The Inescapable Paradox

1,
Eric Gutkind declares the real situation of Jewish—Christian redemption; he is prophetically angry with all Western heaven-seeking, world-betraying, or Oriental oneness-seeking, otherness-betraying, religion and spirituality=

“The ‘pious’ attitude.. turns the white heat of God into a comfortable household fire. Religion makes God harmless. ..our glorious inescapable feeling for this world was thus made ready to open a hundred ways of escape. But turning our gaze inwards we mistook spirituality for reality. The joy of meeting with God withered before a hateful theology. Religion has betrayed us. It has tricked us out of that miracle of miracles which enables us, when our last hope of escape has died, to.. attain to absolute reality, to eternal meaning, where, not consumed but tempered in the white heat of God we can proclaim that ‘all the ways of the earth are ways to heaven’, and that the ‘other world’.. is nothing but this created world made manifest.

No– we must venture again and again upon that.. meeting of God, humanity, and the world. No one of the three must be tampered with.”
[‘The Absolute Collective’, 1937]

Martin Buber= “If you explore the life of things and of conditional being, you come to the unfathomable, if you deny the life of things and of conditioned being, you stand before nothingness; if you hallow this life you meet the living God.”

2,
We are redeemed by Christ not to be ‘saved’ from the world, but in order to be ‘given over’ to the world. The fire initially in each will finally engulf and be shared among all. The whole creation, through humanity, will be on fire with God.

Christ’s Cross is what makes possible this general kindling by the Holy Spirit which creates the radical and universal brotherhood among humanity. Well before the conclusion of his mission, Christ says he wishes this final conflagration of love in all for all were already ignited, but he also acknowledges that without the love unlocked and released in God and in humanity by the Cross, this universal brotherhood cannot be attained: “There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress until it is over” [Luke, 12, 50].

There is, however, an extreme paradox about the ‘brotherhood of all’ won by the Cross. It is the final unifying of humanity, yet this very unity creates in those with a vested interest in maintaining humanity’s divisions an enmity and opposition which becomes a final dividing off from love’s limitlessness. This paradox has given rise to endless misunderstanding in Christianity, polarising those who think universal love can have no enemies and those who are all too ready to throw away love’s universality for the sake of love retaining enemies. Both these polarised positions, the ‘pacifists’ and the ‘militants’, are untouched by Christ’s redemption. This redemption is universal, yet for that very reason, it has enemies. The paradox is openly announced by Christ. The Cross will open up the possibility of universal forgiveness, and therefore will create universal brotherhood; but the Cross will bring the final sword because this very unification, this very universalism, this very brotherhood, will create division with those who still resist not only God as he first was with humanity but even God as he finally is with humanity, pouring out the most overflowing extremism of love. They prefer humanity’s current division to humanity’s potential unity, because they profit from the former and would be threatened with loss by the latter.

3,
Thus in the same part of the gospel where Christ wishes that the coming of fire to earth, its embodiment in humanity, its transfiguration of the entire creation, were already completed, he asserts the two things about this coming of fire that are a paradox.

[1] The Cross will overcome all division among people created by sin by virtue of how it redemptively and lovingly embraces the consequences of sin. For the Cross not only ‘reconciles’ God and humanity, it ‘mystically’ engenders a new humanity, a humanity totally given up to the radical love which Christ demonstrates on the Cross: a love that carries the weight of, suffers the wound of, pays the cost for, the brother who is loved. This is the true meaning of forgiveness. This love extends to the stranger and to the enemy. It is the most radical overcoming of division of any and all spiritual attempts to unite human beings in all times and in all places.

For a brief time, the early Christian community shocked the surrounding world by the way it lived this new communion between God and humanity, and between human and human. The Fire of Spirit, in bringing the love Christ followed to its extreme on the Cross, also creates as the fruit of that love, a more extreme communal solidarity among human beings. Instead of rivalry and jealousy, class structures, and all the rest of the panoply of Satanic divisiveness so obvious in human societies, human beings suddenly pull together. Rich and poor disappear. Goods are shared in common. ‘Bearing the brother’ keeps people together on the heart ground, showing there is but one heart in which all humans, indeed all creatures and things, dwell in togetherness. This is what Metropolitan John Zizoulas calls ‘being as communion’, and this is where the Communion of the Holy Trinity in eternity comes to earth, and becomes operative as the communion between human and human. If the Cross wins its ontological and existential victory, then this will be mystically evident in how radically people love each other: how far their passion will go for each other, and indeed, how extreme this love will be even towards those who do not return it, or spit on it, or even crucify it. Love that cannot return love for hate, love for indifference, love for contempt, love for opposition, is not love on fire with Christ’s Passion.

