Mary Untier of Naughts: Thinning the Veil
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
“There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” Do we really believe that? Or do we believe that “there is a sterile nothingness deep down things”? Are we haunted by Christ or are we haunted by the abyss? Is that ache in our souls a longing for God or is it a dread that everything is slipping back into the nothingness that is the true core of things? Are we believers in the notion that logos precedes matter and that this logos is love and life, or are we believers in the notion that matter is all that there is and that its name is death and decay? Or perhaps, and this seems much more likely, do we not prefer to ignore and repress such questions as we whistle past the graveyard on our way to the Mall? But is there not an implied nihilism in the very refusal of the question and is there not, therefore, a spirit of mere negation in our agnostic bourgeois preoccupations with penultimate things? Ultimately, and despite our best efforts at numbing our souls, the question imposes itself upon us, and even chases after us, when we are confronted by the death of a loved one, or the prospect of our own death, or the onset of a chronic, debilitating illness that robs our life of joy. But even there, we do our best to avert our eyes, and to speak to one another in such moments with the soft, sweet tones of a sentimentalism barbed with despair. Even honey can be laced with arsenic.
But the question of the abyss that looms beneath us is ultimately unavoidable despite our idolatrous deflections. And the answer given by the Christian faith to the abyss beneath us is both comforting and terrifying: God has conquered the abyss by descending (kenotically) into it (whatever that means), taking it into himself (whatever that means), conquering it by transforming it from within itself (whatever that means), and then rerouting the entire “naughting of Being” by sin through the kenotic “admirabile commercium” of Christ’s Sacred Heart and into the kenotic circumincession of the Trinitarian persons. Got all that? The Christian faith is a very strange bird indeed, and is both world affirming and world denying at the same time, often engendering within us a spiritual “fight or flight” binary that sits uneasily in our souls like two Beta fish put in the same aquarium. And that is because it sees both the “freshness deep down things” and the “naughting” spirit of our sins that lurks deep down things as well. Hopkins says that the freshness deep down things is nothing other than the very grandeur of God which, however, has been “bleared” by man’s “smear” and “smudge,” and even by our “smell” and our “toil.” In other words, Hopkins is affirming that the veil between the natural and the supernatural is a thin one, if only we had the eyes to see it, if only we had not smeared and smudged our spiritual lenses. That the veil between our naughting of Being and the glorious transformation of our naughting in Christ is a thin one, if only we had the eyes to see it.
The question then is how do we repristinate the beauty of Christ for our weary and lonely world? It is my claim that the reason for the decline of Christianity in the modern West is, as Pope Benedict points out, the “eclipse” of God. But what does this mean concretely since a lot of opinion polls still seem to indicate that a majority of Westerners still “believe” in God? Was Pope Benedict ignorant of those polls and has he not therefore made an empirical mistake here? No and no. What he means by the eclipse of God is similar to an idea I have blogged on before. Namely, the “unreality” of God as a “public” truth and the “de facto atheism” that has followed in the wake of this attenuation of our “sense” of God’s reality. In other words, people have so weakened their spiritual senses that even if they still notionally believe in God, they have, nevertheless, lost the ability to “see” God in the concrete events of their lives and so treat God as a compartmentalized adjunct to existence.
My further claim is that what this amounts to is an inability to see that the veil between the natural and the supernatural, between this life and the next, and between God and the world, is a thin one and acts more like a semi permeable membrane than a barrier. There are angels and saints climbing up and down the ladder of our lives all the time, but we do not see them because we are not looking for them with the proper senses. And God is coming to us, supernaturally, all the time as well - - in our dreams, in our prayers, in our thoughts, in the people we meet, in all of the serendipitous “coincidences” in our lives, and in our sacramental participation - - but we just write such experiences off as the flotsam and jetsam of natural and random events, because our culture and, sadly, our Church, does not emphasize the thinness of that veil enough. In fact, we actively smear and smudge the veil making it more opaque. We are creatures made for God and yet we live in a world that says to us in a million practical ways that we are no such thing. And so, we are made blind to the thinness of that veil and miss the hour of our visitation. Therefore, my claim is that the Church, if it desires to reinvigorate the faith, must reinvigorate the sense of the supernatural and the vertical elements of faith. It must help people to see that the veil is thin and to affirm that the supernatural is with us all the time.
