM the Christ that I concentrate.  And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.   First those who come in the Name of the Lord will say I AM, the Greek could be rendered as last week’s Old Testament lesson in Exodus of the burning bush when the Lord said to Moses: I AM sent you, I am who I am.  Then the false Christs will say, The time is at hand.  Don’t go after them.  Luther preached on the Gospel:

” This pertains not only to the Jews, but also to the whole world and, especially, the Christian church, which has been illumined by the light of the gospel. What will be its lot at the end of the world? When once the gospel has come into the world, Christ is saying, the devil will multiply the enthusiasts and the sects, false prophets and false teachers around the believers, so that those who view the world through spiritual eyes will wonder whether anyone will finally be saved. The seduction will be so pervasive and the false prophets will perform such great signs and wonders, that even the elect—were that possible—succumb to error.”

 In fact, John warned in his first Epistle that many “anti-Christs” will come.  Luther was being pastoral:  it will result in those with “spiritual eyes”, that is the eyes opened by Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection for sinners, “…will wonder whether anyone will finally be saved.”  All this begins bit by bit step by step with every accommodation of the truth of Scriptures and the Faith to make it palatable to the public because of being ashamed of the Gospel.  Today’s Hymn of the Day, Built on the Rock was misnamed in the Lutheran Book of Worship, Built on a Rock.  The change from the definite to the indefinite article  seems small but it is significant. This past week the reportage burning up the internet was 2 British comedians who are starting up atheist mega-churches.  In article about these atheist mega-churches a professor said:

 “When we think about religion in America, we talk about oh, belief in God, belief in Jesus, but for a lot of people, it’s the community. It’s the Sunday school, it’s the seeing people afterwards in the foyer or in the courtyard, it’s the having coffee”

“They want that kind of moral community that is about connecting with others and is about celebrating life, celebrating morals and ethics in a non-supernatural context”

 Hmm…it sounds like what goes for church in general in the United States:  a club with singing.  Salvation without the Savior…and no forgiveness, no grace, mercy and peace…no Cross, no heavy stone rolled away and no resurrection, no hope, no faith….just OUR love.  A community built upon our natural affections is like a wagon wheel with only the rim and spokes but no hub, no center, no core, but nature abhors a vacuum. Pretty soon there will be a hub,  Lo, here is the Christ!  And as happened at Mount Sinai, Exodus 32, man makes the golden calf of his desires when he denies there is God: political, entertainment, religious gods to whom we cry, You brought us out of Egypt, out of bondage.  The gods come from the womb of the people. The professor said such a church of the world is for people “celebrating morals”. Will such a religion have morals?  Yes, only the morals we want.  Only the morals that the political elites will permit. Only the beliefs we want.  Yet, it stands in the Bible, All Scripture is inspired by God not just the parts I find inspiring. 

 Jesus taught His tutorial on reading the signs in His last week on earth. After His triumphal entry He taught day by day in the Temple.Right after this, Judas betrayed Him to the chief priests.  Yes, signs, signs, everywhere there are and will be signs…but there is only one Sign which signifies salvation for the world in tumult and turmoil, in fear of the roaring of the seas:  the sign of the Cross.  In His holy body,

“…born of Mary,
That our sins and sorrows did carry,
And Thy blood for us plead
In all trial, fear, and need:
O Lord, have mercy!”

Read, learn and inwardly digest the sign of His Cross. The world’s terror is death, and death is the wages of sin.  Jesus knew the terror: take this cup away from Me, He prayed in Gethsemane. He received the wages of our sin: death and it was not the minimum wage.   All of the sin of the world was laid on the sinless Lamb of God.  All that mankind treasures as gods:  mammon, power, fame is smashed as the nails were driven into Him.  In His Holy Body is the end of the world, the flesh and the devil.  “In many and various ways God spoke to His people by the prophets, but IN THESE LAST DAYS He has spoken to us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1).  “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11) Here, not only the Pastor, but the whole Church in His congregations, you preach and proclaim His death for our salvation, because He died, yes! But more, He is risen. . This is the apocalyptic Supper:  His Body, His Blood.  All humankind would agree love is central, the Cross and His supper is proof of it. 

“Thy holy body into death was given,
Life to win for us in heaven.
No greater love than this to Thee could bind us;
May this feast thereof remind us!
O Lord, have mercy!”

No greater love than this…nothing we treasure as number 1, wealth, fame, power…things do not love. Even family and friends cannot so love, yet in Jesus Christ, love is made alive in His forgiveness, the fruit of faith for the faith of others.  All our idolatries are shattered  around His Cross shown for what they are:  death things, with no life in them. The almighty dollar did not die for you, but the Almighty God did.

 What do we do?  We do as the Lord commands: pray and witness. 

When we are asked to give an account of the hope that is in us, be prepared: know He loved and died for you.  He is the end of the world.  He will come again.  He will give you the words to say, you don’t have to prepare the script of the witness. He has provided the Script:  the Scripture…to invite others to His apocalyptic Supper…and He invites us to Himself daily in prayer for our lives in His Church to proclaim His death and resurrection for us all, the sign of His salvation once and for all. The Apostle’s inspired, God-breathed prayer is mine:

 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you andguard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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