A Little More Sarah for Sunday


We've been meandering through Robert Cardinal Sarah's book The Day is Now Far Spent for some of the Sunday blogposts, and I'd like to continue that tradition. . . Here are some of his thoughts for this sabbath evening:

"Western man, who takes the greatest possible advantage of the charms of human existence, ferociously fights against life. The hatred of life is the hatred of love. Love always produces life. Someone who loves in truth possesses life. . . An authentic civilization is based on the joy of the gift of life.

"To die with dignity is to die being loved! . . . Our society is experiencing a drought of love, and so it wants to get rid of those who need it most. Go visit the hospitals, go simply, each day, to hold the hand of a patient or of an elderly person who has been abandoned to solitude! . . . A remark by the French geneticist who discovered the cause of trisomy 21, Professor Jerome Lejeune, comes to mind: "The quality of a civilization is measured by the respect it has for its weakest members." [But] the Western elite knows only three principles: money, power, and pleasure. . . . What an astonishing paradox: at a time hwne most societies want to abolsh the death penalty for murderers, they reinstate it for innocent, vulnerable people, [who are] written off as lebensunwertes Leben--life unworthy of being lived.

"When major forms of violence prevail--all kinds of imperialism, whether bloody or camoflauged; brutal actions, blatant and entrenched disorder--people are often amazed at God's patience and silence and are scandalized by it. This divine silence in the presence of barbarity and crimes is or many a sufficient motive for unbelief. If we only knew how intense God's impatience is! It takes Him nothing less to overcome it than the infinitude of His love. God does not will evil. . . . No! He suffers from it. He is mortally wounded by it. He is the first one struck by it! The more monstrous the evil, the more evident it is that God in us is the first victim. God is like a mother: through love a mother can suffer with her child more than her children and for her child. A completely healthy mother can experience her child's agony more painfully than the chld himself, precisely because of ths identification of love with the beloved. This is what love is capable of.

"How can we imagine that God's love is less maternal than a mother's love. when all the love of all mothers, including that of the Blessed Virgin, is only a drop in the ocean of God's maternal affection? No one is struck without God being struck, in him, before him, more than he, and for him.

"Silence is the most powerful and most fraught word spoken by love, and this absence is the most immediate presence at the heart of human suffering. The Gos-who-is-love was silently present in Auschwitz-Birkenau, mysteriously flooding that martyred ground with his affection. No one can know how God welcomed into his arms all who passed from life to their demise in the death chambers.

"In order to doubt it, we wuld have to have lost sight entirely of the dignity of our freedom. God gave us complete freedom. If God creates this freedom, it is not in order to petrify it and replace it with himself. The task is ours.

"In our human relations, we have invented a justice without love, which quickly becomes an enraged beast. We become equally indifferent to truth and to lying. We want to become richer and richer, and we do not see that we are becoming poorer and poorer. . . . When people turn their backs on God, they darken love.

"I am struck by modern man's talent for making everything he touches ugly. . . . The modern world demeans the most sacred realities and makes them ugly: the child, the mother, death. And nevertheless, it will never be able to snatch completely from our souls the interior beauty that God has placed there. This beauty is inaccessible to it. Wherever holiness flourishes, a little of God's own beauty unfolds. . . . [Our] interior tears that God alone sees wash the world of all ugliness and all meanness. They restore its beauty. Children, mothers, old people, and saints know this, but it is a secret that they share with God and that remains concealed from the world's eyes."

As a mother, I know the truth of what Sarah is saying. God's heart is the heart of a mother. What we do to each other strikes God's mother-heart just as strongly as it strikes us. We would all treat each other better if we knew we would be accountable to their earthly mothers, and yet we have a Heavenly Mother God to whom we will answer as well.

I also know from being a mother that silence is indeed sometimes the only response that can preserve and express the love that we feel. When we feel God is silent, might that indeed be an occasion to feel more deeply the presence of God's love?

I think also that we would understand ethics better if we asked ourselves what the mothers of those we feel are unworthy of life would say. The mother ethic is the sturdiest and most reliable yardstick, I feel. And yet too often it is precisely mothers who are excluded from such discussions. It is those who most passionately love the life of another who are excluded.

The devaluation of motherhood is the first step on the path of civilizational death, because it is in the mother ethic that life abounds most robustly. One day I would like to write a book on all the ills which attend societies that devalue motherhood . . . but for tonight, the worlds of Robert Cardinal Sarah must suffice.