I subscribe to some version of the “disenchantment” thesis of Charles Taylor. Eugene McCarraher, in his excellent book, “The Enchantments of Mammon,” mildly criticizes that thesis as inadequate since, in his view, we have merely replaced our old religious enchantments with modern secular ones oriented around the capitalist enterprise of wealth creation. And I think he is largely correct about that. However, Taylor says something similar, with the qualification that the primary difference between ancient and modern enchantments resides in the kind of “self” that each one generated. The older enchantments hinged on a view of the world as the confluence of the supernatural and the natural, with a very thin veil between them, and thus generated a form of human selfhood that was “porous” - - a “porousness” that viewed the supernatural as entering into the constitutive core of the self in a myriad of ways that seemed perfectly normal. It was a porousness that viewed the self as embedded in a much broader world of relational supernatural forces that were the substantive core of reality as such. The cultures that were so enchanted also reflected this porousness in their architecture and socio-political institutions, with no clear demarcation between the secular and the sacred. Modern enchantments, by contrast, treat the supernatural as a kind of spooky and subjective “add-on,” believed in by a pious few, that has no real constitutive purchase on the self or on the culture since the latter are now viewed in largely secular categories as purely natural realities, complete in themselves precisely as natural things. “Spooky things” are fun to contemplate but are not taken seriously as part of the “really real,” which for moderns is limited to the realm of empirical objects that exist in discrete and sharply delineated distance from one another, and are related to one another purely extrinsically. Thus, as Taylor points out, modern enchantments have created the “buffered self” where a sharp distinction is drawn between what is “inside of me” and that which is “outside of me.” This is largely the result of the West’s turn to the empirical over the past five hundred years wherein there is a kind of nominalist atomization of everything with the self now viewed as an isolated island of localized consciousness (localized in the physical brain) that exists in a Newtonian world where all causation trends toward pure force. Thus, the self is no longer porous and relational, but self-enclosed and self-referential. There is no porous “veil” between the natural and the supernatural since the buffered self has erected the “inside vs outside” barrier where the supernatural, if it is given any attention at all, is just one more “force” to contend with. And, true to form, Christian theology, mimicking this trend, even developed theological construals of the nature/grace relation that turned God’s transcendence into a competitive agency at odds with my own and which appears to us as just one more of the extrinsic “objects” of our experience. For a concise summary of his views from Taylor himself you can read his short essay on the topic here.
And the end result of this system of thought which dominates our culture is that it introduces into our minds a deep and distorting prejudice against seeing our material reality as suffused with the supernatural. And this prejudice influences us all, the religious and non-religious alike, and has led to the attenuation, if not the outright suppression, of our spiritual senses which alone can perceive spiritual things. Saint Paul says that the carnal person cannot inherit the Kingdom since the carnal person cannot perceive, and therefore cannot enter into, spiritual things. And by “carnal” he does not just mean “sins of the flesh,” but rather all of our various vices, both mental and physical, that have their origin in what Augustine called the libido dominandi. And ours is a carnal culture, a collective of concupiscence, that is a pornified goulash of techno-capitalist fetishes with the Paprika of the therapeutic self as the spicing agent of preference. Carl Trueman’s book, “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self,” is stunningly perceptive on that point as he catalogues the modern obsession with “identity” as something opposed to the spiritual traditions of selfhood inherited from Christianity.
