Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mandos and the Reformation

..and [Manwë] said: ‘...Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Eä, and evil yet be good to have been.’
But Mandos said: ‘And yet remain evil ...’
The Silmarillion

I think about these lines whenever Reformation Day comes along in the Calendar. For Papists such as I, it is (this year) the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. But for Protestants of various stripes it is the day to commemorate the Reformation.

It is undeniable that good did come out of the Reformation. We would never have had a Counter-Reformation without a Reformation. Nor would we have had Choral Evensong or Anglican Chant, or a whole host of other things. Much beauty not before conceived has indeed made it into the World. And I do sincerely pray that evil can be turned to good. But to rip apart the Body of Christ no matter how noble the goals or noble the intent is, as Mandos says, still an evil. The Protestant elves felt justified, and certainly in our ballad their reasons were far more profound than Fëanor’s kin were in the book. And neither side will ever agree to whether they left or were pushed. And no one can deny the triumphs achieved by the Protestant elves in our ballad in the collective war against Morgoth.

But the tearing up of the Body of Christ is a kind of kin-slaying. For the Lord clearly desired that we all be one (Jn 17:21). And he provided means of achieving reconciliation (e.g.Mt 5:24) that do not involve taking your things and going elsewhere. Even anathemas (1 Cor 5:5) are meant to be temporary (2 Cor 2:7), ending in reconciliation. Now it ought to be said that should you stick it out even if they are so totally wrong? Is it not better to enter heaven with one eye rather than burn with two? (Mk 9:47) If your brother won’t reconcile with you, what do you do?

The Church throughout the years has adopted a number of different strategies for dealing with those who do not agree with her teachings. Clearly some have worked better than others as the old joke about the difference between Dominicans and Jesuits attests. And it is without a doubt that the differences that divide us still do matter.

Nevertheless, while my Protestant brothers and sisters celebrate, I am sad. I wait for the day when the Protestant elves will sail back across the sea into the West. For whatever beauty may be wrought, and while “evil yet be good to have been,” the wound in the Body of Christ still remains an evil.