St John makes clear the link between those redeemed by the Cross and their manifestation of this in radical love for the brother: “We know we have passed from death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death. ..Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” [1John, 3, 14, and 16].

[2] Second, Christ also says that this new coming of the fire of the Holy Spirit into the world will have a very sharp cutting edge, like a sword, and will initially not unite all of humanity, as is its impetus, but will divide people concerning its unifying thrust. It will do this, inescapably, because it will threaten as never before the most entrenched, vested interest in keeping division going, whether this interest is religious or secular. Universal brotherhood will challenge the selfish ‘nest egg’ by which certain people profit from the Satanic system of division that holds sway in the world.

This is why Christ says, in total contravention of the sentimental and cowardly image of him as ‘Jesus meek and mild’ many Christians prefer to hold: “Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided= three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother..” [Luke, 12, 51-53]. The same point is made with even more force in another gospel: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth; it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother.. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household” [Matthew, 10, 34-36].

These two points, taken together, seem contradictory. They pull in opposite directions. Yet they must remain in tension until the end of time when the universal redemption will be complete; because they also expose more dramatically and more starkly on the stage of history the options of going with God’s ‘mad love’, or giving up on any and all love entirely. This is why the Last Judgement [Matthew, 25, 31-46] is not of individuals on their own [like George or Sally], nor of nation states [like America or Russia], but does pertain to whether whole societies of people in inter-relation with one another ‘person to person’ have lived brotherhood, or declined it. That is the new, and only remaining, ‘dividing line.’ Because of the Cross, there is no longer any limit on God’s love at work in the world, but if people have ‘other fish to fry’, then they create the limit by not answering love’s invitation.

This is where it has to be non sentimentally grasped that the new fire of radical love, and the radical communion of humanity it makes possible, cannot do otherwise than stir up enmity and opposition. Passion has always, because of the heart of stone in us opposing our heart of flesh, had enemies among human beings who take the easy option and go with the lesser heart, rather than go for the difficult option of the bigger heart. But passion, both divine and human, has enemies and stirs up enmity not only because of the split, or duality, in the human heart: our inherent ambivalence towards passion, which divides the heart into the passion of love, faith, truth, opposed by ‘the evil passions’; but also because the devil, though in one sense defeated by the Cross, in another sense he is fighting more fiercely than ever to prevent the dynamic transition from the Cross into Being-as-Communion ever happening. Indeed, despite its brief happening in the early Christian community, that kindling was soon put out, and it has never been rekindled in any Christian Tradition, not East, not West. A few lingering coals, a few flickering embers, is all that remains from that time when the Pentecostal Fire indwelt humanity, and created the Trinitarian Communion as a real communion in the community of humanity on earth. That community was a ‘pillar of fire’ more blazing than the smoke by day and fire by night [Exodus, 13, 21-22] that led the Jews through the wilderness, out of Egypt toward the Promised Land: which is actually ‘the new mystical land of heart’, the one heart ground on which all humans stand together, upholding each other.

Of course this new fire of the Spirit of God that promises to totally change everything in the human condition has enemies! Of course it stirs up human and demonic enmity and opposition! It must do, because Christ’s victory on the Cross makes universal brotherhood a reality. And because it is real, it threatens all those who do not want to change, all who prefer the old divisive order because they are ‘doing well’ out of it, religiously or secularly, and will fight with ferocity to preserve their spiritual or material ‘power, privilege, and possessions’, from the universal brotherhood that would rob them of all that they cherish.

4,
But we must be careful just here, in being non sentimental and non cowardly about Christ’s sword, to not fall into the opposite heresy of many Protestant, Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians. Christ’s Cross and the Holy Spirit of Fiery Love that it unleashes on the world stirs up a new division, but this is not like the old contention in Judaism between ‘good and evil’, nor can it be lived by a Christian as if it were simply the same as that old contention. The sword of Christ is far more complex, subtle, and demanding. That was then. This is now, and now is a whole new ball game. That Christ brings a sword is not in doubt, but it is a new sword and a new fight.

Not realising this has meant that many Christians of an authoritarian and conservative temper misinterpret Christ’s sword as the kind of divine blast the Daemonic God of Israel dishes out to his people the Jews in the Old Testament. But this interpretation does away with the radical and universal love revealed in the Cross: it undoes the victory of the Cross, and returns to a primitive stage of Judaism, where God is first differentiating the road of loyalty to heart passion from the road of betrayal of heart passion, and trying to get the Jews to own up to these two hearts in them, and accept that there are dire consequences to which of these hearts we make first, which we make second.

