Christmas and Nietzsche’s Abyss

Christmas and Nietzsche’s Abyss


Nietzsche portentously remarked in Beyond Good and Evil, “when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back.” The German nihilist fully appreciated where a world without God was gamboling. For him, no airbrushing the Brave New World. If only his scions were as brutally frank. Bereft of his Teutonic steel, they soak secularism in treacly sentiment. To which honest men shudder. Or should. Which brings us to the luminous genius of Caravaggio, who knew not bottomless abysses but only blazing supernatural horizons.

In 1609 the last great altarpiece was painted in Sicily. Its artist was the Renaissance genius, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, known to the generations simply as Caravaggio. The title of the masterpiece is the Adoration of the Shepherds. It is a strange painting, insomuch as it depicts the familiar Christmas scene with no angels, no trumpets, no human tributes and no celestial light. All the spectator sees is the Blessed Virgin Mary, as a refugee mother owning nothing but the clothes on her back. She clutches the Infant Jesus, who is barely covered by some tattered rags. The Virgin stares blankly into an uncertain future, exhausted in the semi darkness. Her weariness is propped up by an animals’ feeding trough, anchored firmly in the beaten earth of the windswept stable. The adoring shepherds are three baffled workmen not knowing quite what to make of the supernatural episode unfolding before them. Finally, there is St. Joseph, the Virgin’s elderly husband, beholding the entire event with restrained fear.

This Caravaggio Christmas scene is brutally bleak and hard. Aptly so. For Christ breaks forth into a world which has been made brutally bleak and hard by man’s sins. A world wizened by the exhaustions of self-love.

But the master strokes of Caravaggio’s brush place the Christ child at the center of his canvas, announcing to every man and woman, to ever set their admiring eyes upon this painting, that the world’s only hope is Christ, the Infant King, born in Bethlehem. Without him there man suffers only an aching hunger, but never any bread; maddening questions, but never the comfort of answers; wrenching anxiety, but never a blessed peace; a brittle vanity upon vanity, without even a whisper of truth.

When Bethlehem fades from the heart and souls of men, then their starved souls escape to a dead-end transcendence. Look at our culture without Christ. Its men and women, especially its young, seek to step beyond their flattened world by absorption with ghosts, and zombies; with end of the world obsessions and cartoon superheroes. In Eliot’s arresting lines from Burnt Norton, they “distract themselves from distractions by distractions.” A thousand pities—for the true Hero is so close—awaiting them in the unintimidating face of a Divine Child.

Christmas imposes upon every Catholic a solemn obligation: to tell the world that our joy, our answer, our peace and our rescue lay in the humility of Bethlehem. We must tell them that looking anywhere else is staring into the abyss.

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5 comments on “Christmas and Nietzsche’s Abyss

  1. “the Blessed Virgin Mary, as a refugee mother”

    Fr. P is channeling Il Papa. Merry Christmas to all, and God bless Fr. P., but I don’t trust him any more than Francis. I can’t get rid of this memory of him: His July 1997 issue of Excelsis, the newsletter of Christifideles, featured an article by Austin Ruse containing the following horrifying and false statement: “The Catholic Church teaches that even an Aztec priest gutting virgins on a slab can achieve the beatific vision, but only if he has never formally rejected the claims of the Catholic Church, and, in the gutting, follows the dictates of his conscience.” Let that image sink in on this wonderful day, and realize this is Bergoglio, the Church where no one can sin, and all infidels are excused as well. The Infant King came … oh, who knows why anymore? You can walk that “narrow road” if that’s what floats your boat, or you can sleep around, or gut virgins (according to your conscience, of course). Who am I to judge?

  2. Presuming I understood correctly that the priest was the editor of a publication showcasing Ruse’s infamous comment, its having even seen the light of day proved neither party possessed neither the most fundamental grasp of Natural nor Mosaic Law. ( Forget Catholic doctrine since both Modernist “scholars” would have flunked a third grade quiz on the Baltimore Catechism. )
    Such is the stuff of “orthodoxy” and “full communion” in Brave New Church. As Cyprian noted, as long as the most absurd possible contradiction of the Natural Law ( cf., AL’s magic bullet for adulterers “hurt” by being shunned for living in sin ) can get a high five from one of sunny Nuovo Roma’s Perpetually Over-Indulgent Commissions, then what, pray tell, CAN’T be done in the name of “conscience” ??? Where, in the name of Talmudic hyperbole and Charles Manson, will this “dainty dialogue with the diabolical” end? Oh, wait. I know….In Hell.

  3. Formula for Doctrinal Revisionary Success – in Five Easy Steps!
    1. Reject whichever point of settled doctrine and/or Reason itself you “feel” like denying.
    2. Win sentimental acceptance by a Revolutionary Roman power broker. ( Easy-peasy! )
    3. Insert your flaming turd-du-jour into some “official” Roman Revolutionary publication. Just about anything will do, as long as it’s in “full Revolutionary communion” with the Motel 6 Casa Nostra’s inner power circles.
    4. Wait for its “promulgation” via an interview, press conference or in-air mumbling aboard a papal airliner.
    5. Contact various PR firms, public speaking booking agents, leftist publishers, etc. and don’t forget to look into retaining an investment portfolio manager with solid off-shore banking connections ( or South American “ecclesial organizations” ).

