Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Lord: Chapter 86, “The Spirit and the Bride”

Dear friend,

The modern city is a noisy, dirty, dangerous place. New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Calcutta, even Jerusalem—none of us want our children left alone there. The smog, the violence, the lawlessness. Modern cities are not good places to be innocent, or lost. Our vision of the city is far removed from the ancient one. Maybe that’s one reason why the final visions of Revelation are hard to fathom.

The “bride,” the so-called “spouse of the Lamb” is the city Jerusalem, the heavenly version. Its walls measure so high by so wide by so thick, and they are set with gems. This Jerusalem has no temple inside because God Himself is its temple.

“For the man of antiquity,” Romano Guardini writes near the end of his great book The Lord, “the image of the city expressed a supreme reality. Particularly for Greek thought, the clearly ordered, limited area was more highly appreciated than unpatterned limitlessness.” To the Greek mind, RG means to say, the city was not chaos or lawlessness but just the opposite: order, control, cosmos. 

This image of the heavenly Jerusalem—like a Bride coming forth to meet the Bridegroom, the Lamb—“speaks of the ultimate content of existence and object of our hope: the new creation.” It seems to me that we can get some idea of what the first readers of Revelation felt in this image if we think about our present polity or political life. After all, polis is Greek for city. 

Our sitting president, Mr. Obama, with his offer of hope and his vision of a new America, has tapped into something deep inside all of us: this desire for a city, a heavenly place that is orderly, safe, and good. Of course, whether Obama’s program will deliver on its promise, or do the opposite, is something we continue to debate. But we hunger for a world that is like this heavenly Jerusalem, not a Jerusalem of bitterly divided neighborhoods and armed troops and car bombs.

“Faith is not easy,” RG writes. “Everything in and around us contradicts it, often with arguments difficult to refute.”

The good has become bad, and the bad use the good for their own purposes. But the vision of Revelation remains. “And it is Christ,” writes Guardini, “who brings all this about.”

Pax Christi,

My series of posts on Romano Guardini’s The Lord concludes here

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