Even among the Jews, at this relatively primitive stage of their religious consciousness, God will not allow them to separate wheat from chaff in any final dualistic sense. The Jews must choose the heart of flesh, and put up with the heart of stone, rather than just surgically remove it. This is why there is, among the Jews, a lengthy and arduous process of moral struggle between the two hearts, why repentance by the bigger heart over its sneaky ‘back door’ dalliance with the lesser heart is on-going and never ending, and why purification of heart, the ascetic theme, is equally long drawn out.

None of these wrestlings between the good and evil impulses occupying and troubling the heart is successfully brought to a conclusion in a single life, or even in a single generation, but applies to all the people in their communal life, and applies to all of them over generation upon generation. Only at the climax of centuries of ‘intestinal fortitude’ in putting up with the constant clashing of the two hearts in everybody, do the Jews produce a purified, single hearted human being, and this turns out not to be a man, but a woman; the woman they call Miriam, and we call Mary. The wrestlings needed to advance toward singleness of heart prove necessary not so much to achieve justice in society, the ostensible aim, but a different, more obscure aim: that Mary should be overshadowed by the Spirit and give birth in the flesh to the Logos who will bring humanity’s new heart. This new heart promised in Ezekiel comes through the Messiah: it comes in Christ. It could not be reached by moral or ascetical wrestlings of the Jews over centuries of faithfulness and loyalty because it was foreordained by God to be brought by Christ, and given to all of humanity only through his Cross.

This means that the Old Testament Jewish struggle in the two hearts of humanity was itself far more complex than modern Protestant, Fundamentalist and Evangelical, so-called ‘Biblical Christians’, realize. They have not only made a travesty out of the Cross, but they have also made a travesty out of what had to Jewishly precede it to prepare the ground for it. David’s own life is eloquent testimony to the more complex meaning of Judaism. His two hearts, both big and small, were conveyed to the people he lived with to the end of his days. And it is precisely people like David who, troubled by powerful urges going in both directions, at times cease to be able to tolerate the evil in themselves gnawing away at the good, and therefore call out for God to simply kill off all evil doers, and thereby deliver the good doers from their harmful influence. But this external, and dualistic, solution cannot work, since how would removing all the people in the world in whom there is evil help David cope with the evil in himself? He too is an evil doer, despite his burning love for God. Maybe the supposed evil doers also still have left inside them some few flames of love for God? If they are to be exterminated, then why shouldn’t David also be exterminated? Hasn’t he done things just as wicked as they have done?

But it is perfectly clear what David’s sudden blood lust really is. We only fall into intolerance, hate, and Satanic Accusation and moralistic condemnation, of other people’s evil when we are blind to the evil in ourselves. David’s crusade against the wicked people outside him is really no more than his loss of faith in God and in himself: it arises from his impatience, out of which he refuses to stay in his own moral fray, repent, be purified. He wants a quicker solution, a final resolution of good against evil, but this really just means he is tired of the heavy yoke of having to bear his own evil in his own good. So, he goes on a crusade against himself by going on a crusade against the enemies of God= he calls for God to kill them off; indeed, he ends up wanting to murder the enemies of God to please God. He actually thinks this murderousness in his heart–in the name of morality, religion, God–is what God wants, because only in that way can there be a separating of wheat from chaff. Not only Muslim fanatics but many Christian fanatics in America and elsewhere think the exact same. They are stuck back in the Old Testament with David having a bad day and lying to himself it is a good day!

Thus David explodes out:

“God, if only you would kill the wicked!
Men of blood, away from me!
They talk blasphemy about you,
Regard your thoughts as nothing.

Yahweh, do I not hate those who hate you,
And loathe those who defy you?
I hate them with a total hatred,
I regard them as my own enemies.”
[Psalm 139, 19-22]

This is not God’s will, even in the Old Testament; rather this ‘good guys versus bad guys scenario’ is a rebellion against, a failure toward, the more subtle vicissitudes of good and evil. The Daemonic God does not preserve us from the ambivalence to which we are subjected. The point is, this outburst of David, and modern repeats of it among Protestant Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, are precisely attempts to get off the hook Judaism puts us on.

Right next to this false salvation of good ‘from’ evil that David wishes were on offer, is the hint and prefigurement of the true redemption of Christ, for in this same Psalm David discovers that God will go to hell with him, if he ends in hell. This suggests not good triumphantly destroying evil, but good giving itself, in love, ‘to’ evil.

