“Viewing the mutilated body of the beloved is the most grief-ridden experience of human existence. It is incontrovertible evidence that evil rules. It is an unambiguous testament that in the end it is not the gentle, the nonviolent and the meek who inherit the earth but the cruel, the violent and the tough. Death and the dark side of reality are always the final victors.
The dead body of Christ lying wide-eyed and open-mouthed upon the ground seems to be not only incontestable testimony that all this is true, but also the most conclusive evidence that the cross of nonviolent love does not save—that the Sermon on the Mount is at best clearly wrong, and at worst, a socially irresponsible misleading of people into paths of total destruction.
It is all over! Period. The person is placed in the grave never to be seen nor to see again, never to speak nor to be spoken to again, never to love nor to be loved again. Never! Never! Never! He or she won’t be back. In the end those who choose the way of the of nonviolent suffering love end up like all others—food for worms. Their molecules randomly are irretrievably spread throughout an infinite and indifferent ocean of time and space. Hope of being again is pointless. Personal existence is lost forever.
One last moment. One last touch. One final kiss. A whispered, “I love you— Good-bye forever,” and then the rock is placed over the tomb. Nonviolent Love, like hedonism, Aristotelianism, stoicism and all other philosophies, is ultimately an illusion without real power to save, a faith without any eternal potential or possibilities.
An occupied sepulcher is no more a symbol of hope than a Nazi crematory. The dead body of Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth, is a stark and irrefutable statement and memory of what violence and enmity do to a life, and that a life of Nonviolent Love is not the Way to overcome violence and enmity, evil and death. There is no more to be said and no more that can be done. There is only memory and unbearable suffering to be endured.
(Excerpt from TheStations of the Cross of Nonviolent Love)
The following video, viewer discretion is advised, contains disturbing and graphic images of real casualties of war.
With what magnitude of overwhelming certainty must the truth—that the will of the Father was to nonviolently love (agape) all human beings always—have been in the mind and heart of Jesus on that first Good Friday, that He would choose to be tortured and murdered rather than live some other truth. It was a truth of the Father’s will, which was so beyond doubt that He would choose to die living it rather than to live by abandoning it.
And yet, almost universally the institutional Churches of Christianity, their leaders and most Christians are indifferent towards that same truth of the Father and Jesus. They are breezily dismissive of it, or superficially critical of it, or mindlessly mocking of it, or aggressively hostile to it.
For popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, ministers, pastors and Christians, who follow the Christian custom of rejecting this teaching of Jesus and raising up as a moral equivalent a contradictory teaching, e.g., a Christian justified violence moral theory, Friday of Holy Week is a dangerous memory, if permitted to be remembered fully and accurately. But, it is not as dangerous to soul and body, to self and humanity as forgetting this truth that the Word of God Incarnate explicitly and concretely revealed for all to see that Friday for their redemption—revealed at such great cost in the currency of nonviolent suffering love. Take Jesus’ nonviolent love of all, friends and enemies, out of Good Friday, and replace it with one of the customary Christian substitutes justifying violence and enmity that Church leaders and Christians now hold and teach as an equivalent way of faithfully following Jesus, and Good Friday and all that it reveals of God, His power and His wisdom does not exist.
One would think that something so irremovable and essential for a phenomenon to exist would be equally irremovable and essential whenever the phenomenon and its consequences are referred to or remembered. But, again, almost universally such is not the case in the Churches of Christianity, in the teachings of their leaders or in the minds and hearts of most Christians. Yet, what Jesus knew with certainty was the will of the Father and therefore essential for Him to live on Good Friday in 33 AD, what was equally essential for the Evangelists to record in the Gospels, and what was essential for Good Friday to even exists, is a non-thought in the minds of 95% of Christians today, regardless of their Church or the place they hold in their Church.
Dangerous indeed is the memory of Good Friday for any institution, religious or secular, built and maintained by the brick and mortar of violence and enmity and all the spiritually destructive spirits that they release into that institution. Even more dangerous is the memory of Good Friday for any human life, Christian or non-Christian, built and maintained by the brick and mortar of violence and enmity and all the spiritually destructive spirits they release into the mind and heart of that human life. Dangerous but potentially salvific. For in obliterating all hope that there is any such spiritual reality as redemptive violence, it unambiguously reveals wherein the hope for redemption lies—the nonviolent love of all, in trusting communion with and in trusting imitation of God Incarnate.
