The Priest of Ypres

“In World War I Pierre Teilhard de Chardin had survived thirty months at the front; he rescued the wounded  – it was his job – under heavy bombardment.  A witness remembered his “rough hewn face that Greco had prefigured” and his “total lack of ecclesiasticism.”  One of the officers serving with him wrote, “Two features of his personality struck you immediately:  courage and humility.”  His regiment’s Tunisian sharpshooters, who were Muslims, used to say rather cryptically that a “spiritual structure” protected him when he plucked bodies from the ground in crossfire.  In battle, he rejoiced in his anonymity and in the front’s exhilaration.  Prescious few men left the Battle of Ypres with a beating heart, let alone a full stomach, let alone exhilaration:

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“Nobody except those who were there will ever have the wonder-laden memory that a man can retain of the plain of Ypres in April 1915, when the air of Flanders stank of chlorine and the shells were tearing down the poplars along by l’Yperle Canal – or, again, of the charred hillsides of Souville, in July 1916, when they held the odour of death. . . . . Those more than human hours impregnate life with a clinging, ineradicable flavour of exaltation and initiation, as though they had been transferred into the absolute.”  The “clinging ineradicable flavour” was perhaps mud – the mud of Ypres in which two hundred thousand British and Commonwealth men died, ninety thousand of them lost in the actual mud.

Action he loved.  His ever increasing belief that God calls people to build and divinize the world, to aid God in redemption, charged every living moment with meaning – precisely why the battlefield gripped him.  “The man at the front is. . . . only secondary his own self.  First and foremost, he is part of a prow of cleaving the waves.”  He dared title an essay “Nostalgia for the Front”:  “All the enchantments of the East, all the spiritual warmth of Paris, are not worth the mud of Douaumont. . . . . How heart-rending it is to find oneself so seldom with a task to be accomplished, one to which the soul feels that it can commit itself unreservedly!”

When he entered the war, he was already a priest.  One dawn in 1918, camped in a forest in the Oise with his Zouave regiment, he had neither bread nor wine to offer at Mass.  He had an idea, however, and he wrote it down.

Five years later, he sat on a camp stool inside a tent by the Ordos desert cliffs west of Peking.  He reworked his old wartime idea on paper.  What God’s priests, if empty-handed, might consecrate at sunrise each day is that one day’s development:  all that the evolving world will gain and produce, and all it will lose in exhaustion and suffering.  These the priest could raise and offer.

In China again, four years later yet, he rode a pony north in the Mongolaian grasslands and traced Quaternary strata.  Everyday still he said to himself what he now called his Mass upon the altar of the world, “to divinize the new day”:  since once more, my Lord, not now in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of Asia, I have neither bread nor wine, nor altar, I shall rise beyond symbols to the pure majesty of the real, and I shall offer you, I your priest, on the altar of the whole earth, the toil and sorrow of the world.”

By Annie Dillard in For The Time Being, (1999), pg. 126-128

 

The god of war

Ares, the god of war, lives!

And his children Fear and Terror have made Zeus a grandfather!

He rides the earth on his war chariot with his lover, Discord!

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He is a foul impostor on the earth, a god of unimaginable suffering and pain.

Men flock to his side.  They cheer him and throw flowers at his feet.  He is the Victor.

Economies are driven by the desire to satisfy his blood lust.

 

In his name, generations of children are sacrificed.

Baal and Molech are his ancient biblical blue-prints.

Each desiring the bodies of babies thrown to the flames.

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Men cast into war, in the name of freedom.

And sometimes, brazenly, in the name of tyranny.

Sent anywhere and everywhere that his bastard children can spread their fame.

 

Yet when they return, if they return;

Bodies and minds broken; hearts frozen; eyes glazed,

Even then he will not relent.  His lust for chaos is unrelenting.

 

He unleashes his bride, his lover, some say his sister.

Even incest is within his remit.

Discord: you heartless bitch!  Leave mankind alone.

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Shameless, you all press on, within and without the heart of man.

Children driven into the bloodied dust.

Bombs, rockets, bullets and mines.

 

Dictators who do your bidding.

Economies that do your spending.

Governments that do your defending.

 

The game is up!

The time is short.

Your ways are the ways of man.

 

And the ways of man are done.

Nothing new under the sun.

Tyranny is our middle name.

 

You are a false god,

And you have been called, judged, sentenced.

Your doom is certain.

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For there is One who has come.

A man from heaven,

Light from light

 

God from God.

Word become flesh.

His Cross has sentenced you to death.

Sideways Cross

The Hell of Hells is where you belong.

You shall go down, and unlike this Word made flesh,

You shall not rise.

 

But the sons and daughters of man,

They shall rise.

They shall rise and rejoice.

 

For fear and terror have given way to faith and love.

Discord must yield to Peace.

And this false god of thunder;

 

Must give way before the whisper,

the still small voice,

the sheer silence of the true and living God who is!

 

qol d’mamah daqqah.

God’s breath.

God’s Spirit.

 

Will silence the false gods of war and chaos.

Ares the false god is judged.

Yahweh Lives!

Praise him in London and New York.

Praise Him in Gaza; the guns will be silenced for Ares will be sentenced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christ must be preached!

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Sermons are a duty and a joy.  A duty that is born out of the calling of God to preach the Gospel of Christ in the power of the Spirit, which is also a joy at the same time.  This strange combination and the outworking of it always amazes me, and always motivates me, it terrifies me and weighs heavy with me.  But woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.

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To Preach Is To Make War on the Human Heart

hansen“Preachers need more than just a commonsense hermeneutic when they read the Bible for sermon preparation.  They aren’t reading the Bible for themselves or to teach a Bible study.  A sermon is not thoughts about the Bible.  Preachers make war on the human heart.  Preaching hermeneutics prepare a pastor to decay sin, to look into the eyes in the pews and say with Nathan the prophet: “Thou art the Man!””

David Hansen in The Art of Pastoring (p.105)