However, since we are spiritual beings oriented to spirit, this short-circuiting of our spiritual senses in carnality manifests itself in a distorted attempt by the expressivist self to reach spirit from within the categories of the libido dominandi and to engage in an apotheosis of our own elemental desires which are then viewed as expressions of the elemental spiritual forces latent within nature itself. In the best case this results in nothing more than superficial dabblings in the boutique shop “spiritualities” of “New Age” flim-flam. But in the worst case it results in the return of the strong gods of nation, race, ethnicity, and power - - the cult of “Blut und Erde” that justifies violence in the name of those gods. Therefore, these so-called “spiritualities” are merely satanic simulacrums and subtle reversals of the true Spirit of God’s kenotic love, which ironically results in the death of the Spirit within us and the thickening of the veil. Furthermore, even minor dabblings of the boutique shop sort in this kind of occultism thickens the veil between us and God, but turns the veil between the self and Satan into a wispy, gossamer web that envelopes us with its lies. The “freshness deep down things” is thus transformed into the naughting of Being, as we wallow in the pseudo-enlightenment of our cynical “sophistication” that mistakes the naughting of Being for our true liberation.
And all of this has had a disastrous effect on the Church as well. Once again, it does not take a genius to see that the relentless and grating horizontalism of the modern Church is not the result of a proper, pastoral reading of the “signs of the times,” but is instead better understood as the Church being swallowed alive by the times. Leaning on a false and grotesque “correlationalist” theology that emerged in full force after the Council, the Church has moved to accommodate herself to the naturalistic, horizonatalist prejudices of the age, and did so under the mistaken belief that the experiential praxis of the modern believer as a person in the modern world was in no need of challenge or correction, and which was viewed instead as a normative expression of the movement of the “Spirit.” A greater pastoral mistake cannot be imagined and it represents the “Ur-sin” of the modern Church that is at the root of the current pastoral disaster in the Western Church. The blunt fact is this: what the Church tries to pass off as a “correlational” pastoral practice is nothing more than a pious lie, and the real truth of the matter is that the pastoral leaders of the Church are merely embarrassed by the strangeness of the Christian faith and have sought to blunt that strangeness by suppressing the specifically supernatural elements of the faith, all the while offering a pinch of incense to the suburban Caesar of bourgeois upward social mobility. The supernatural is out. Therapeutic naturalism and emotive expressivism is in. The road to theosis is out. James Martin’s bridges are in.
In reality, the Church’s horizontalist obligations, which are real, are rooted in her antecedent vertical commitments, and her missionary zeal is rooted in her eschatological zenith. And this is a truth that no less a social justice fighter than Dorothy Day understood quite well. Absent the vertical dimension of our ascension to the Father, through Christ, and in the Spirit, all of our social action on behalf of the poor and downtrodden threatens to become, not merely an ineffective, virtue-signaling, posturing, but worse still, a bestial ally to the horizontalist totalitarianism of our time. And all of this gets reflected in, and celebrated by, the pulseless fibrillations of our current liturgical practices, which are apparently designed to appeal to no one. Supernatural holiness is treated by the contemporary Church at its highest levels as an impossible ideal, and in a theological Weberian move, the life of the Christian in the “real world” is recast as a series of “necessary” compromises which become, precisely because they are necessary, indicative of what God is actually willing for us. Which means that God is not willing us to participate in his own supernatural life fully, but wills instead for us to “settle” for a life lived within the suffocating confines of the “practical.” And all of this is the result of a naturalistic view of life devoid of real supernatural orientations which, when ensconced in the Church herself, becomes the most redundant irrelevance imaginable and the greatest suicidal institutional self-nullification in human history.