The narrative of Jesus’ Passion and death was the first part of the Gospel Tradition to acquire a fixed structure and, of all portions of the Gospels, was the first to be included as a recited liturgical remembrance. Note it is the narrative of Jesus’ Passion and death that was the central remembrance around which the Gospels took form and that was the primal remembrance of Christian liturgical recital. Note also, it was narrative, and only narrative, tethered intrinsically to the Gospels’ Passion narrative, which was primal and paramount—not theological, metaphysical or mystical expositions of the Passion of Jesus.
Probably a billion Christians participate in the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, the Agape Meal, the Mass, the Divine Liturgy with some remembrance of Jesus’ Passion and death every week. Moreover, billions of other Christians over the last two thousand years have also participated in the Eucharist. Think what the Church and the world might be today, if today and yesterday, Christians continuously heard in the anamnesis/remembrance narrative of the Eucharist Prayer—instead of the verbal generalities “suffered” and “died” as the remembrance of Jesus Passion and death—a narrative of particulars drawn directly from the narratives of the Gospels. For example, suppose that instead of simply “suffered and died,” a billion Christians this week heard and billions of Christians going all the way back to the time of Constantinian continuously heard and pondered a liturgical recital of the Passion narrative along the lines of the following: what would be the state of the Church and humanity at this moment?
…On the night before He went forth to His eternally memorable and life-giving death, like a Lamb led to slaughter, rejecting violence, loving His enemies, and praying for His persecutors, He bestowed upon His disciples the gift of a New Commandment:
“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
Then He took bread into His hands, and giving thanks, broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying:
“Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you.”
In a similar way, when the Supper was ended, He took the chalice. And once more giving thanks, He gave it to His disciples, saying:
“Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins, “Do this in memory of me.”
Obedient, therefore, to this precept of salvation, we call to mind and reverence His passion where He lived to the fullest the precepts which He taught for our sanctification. We remember His suffering at the hands of a fallen humanity filled with the spirit of violence and enmity. But, we remember also that He endured this humiliation with a love free of retaliation, revenge, and retribution. We recall His execution on the cross. But, we recall also that He died loving enemies, praying for persecutors, forgiving, and being superabundantly merciful to those for whom justice would have demanded justice. Finally, we celebrate the memory of the fruits of His trustful obedience to thy will, O God: the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand, the second and glorious coming. Therefore we offer You your own, from what is your own, in all and for the sake of all…
–Excerpt from The Nonviolent Eucharist (1991)
The intentional erasure or hiding or ignoring of a memory or of history always serves an end. It is not possible to envision any spiritual advantage or to find any good end that is served by truncating the Eucharistic Passion narrative down to “suffered and died.” Such an extremist shrinking of the narrative of Jesus’ Passion all but converts the Eucharistic anamnesis into a liturgical instrument of amnesia.
Holy Thursday of Holy Week is a dangerous memory because it is the memory of the institution of the Eucharistic with its two commands: “Do this in memory of me,” and the “new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.” If the memory of me is bowdlerized, then the content and meaning of the new commandment will be correspondingly bowdlerized. And, the consequence of this interconnected and interactive bowdlerization will be, in the Church and in humanity, what? Look out of the window or turn on the television!
The insertion by the Churches of Christianity of a narrative of Jesus’ Passion—as clear and as descriptive as the narrative of the Gospels—into the anamnesis/remembrance of their Eucharistic Prayer is a requirement of truth, a requirement of agape, a requirement of fidelity to the Word of God Incarnate. It is a gift all Christians need to receive from the leaders of their various Churches. It is a witness to the grace of the cross that all Christians and all humanity need to encounter in Christian practice.
A third reason that accurate remembrances of Holy Week and of Jesus’ Passion in the anamnesis of the Eucharist Prayer are potentially dangerous memories is that such memories do not look only to the past; they also look toward the future. Acute memories of acute human suffering have the power to motivate people to make life better in the future, especially if the particular suffering remembered is still unabatedly operative in the world. New memories of human suffering or new insight into well known memories of human suffering can reveal the tragic flaw in the taken-for-granted worldview of a group. Pondering the memory of a single suffering person has the power to undermine the prevailing myths by which a secular or a religious society and its rulers live and operate, e.g., the memory of one Third World mother in agony and out of her mind with horror holding her child who has just been decapitated by a First World drone or smart bomb. But, memory must be kept alive for it to have a future and not just a past.