  4. Great St. Stephen, Protomartyr, whose Feast we celebrate today: let us hear your holy words and be chastened.

    (Acts 7) 37 It was this Moses who said to the children of Israel, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among your own brethren; to him you must listen. 38 He it was who took part with the angel that spoke to him on mount Sinai, and with our fathers, at the meeting in the desert. There he received words of life to hand on to us; 39 and yet our fathers would not give him obedience. They disowned him; they turned their thoughts towards Egypt, 40 and said to Aaron, Make us gods, to lead our march; as for this Moses, who brought us out of the land of Egypt, there is no saying what has become of him. 41 So they fashioned a calf at this time, making offerings to an idol, and keeping holiday over the works of their own hands. 42 Whereupon God turned away from them, and gave them over to the worship of all the host of heaven; so it is written in the book of the prophets, Is it true that you brought me victims and sacrifices, you sons of Israel, for forty years in the wilderness? 43 You carried about the tent of Moloch, and the star of your god Rempham, and worshipped them, images of your own fashioning. And now I will send you into exile on the further side of Babylon.

    51 Stiff-necked race, your heart and ears still uncircumcised, you are for ever resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your fathers did. 52 There was not one of the prophets they did not persecute; it was death to foretell the coming of that just man, whom you in these times have betrayed and murdered; 53 you, who received the law dictated by angels, and did not keep it.

    54 At hearing this, they were cut to the heart, and began to gnash their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fastened his eyes on heaven, and saw there the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand; I see heaven opening, he said, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. 56 Then they cried aloud, and put their fingers into their ears; with one accord they fell upon him, 57 thrust him out of the city, and stoned him. And the witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 58 Thus they stoned Stephen; he, meanwhile, was praying; Lord Jesus, he said, receive my spirit; 59 and then, kneeling down, he cried aloud, Lord, do not count this sin against them. And with that, he fell asleep in the Lord.

  5. … And the Jews get their revenge on St. Stephen in Wojtyla’s catechism, i.e., the CCC (my emphasis):

    588 Jesus scandalized the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners as familiarly as with themselves.364 Against those among them “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others”, Jesus affirmed: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”365 He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that, since sin is universal, those who pretend not to need salvation are blind to themselves.366

    589 Jesus gave scandal above all when he identified his merciful conduct toward sinners with God’s own attitude toward them.367 He went so far as to hint that by sharing the table of sinners he was admitting them to the messianic banquet.368 But it was most especially by forgiving sins that Jesus placed the religious authorities of Israel on the horns of a dilemma. Were they not entitled to demand in consternation, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”369 By forgiving sins Jesus either is blaspheming as a man who made himself God’s equal, or is speaking the truth and his person really does make present and reveal God’s name.370

    591 Jesus asked the religious authorities of Jerusalem to believe in him because of the Father’s works which he accomplished.373 But such an act of faith must go through a mysterious death to self, for a new “birth from above” under the influence of divine grace.374 Such a demand for conversion in the face of so surprising a fulfillment of the promises375 allows one to understand the Sanhedrin’s tragic misunderstanding of Jesus: they judged that he deserved the death sentence as a blasphemer.376 The members of the Sanhedrin were thus acting at the same time out of “ignorance” and the “hardness” of their “unbelief”.377

    Note that it wasn’t enough for the Jewish pope to once say that “Jesus scandalized,” no. Just in case one might want to distinguish “giving scandal” vs “taking scandal,” Wojtyla continued “Jesus gave scandal.” Blasphemy.

    It’s worth noting the way Our Lord supposedly gave scandal in the light of the Francis papacy: “his merciful conduct toward sinners.” In other words, if you, dear reader, are scandalized by Francis’ pardoning shacker-uppers understand that he’s doing God’s work. Yes, the seeds of Francis are clearly in the CCC.

    But the ultimate blasphemy is in no. 591: The poor ignorant Sanhedrin killed Our Lord in a “tragic misunderstanding.” Yep, it’s a tragedy, like Romeo and Juliet. Our Lord, who dearly loved His People, ultimately failed to give them sufficient proof that He is the Messiah. God Himself, therefore, knowingly walked into a group who would mistakenly put Him to death. He let His people mistakenly murder Him.

    The consequences of this “tragic misunderstanding” are that the Old Covenant was not broken, because Da Jews didn’t realize they were killing their God. Likewise, there is no power to save in the name of Jesus because He hasn’t given the world enough proof the He is Who is!

    Poor St. Stephen was soooooo off the mark. It’s good that, after nearly 2000 years, the Vatican Council and Wojtyla finally realized that the Jews acted according to conscience, and are therefore not blameworthy.

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