“Where could I go to escape your Spirit?
Where could I go to flee from your Presence?
If I climb the heavens, you are there,
There too, if I make my bed in hell.”
[Psalm 139, 7-8]

The saving of good ‘from’ evil, which would therefore divide them eternally, is not the redemption Christ enacts on the Cross. Love gives ‘to’ evil, in order to effect a transformation ‘in’ evil. This entails that love not only gives good for good, but gives good for evil, ending any potentiality for an ultimate moral dualism of good versus evil. Hence Christ’s third and new commandment, to love as we were loved by Christ, and therefore to love our enemies, which reflects the universal brotherhood his Cross wins:

“But I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other check too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will be.. sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be compassionate as God your father is compassionate. Do not judge and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back” [Luke, 6, 27-38].

The sword that Christ’s long-suffering and sacrificial love, enacted in his Cross, brings to the world simply cannot be understood as anything akin to David’s outburst in Psalm 139. ‘God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.’ God shines his warmth on and gives his healing rain alike to ‘the just and the unjust.’ Christ’s sword is not the old Jewish call to differentiate good from evil in each of us, personally, and therefore between all of us, socially. It pertains to something far more spiritually advanced than that necessary, but primitive, foundational stage of the Daemonic God.

5,
Yet it is a sword, it has enemies who are loved all-inclusively and yet refuse this love because it would ‘rob’ them of either the individual, or more usually the small, closed group, advantage to which they cling. These people do not want love’s radicalism on the Cross, because they do not want the universal brotherhood among humanity it opens the door to. Therefore, the all inclusive love creates division, because there are and will remain people who reject all inclusiveness. Those who want to remain selfish, better off, with the lion’s share or at least in with a chance of getting the lion’s share, want no love that has carried, suffered, and paid for the brother in such a way that all people can be brothers with each other.

This is a fight for sure, but it is a new fight. Given that Christ’s Cross unleashes or releases the new Fire of Spirit creating communion and brotherhood among all of humanity, then this fight has the intensity of being the last throw of the dice by the devil. God has, in Christ, hugely upped the ante, thus to counter this the devil will also go up several gears. His fight to unseat love in humanity will become more vicious, more ferocious. After Christ departs—and he says he must depart [John, 16, 7] in order for the Spirit who will guide us into ‘all truth’ to come—the forces of unity among humanity are far stronger, but equally, the forces that prefer division in humanity are also far stronger. Brotherhood is the new battle ground. To say, ‘all my relatives’, meaning ‘my tribe’, which was the primal way of brotherhood, is no longer good enough; now we must say, ‘all my relations’, and mean everybody without exclusion. The devil and those who unconsciously or consciously fall in with him, are divided from God in Christ, and God in the All-Embracing Holy Fire, because they cling to division among people. They profit from it. It is the basis of ‘big business’ in the world.

Thus the new battle line is not individual good or evil, not even social good and evil, in the old sense. The new brotherhood exceeds the old brotherhood of justice, because it is the brotherhood of forgiveness, of bearing the brother who cannot bear himself, of carrying and suffering and paying for the brother who cannot bear, cannot suffer, cannot pay. It is this new brotherhood that will be at issue in the Last Judgement, when we will be asked if we fed and clothed Christ in feeding and clothing those who are hungry and poor, if we visited Christ in visiting those in jail, if we healed Christ in healing those who are sick. In doing to the least of humanity, we do it to Christ, because Christ’s redemption loves and includes and cares for ‘the least’ in each of us. The new brotherhood has a divine power granted it by the Cross: if we human beings redeem each other on earth, in time, so we are redeemed in heaven, for all eternity. Anyone I forgive, God will forgive. The new brotherhood is redemptive. It includes but far exceeds justice; it is a brotherhood of extreme love that will go to any lengths to include the brother. This is its distinctive mark. We can see many older kinds of communalism, among Shamanic peoples, among Celtic peoples, among the Jews, among many ‘traditional’ peoples round the world, as a prefigurement of this new community of the Holy Fire. But none of these prefigurements were more than a pretaste of it. At the present time many older communities not only of justice but solidarity are calling for a new and even more radical universal brotherhood in humanity as a whole. This is Christ’s doing, and the doing of the new Holy Spirit set to work in the whole world.

Therefore, Christ’s sword stirs up a new and final fight: a fight between the way of human division, at its most entrenched, against the way that can bring all humanity together, through mutual forgiveness, mutual bearing of one another, mutual sharing of all gifts, riches, and life necessities, in order to come through all high and lows, all loss and gain, together, as one people. This is the ‘body of Christ’, meant to be in all the world, not just in the church. But, since some receive and some oppose this new reality of love in human for human, so the way of brotherhood, recovered and paid for by Christ, has real enemies. They will stop it in its tracks, in its eschatological advance, if they can. This new Spirit, leading the caravan of a single humanity, will be increasingly menaced by predators out to derail it, and scatter it to the winds.