The Church is supposed to be the bearer of the dangerous memory of Jesus, a victim of the violence of the powerful, and by compassionate extension the bearer of the dangerous memory of all the victims of the violence of the powerful across the ages down to this very day. The Church is supposed to be the bearer of the dangerous memory of Jesus’ torture and death that motivates witnessing to humanity by word and deed to overcome evil with good (Christlike agape).The Church is supposed to be the Body of Christ that responds to its own violent victimization in the Way it remembers Christ responded to His violent victimization—thereby breaking the perennial cycle of violent reciprocity, retaliation and revenge by returning good (agape) for evil. The Church is suppose to be that group of people who hears and listens attentively to the anguished cries of intolerable pain of the victim of the violence of the powerful, Jesus of Nazareth, and by the grace of His cries hears, with compassion and urgency, the anguished cries of all the victims of the violence of the powerful. But is this what the institutional Church is?
Do the Churches of Christianity, in whatever nation they may be situated, proclaim the memory of Jesus in such a way that it draws Christians and others into strongly identifyingwith the victims of the violence of the powerful, beginning with Jesus? Or, is the proclamation of the memory of the torture and murder of Jesus by the institutional Churches of Christianity made so metaphysically and mystically circuitous and innocuous that these Churches nurture their Christian people into strongly identifyingwith the powerful and their violent agents, who operate out of the same spirit and myth as their occupational predecessors, the torturers and murders of Jesus?
It’s hard to find a single website which lists the pre-Vatican II teachings on Sacred Scripture. But, contrary to certain popular beliefs, the Second Vatican Council and it’s Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum is not the source and summit of Catholic teaching on the subject!
A long time ago someone commented that the position put forward on this blog (that Christ taught a Way of non-violent love of friends and enemies, and bound His Church and followers to practice such Way) was not consistent with Sacred Scripture. That I was essentially putting God the Father vs Jesus. Which of course is nonsense in lots of ways.
So I am dedicating this post to the question:
Is Gospel Non-violence consistent with Sacred Scripture?
The short answer is yes, of course it is. I’m not making this stuff up, you can read the words of the Divine Lawgiver right here – Mt 5:21-25.
So the question is really, how does a Catholic reconcile Christs teaching of non-violent love of friends and enemies, with the God of the Old Testament.
There are a lot of references, which to an uneducated mind, point towards a homicidal God. A war-approving God. Here’s a few: Gn 6:8; 19:4-5,26; 38:7,9-10. Ex 12:29; 14:28. Lv 10:1-3. Nm 11:1-3,4-35; 14:36-38; 16:27-32,35,49; 21:4-9; 25:9. Js 10:10-11. Ez 16:46-47, 49-50. 1Sm 6:19; 25:38. 2Sm 6:6-7; 12:14-18; 24:13. 1Kn 13:1-24; 14:10-18; 20:35-36; 22:51. 2Kn 1:9-12; 2:23-24; 17:25-26; 19:35. 2Ch 13:20; 21:14-19.
The problem of course, is that the Gospels are conspicuously different. In the Gospels, God is not a perpetrator of violent torture and murder. He is the victim of it. In fact, God in the Gospels expressly forbids it.
So what, did God change His mind? No, God cannot change His mind. He always Was, always Is and always will Be the same. He is the Eternal Constant.
So Sacred Scripture is wrong? No, Sacred Scripture is not wrong. The Prophets of Old were not mistaken in what they wrote. To say that Sacred Scripture can err is one of the manifestations of the heresy of Modernism. It was Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Providentissimus Deus, who beautifully and comprehensively explained the role of Sacred Scripture – please have a read!
As St Augustine explained in his letter to St Jerome, where there is an inconsistency with Sacred Scripture. It is not God at fault. It is not the inspired author at fault. It is the reader. I am misunderstanding Scripture.
For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.
So, for you Traditional Catholics trying to reconcile the Old Testament with the New. Stop. Read Leo XIII, read St Augustine, and relax. The Gospels are the Gospels. Christ is God. His teachings are Gods teachings.
Please, please please listen to this audio file from Fr Emmanuel McCarthy – “Question and Answers on Gospel Non-Violence – What about violence in the Old Testament?” which so eloquently answers this particular (apparent) conundrum:
I will leave you with this quote on interpretation of Scripture from Leo XIII, which is a gem.
