Reflection for Monday of Holy Week
From Dorothy Sayers, “Strong Meat”
“In contending with the problem of evil it is useless to try to escape either from the bad past or into the good past. The only way to deal with the past is to accept the whole past, and by accepting it, to change its meaning. The hero of T. S. Eliot’s The Family Reunion, haunted by the guilt of a hereditary evil, seeks at first ‘To creep back through the little door’ into the shelter of the unaltered past, and finds no refuge there from the pursuing hounds of heaven. ‘Now I know That the last apparent refuge, the safe shelter, That is where one meets them; that is the way of spectres….’ So long as he flees from Time and Evil he is thrall to them, not till he welcomes them does he find strength to transmute them. ‘And now I know That my business is not to run away, but to pursue, Not to avoid being found, but to seek…. It is at once the hardest thing, and the only thing possible. Now they will lead me; I shall be safe with them. I am not safe here…. I must follow the bright angels.’ Then, and only then, is he enabled to apprehend the good in the evil and to see the terrible hunters of the soul in their true angelic shape. ‘I feel quite happy, as if happiness Did not consist in getting what one wanted, Or in getting rid of what can’t be got rid of, But in a different vision.’ It is the release, not from, but into, Reality.
This is the great way of Christian acceptance—a very different thing from so-called ‘Christian’ resignation, which merely submits without ecstasy. ‘Repentance,’ says a Christian writer, ‘is no more than a passionate intention to know all things after the mode of Heaven, and it is impossible to know evil as good if you insist on knowing it as evil.’ For man’s evil knowledge, ‘there could be but one perfect remedy—to know the evil of the past itself as good, and to be free from the necessity of evil in the future—to find right knowledge and perfect freedom together; to know all things as occasions of love.’
The story of Passion-Tide and Easter is the story of the winning of that freedom and of that victory over the evils of Time. The burden of the guilt is accepted (‘He was made Sin’) the last agony of alienation from God is passed through (Eloi, lama sabachthani); the temporal Body is broken and remade; and Time and Eternity are reconciled in a Single Person. There is no retreat here to the Paradise of primal ignorance; the new Kingdom of God is built upon the foundations of spiritual experience. Time is not denied; it is fulfilled. ‘I am the food of the full-grown.’ “