The wrong kind of pacifism will allow this scattering to happen; the wrong militancy will play into its hands, working for it even as it stupidly thinks it is working to prevent it.

Who are the real enemies, then?

Christ reveals who they are, at the same time as revealing the way of redemption of the Cross as the love of the enemy [Luke, 6, 24-26]:

“Alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now;
Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry;
Alas for you who laugh now: you will mourn and weep.”

Anyone not making sacrifices for the sake of pulling together with the brother is the enemy of Christ and the Holy Fire he brings.

But clearly, the rich and powerful and privileged in this world, who are full up with good things, and are having a good time because of this, have the largest ‘vested interest’ in protecting the system of human division. Invariably, these people profit at the expense of the most broken. They increase division day in and day out, and make its outcome more and more vicious: they create a vast gap between those at the top and those at the bottom, and the top only secures and maintains its position by creating more and more at the bottom. The laughter at the top becomes the weeping at the bottom; the belly full to satiety at the top becomes the belly aching with hunger at the bottom; the riches at the top become the poverty at the bottom.

Already in the Old Testament, it is declared [Judith, 10, 11]: “For Thy power stands not in multitudes, nor Thy might in strong men. For Thou art a God of the afflicted, a helper of the oppressed, an upholder of the weak, a protector of the forlorn, a saviour of them that are without hope.”

Christ speaks prophetically to these heartless people, the ‘high and mighty’ and the ‘high on the hog’, and warns them how the Holy Spirit will increasingly operate in history. Those who suffer and sacrifice for the brother, now, will inherit great gain later on, when humanity is one and God is in humanity. But those who suffer and sacrifice nothing, at the expense of the brother, will inherit great loss later on. This does not mean they won’t enter the general redemption at the end of time. But they will enter it as a beggar, as someone who sought to prevent what finally benefited them like it benefited everyone else. And long before then, the new Holy Fire will strike with lightning their Tower, to bring it down, and reveal the Pit beneath.

If anyone refuses to make peace with the Common Destiny, then it will war against them until they do. This warring of the Holy Spirit against the citadel of advantage–which is always increasing division and making its outcome more and more costly for some and more and more cushy for a few—will get more ferocious as time goes on.

The other enemy is religious fanaticism because this force, like the rich, operates by the Satanic code of elected and rejected, saved and damned. Since Christ’s Cross overcomes the basis for this duality, the new brotherhood in the Holy Fire of the Spirit contains no such duality within its own ranks, nor does this brotherhood create any such duality against anyone else, including the ‘enemies of truth.’ To fight for the larger unity is not a partisan fight against anyone; but it will commit us to fight some people because these people seek to block that larger unity. How we fight, how we reveal what the fight is for, becomes crucial. In a bizarre but real sense, we are fighting for the enemies of love even as we fight against their resistance to love, for only if love prevails will they and we ultimately win.

But, how do we love the enemy and fight the enemy at one and the same time? This is the real calling of a Christian. The dove and the serpent: or as Zen says, ‘If you meet a poet on the road, show him your poem; but if you meet a swordsman on the road, show him your sword.’

6,
It is a paradox which must be lived. There is no formula for it, no plan, no map. Living such a paradox is entering uncharted terrain. This is the challenge Christians have most funked and failed.

Christ’s ‘love of enemies’ forbids us to indulge in the retaliation of giving evil for evil, and equally it forbids us to fall back on David’s moral crusade of good against evil; it enjoins us to be long-suffering and sacrificial to enemies as well as to friends. But, in requiring this, it also realistically calls us to a new battle ground and a new battle which has eschatological implications, since it will be decisive for the future of humanity. Not the battle of good versus evil: but the battle of love, and its brotherhood, against those who, gripped by Satan,
[1] deny love can do what Christ showed it can do, and consequently
[2] are against the fruit of that love, the universal brotherhood of humanity. These people will want to kill us, because they want Christ nullified due to the change Christ can bring to the entire world. We will have to fight them, even as we love them; they must know what sword is pointed at them, so they can also know what Cross is prepared to die for them.

Alas for those who will not be kindled by love personally; alas for them because this justifies them in refusing to work for love’s spreading abroad, and being kindled communally. Alas for those who deny communion, and try to get ahead, for themselves or their limited family or class or group or nation, alone.

But, in receiving the New Fire, we must never forget what it asks each of us to give up and let go, even as we challenge the world that will give nothing up and let nothing go. Yet, its greater and deeper calling is what it will ‘do’ and how far it will go for love. A Christian who does not love the world in this redemptive way is not redeemed.