The authority of other Catholic [newer] interpreters is not so great; but the study of Scripture has always continued to advance in the Church, and, therefore, these commentaries also have their own honourable place, and are serviceable in many ways for the refutation of assailants and the explanation of difficulties. But it is most unbecoming to pass by, in ignorance or contempt, the excellent work which Catholics have left in abundance, and to have recourse to the works of non-Catholics – and to seek in them, to the detriment of sound doctrine and often to the peril of faith, the explanation of passages on which Catholics long ago have successfully employed their talent and their labour. For although the studies of non-Catholics, used with prudence, may sometimes be of use to the Catholic student, he should, nevertheless, bear well in mind-as the Fathers also teach in numerous passages(41) – that the sense of Holy Scripture can nowhere be found incorrupt outside of the Church, and cannot be expected to be found in writers who, being without the true faith, only gnaw the bark of the Sacred Scripture, and never attain its pith.
41. Cfr. Clem. Alex. Strom. vii., 16; Orig. de princ. iv., 8; in Levit. hom. 4, 8; Tertull.de praescr. 15, seqq.; S. Hilar. Pict. in Matth. 13, I.
So as a last note to you Traditional Catholics, the Second Vatican Council does not have all the answers regarding Sacred Scripture.
Yes, You have to scrape around for the teachings and traditions regarding our traditional teachings on Sacred Scripture, but they are there!
We can much more effectively argue the Inerrancy of Scripture, the Primacy of the Gospels, and many other points, without ever having recourse to Dei Verbum – Thanks be to God!
A second reason that an accurate remembrance of Holy Week and of the Passion of Jesus in the anamnesis of the Eucharistic Prayer are potentially dangerous memories is that memory defines known history. If the only memory available is the memory of those who were the victors, who successfully prevailed, then the very identity of people is formed from the narration of these memories and from the values, attitudes and beliefs the victors and the successful embody and encourage. Generally there is hardly any remembrance in history of the losers, the oppressed, the forgotten, the broken, the victims—like Jesus of Nazareth.
When secular and religious memory is controlled by the 1%, it is assured that what they include and what they erase, what they emphasize and what they downplay, what they glorify and what they ignore in memory, and therefore in history, has as its purpose creating an identity for human beings, which is thoroughly consistent with the interests and needs of the 1%. As Johannes Metz writes, “Selective memory that remembers only the triumph of the powerful and “screens out” the agony of their victims, creates a false consciousness of our past and an opiate for our present.”
Since grace works through nature and not independent of it, the primal experiential memory during Holy Week should be the primal natural phenomena of Holy Week, the agony of the victim Jesus at the hands of the powerful, and by empathic extension the agony of all victims of the “great ones.” But it is not. Such a memory is too dangerous to the 1% of this world, who have built their victories and success on an ongoing, en masse, agonizing crucifixion of human beings. But if memory is distorted, by commission or by omission, to that extent it will distort any spiritual, metaphysical or mystical experience and/or interpretation derived from it.
Martin Luther said of the princes of Germany who were protecting him from the violence of the Church of Rome but who were also being attacked by the peasants they had been brutally oppressing for generations, “It is easier today for a prince to get to heaven by killing a peasant than by prayer.” The memory reflected upon in sermons and homilies and pieties during Holy Week, like the memory presented during the Eucharist, is composed and mediated, since the time of Constantine, by the victorious 1% and their kept scribes. Think about that and the dearth of concern about the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels and His Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies in all the Churches of Christianity today and for the last 1700 years.
An accurate remembrance of Jesus’ torture and murder during Holy Week and of His response of nonviolent love to the violence directed against Him is a very dangerous memory.
It is dangerous first of all because it is a memory that ends in Jesus’ told destruction, with His friends betraying Him, running away and hiding in fear for their lives. All hope that Jesus, the incarnational paragon of nonviolence and nonviolent love was going to bring about significant social, political or religious change in things as they are and as they always have been was—as of three o’clock in the afternoon on Friday of Holy Week—as dead as Jesus. Jesus was dead wrong, the meek never have and never will possess the earth. The violent rule. The default option of all ruling power comes from the barrel of a gun. The violent may tolerate the likes of the nonviolent Jesus for a while but can and will do-him-in if ever they feel the need to do so. As of Saturday of Holy Week, Jesus changed nothing socially, politically or religiously in Israel or in the world. That is a dangerous memory for any Christian who espouses any species of Constantinian Christianity—conservative, liberal or radical.