For in reality redemption is not complete in any person, and certainly not in the church, until the entire world is redeemed.

The desert ascetic who wanted to give his body to a leper was being redeemed. The desert ascetic who would not join in a general accusing of one of the brothers but threw a veil over the man’s sins was being redeemed. The desert ascetic who took the blame for the sins of another brother was being redeemed. In these examples, Christianity was not in vain. Nor was it vain in Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood against the Nazis and paid the price for it, as did Mother Maria Skobtsova.

Christ is the ultimate courage. Christians have dishonoured Christ by their fear, timidity, irresolution, lying about this by pretending it is a ‘gentle’ love. It is nothing of the sort. It is simply out and out cowardice. Fear of their own heart becomes a boundless fear of the heart of the world. Because Christ’s victory is not subjectively alive in their heart they imagine Christ’s victory can have no objective life in the heart of the world: because they have not allowed Christ to conquer in their depths, they have no faith he can conquer in the depths of the world.

Christ tries to encourage us not to be crippled by this double-sided fear. ‘Be of good cheer’ he says, telling us not simply to be strong, but to have trust everything is just as it must be. Our fear is understandable, but by virtue of Christ’s life and deed, it is simply no longer applicable, no longer accurate. Christ has already redeemed the world, and by virtue of that, redeemed each one of us. We have to act on this to discover its truth, buried deep within our heart, and buried deep within the heart of the world.

The world’s depth seems more fearful than our own depth because we can say ‘yay or nay’ for ourselves, but pronouncing yay or nay for the world is different. Yet even in our deepest struggle the world’s deepest struggle is implicated: our heart contains all the people we love, our heart carries all the good and ill, all the gifts and poison, of the world. The world affects the way things are in our depths: and we affect the way things are in the world’s depths. What we are and what we have not become has influenced the world, even as what the world is and has not become has influenced us.

The world is deeply in us, we are deeply in the world.

To be redeemed in our depth is already the beginning of the redemption of the depth of the world.

Christ asks us to complete it, to finish in the world’s deep heart what he began in our deep heart.

It is deep to deep. God, humanity, world, in an unbreakable trinity.

Redemption does not proceed from above to below, but from below it springs up and out: it resurrects the world.

The resurrected life has passed through and includes death, conquering it in a fair existential test; the resurrected heaven has passed through and includes hell, conquering it in a fair existential test; the resurrected fullness has passed through and includes emptiness, conquering it in a fair existential test. Mystically, the aliveness of life is marked but not limited by death; mystically, the heavenliness of heaven is marked but not limited by hell; mystically, the abundance of fullness is marked but not limited by emptiness. This is visible in the faces on Eastern Orthodox Christian icons– the dark is still there but has given birth to light; the ashes are still there but has given birth to flame. Through death, life; through hell, heaven; through emptiness, fullness. This mystical paradox, born from existential danger and strife, will finally command all the world as well as commanding the human heart.

This is what we must stake ourselves on, as we reach out passionately to the world, for the world is also staked on it.

The world’s depth is a place where all roads cross, and all things, creatures, persons, influence each other, tempt each other, affect each other, for ill and for good; it is a place where we all make each other’s burdens heavier or lighten them. Christ plumbed this deep place, which is so very old in the world, and he plumbed it in full. He took it on in full, he was wounded by it in full, and this wound planted a seed in it and changed it, from the very origin of its depth. This seed is the future: the working through, and coming to fruition, of what the redemption in the depth accomplished for all the world. Christ went all the way. He passed through the dark night, he passed through the burning day. He crossed the water, he crossed the fire. He came through, and because he came through, so we will the world, past, present, future, beginning and end. Christ’s deed is personal, social, cosmic.

Without faith in the power of Christ in our depths and in the world’s depths, we fear too severely to ever become Christ’s Cross, and Christ’s sword, working redemptively in the world. We must love it all inclusively, but that commits us to fight the forces in the world in thrall to a way of ultimate exclusion.

It is not enough to believe Christ ‘redeemed me’; he redeemed the world, and redeemed me as a part, a vital part, but still only a part, of the world.

He came through, to restore the world’s innocent beginning; he came through, to open up the road to the future which will be the world’s holy end. This is the future the devil will try to derail and stop. It is for this future, of the whole world and of all humanity, that our most severe fight with the devil must be faced. The devil is going to be taken down in the world, for the world.

Christ cleared a path for us in the world. On this path, he is always with us, even if we do not realise it. As we struggle in the world’s death that might become life, as we struggle in the world’s hell that might become heaven, as we struggle in the world’s emptiness that might become fullness, Christ is with us. As we fight, and as we make sacrifice, Christ is in us.

Christ knows that our fear, in extremis, is the crippling fear of the devil, who is our sworn enemy. We sense that if we really put our head above the parapet, if we really make a move, for Christ in the world, then the devil will fiercely and savagely stalk us, very personally. Thus did the devil threaten me in my early twenties when I had received a vision showing Satan enthroned as Christ in western Christianity, especially in America, but in all Christianity more or less. It is already fearful to take on the devil in our depths, but it is more terrifying to take on the devil in the depths of the world. In the former we have to trust our own heart, but in the latter we have to trust the hearts of all other people. Though the devil tries to undermine those who are in their hearts being redeemed by Christ, his real ferocity is directed at anyone who, having tasted redemption in their depths, follows in Christ’s footsteps in bringing this redemption to the famished depths of the world. These people the devil punishes like no others. He tries in this manner to intimidate and break them, to cause them to turn back.

In the depths, Christ has already defeated Satan in a fair fight. If we will stand from these depths, and rely on Christ’s help, we will prevail over the devil. Christ has not suppressed the devil but cut off the devil’s power at origin. If we follow Christ, we can do this. The devil will still have his day, we will be punished by that aspect of the world still taken over by him, whether it be the religious authority, the political authority, or the people become a rabble. But this won’t cause us to give in and give up. It will not stop us. “Jacob’s heart fainted, but his spirit recovered” [Genesis, 45, 26-27].

Christ has intervened in the world at the 11th hour. But if we do not believe this, and entrust our whole existence in the world to it, then because we know the devil is ‘out there’, so we do nothing about what is ‘between’ all human beings, socially, communally, culturally, politically. We let the world ‘go to the devil.’ The devil wants the world. If the devil ends up possessing the world, then Christ’s Cross, and Descent into death and hell, will have been in vain.

It is not in vain.

It is time Christians stopped acting as if it were in vain.

It is those genuinely tasting redemption deep in themselves who will be required to carry the heaviest load for the redemption beyond themselves deep in the world. The first is made last, the greatest is made least, the leader is made servant. You will cry the tears the world cannot weep; you will pay for what is too costly for the world. To those given most, from them most is required. This should be universally, always and everywhere, the way of Christians toward the world.

People throw up their arms in resignation at the fact which no one can miss: little by little death and hell and the void are claiming the world’s abyss, and life, truth, wisdom, being expelled from it. But Christians fail to acknowledge that this fight in the world for the world is being lost because they won’t follow Christ into the fray, and do in that fray what he did. They care only for their personal life and want that ‘saved’– they care little for the communal life of the world. But this stance is not worthy of Christ– no personal life will be secure and well unless the communal life of the world is secure and well. It is the new brotherhood of communion, or it is increasing division. For the Christian, it can only be all or nothing.

We fear the devil is right: ‘it is impossible’, he tells us. ‘The load on the poor human heart is too much’, he whispers. We are not up to that, we conclude, and then pretend to be puzzled why death and hell and the void continue to increasingly ravage the world.

Anyone who steps up, takes it on, and sees it through, for the redeeming of the world, is of Christ, whether they call themselves Christians or not. Anyone who does not do this, whether the reason is wanting the advantage of being materially rich at the disadvantage of the poor, or wanting the advantage of being saved at the disadvantage of the damned, is not of Christ. The former will sneer at Christ, but the latter will rush to Christ, saying ‘Lord, Lord’, and he will say to them, ‘Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, is following me, and to you I say, I do not know you.’

The Cross, and the Descent into hades and hell, bears fruit in those who embrace the world in the mad love of passion. These enworlded ones, these whose life is ultimately situated not in the ascetical desert, not in the worshipping temple, but in the world, and in the world’s place of dramatic crossing of the two roads, its Golgotha, these are Christ’s servants whom he calls friends, these are his allies, these are what in Lakota is called ‘kola.’ Let the desert and temple be helps and facilitations, but temporary places as they were in Christ’s own life, leading into radical involvement with the world that challenges, breaks, remakes, the world’s heart.

“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him; herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness.. Because as he is, so are we in the world. There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear… he that feareth is not made perfect in love” [1 John, 4,16-18].

The world’s dual problem is both the devil trying to own it, and the world’s evasion of the whole fated and fateful struggle going on at its heart. Occasionally the poetry of the common deep song breaks through. Usually worldly people distract themselves with the light cafe sounds that fill their busy lives; they will ‘keep busy’ to block out what their own heart’s depth is telling them about existence in this world: ‘You are in a battle, and it is life and death, for heaven and hell, for significance or pointlessness.’ Each instant matters, because every second the heart is fighting on the edge and every second the abyss is coming closer, like a huge and numinous beast exiled to the margins who is returning to consume everyone; and this abyss will either swallow everyone into nihilism and ultimate debacle unendingly or its profundity will ignite and uphold everyone forever.

This distraction and shallowness of the world is precisely what the Daemonic does not allow. The Daemonic disallows not only religious ‘rising above it all’ but also secular shallowness, and that situation where the world is trapped in ambivalence, and the ambivalence is static. The Daemonic strikes, and suddenly the world is submerged in passion’s drama, forced to live and act it. Through this sudden ‘reversal of fortune’, the Daemonic dramatically brings the depths explosively to the surface, and makes them decisive for the world. The drama covered up in the world is made to erupt. This drama takes the world by storm, its earthquake shakes the world’s foundation, its waves sweep away the world’s edifice. The life and death, heaven and hell, significance and pointlessness, struggle that under-girds everything is rendered existentially conscious and existentially unavoidable. It becomes primary. Suddenly, the real human predicament is hot again, and the world is in the thick of it.

Such times are full of ‘signs.’ This is when redemptive deeds, with their paradoxical meaning in terms of both love and fight and their mystical effects, become timely and can to the foundations.

Redeeming will never pluck anything or anyone out of the world because it is redeeming that shows radical faith in the world and in all things, creatures, people, who dwell in it, have their life and make their action in it. Our love for the world affirms the world’s possibility as where God dwells. God dwells in the earth. God dwells in the people. God dwells in the here and now. God dwells in living, in action, in our passion for existence. God dwells in the world. God wounds our original love for the world, which includes God and humanity in its embrace, to deepen it into Christ’s passion.

We redemptively love the world in three things.

[a] We follow Christ’s heroic deed, and thus do not become intimidated by fear. We declare to the world, ‘it is not enough for me to be redeemed unless you are too, and if you won’t be I’m going down with you.’

[b] We honour the upside down, inside out, ‘reversal’, of Christ’s deed, and address the world’s best in the world’s worst. We make the give away of the best to the worst, as he did. The lotus is in the mud: thus we need to be in the mud to point to the lotus. The gold is in the dirt: thus we need to be in the dirt to point to the gold. The transformation of impossibility into possibility is through the piss, shit, and vomit of humanity: thus we need to be with the prostitutes and tax collectors, not with the supposedly ‘rich and famous’, not with the supposedly ‘upright and decent.’ These admired people are the least in the kingdom of those resurrected from the mud, the dirt, the piss, shit, the vomit. Thus, we need to identify with and ally ourselves to the world at its most stricken, undone, hurting, confused, perplexed, sick, challenged, crisis-ridden, for only here does the world get real: open to its own predicament and open to what redeems it.

[c] We fight the enemies of the brotherhood of humanity. We draw a line in the sand. In reality we are fighting the devil in them, and so must be prepared to forgive them if they repent. Vengeance is out. But whether we die or they die at the line in the sand is for God to decide. In some situations, this fight is bloodless. In some situations, it is bloody. Even in this, even if we and they fall in battle, we give our blood for the brother, as Christ did.

But this is all a long process. All we have is our love’s passion. It failed once, but because of Christ, we are going to try it– and let it be tried– one last, decisive time.

If we have tasted redemption in our depths, then we hunger and thirst for redemption in the depths of the world.

There are no words, there are no images, to make us think we can understand in the abstract, without going through this, without undergoing this, without passing through water and fire. It can be understood only in the concrete, by passing through what Christ passed through, battled with, in the world for the world. We go from our deep place to the deep place of the world. It is Christ sending us.

Our prayer should not be for God to bring us through personally: our personalness is the seed dying for something bigger that we cannot see, about which we have no guarantee, and whose outcome we must let go. Our prayer is not for ourselves but that our loss should be the world’s gain: our prayer is for the world, and for every thing, creature, person, who ever has, does now, or ever will, dwell in the world. The communion of the Holy Trinity is what is at stake in the inter-connected, inter-dependent, matter, space, time, of the world. The ‘common world’ is where the Trinitarian communion will be finally embodied; not ‘in’ each of us on our own, nor even confined to the boundaries of the church, but in everything and everybody, hence ‘between’ us all. The mystery of the three persons sharing one nature will be incarnate in the world when all humanity is one, and share one world. When division in humanity, and division in the world, is at an end, then will God be ‘all in all.’

St John says the same: “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, for the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” [1John, 5, 6-8].

It is not over until it is over.