This blindness to the true kenotic supernaturalism of the Gospel also invades our prayer life and which leads so many of us to struggle with prayer and, eventually, to abandon it altogether. Because at its root prayer is a conversation with the God who descends to us and a form of spiritual communication that must itself mirror this descent. It cannot be “grasping” and “acquisitive,” but must be receptive and humble. And when we pray, ideas often come into our head, or images, which we just summarily dismiss as my own mind concocting things, which then causes us to miss the fact that it is God who is actually speaking to us in that “still small voice.” This is why Saint Ignatius of Loyola recommended that his followers adopt a prayer form known as the “colloquy.” The prayer form is simple: speak to God the Father or the Son or the Spirit, or Mary, or the saints, as if you are in the room with them and having a conversation. Make the prayer from both your head and your heart, holding nothing back, just as you do when you unburden yourself to a dear friend, and then sit quietly and wait for the reply. And if no reply comes, keep speaking, because eventually the door will open and the veil between you and them thins, and then becomes, not a veil, but a semi-permeable membrane. But all too often we lack the patience for this, or the spiritual depth to see it for what it is, and abandon the effort of prayer as a silly monologue with yourself on a par with singing opera in the shower and deluding yourself into thinking that you are the greatest tenor who ever lived.
In this regard I always remember, and remember fondly, a Baptist woman named Patricia I once knew who worked at the same soup kitchen I did, who was always talking to Jesus. No matter what happened in her day, she would say “thank you Jesus” with no self-consciousness of any kind. And to the patrons in our soup line she would discuss their day with them briefly as they passed by and would remind them that this or that event in their lives was “Jesus talking to you.” Everyone loved Patricia. And what she exuded was the joy of a life lived as if Jesus was constantly standing next to her. Patricia was part of the evangelical “word of knowledge” approach to prayer and we can dismiss such people as pious simpletons and theological bumpkins, but we do so at our own peril. Yes, there are many charlatans and frauds among the celebrity “prophets” in that school, whose “words of knowledge” always seem to flow in the direction of apocalypse and the conflation of the Gospel with Americanism, and all in the service of megachurch dollars, but among its simpler and humbler practitioners there exists a lived form of prayer that affirms that the veil is thin, and that God is speaking to them personally, as someone he loves and cares for deeply. Patricia was convinced that God spoke to her in her prayers, and who are we to say otherwise? Perhaps our disdain for such folks is really a not so hidden admission that we do not think that God speaks to us in our prayers.
As Catholics, we not only have our prayers but the sacraments and in theory our participation in the sacraments is supposed to be a very real encounter with Christ himself. And yet, for many Catholics, myself included, our experience of the sacraments is often arid, pro forma, and a “just-going-through-the motions” exercise in transactional bet-hedging. When the sacramental zone of our parishes comes to be characterized by a naturalistic and expressivist/therapeutic ethos, then soon the whole affair devolves into a boring exercise in liturgical theatrics. I know, I know, it is human nature to approach “ritual,” especially ritual we have participated in over and over, with a certain diffidence. Even the saints had to fight against that tendency. And I am not arguing here in favor of some kind of charismatic “enthusiasm” that should accompany our every sacramental experience, like levitating out of the pew after communion and floating over the congregation like a corpulent Boddhisatva speaking in tongues. But something is off. Something has gone awry. And Catholics are abandoning the faith in droves, not because they no longer believe in God, but because they do not find him, rightly or wrongly, in the sacraments. For far too many Catholics the sacraments have become just so many empty ecclesial gesticulations devoid of existential gravitas. For them, the veil has not thinned in Church, and if anything the mystery of the supernatural seems rather to be suppressed in the featureless and formless horizontalism of the therapeutic Church, with its “reconciliation rooms” complete with fake plants and overstuffed, comfy chairs, (or worse, confession by appointment, as if you are seeing the damn doctor or dentist), and a eucharistic liturgy so banal in its insipid “Hi, my name is Larry. I love you” faux and forced “fellowship” that you are left staring at your watch and dreaming of what you are going to order for breakfast at Cracker Barrel once the theatrics are finished. Which is only fitting since a Cracker Barrel breakfast is the true “ite missa est” for a cracker barrel liturgy of horizontalist sentimentalisms.
However, my deeper point is that the fault for this soul-killing horizontalism does not reside so much in our liturgical practices as such, horizonatalist drivel and all, since a mature believer should as a matter of course be perfectly able to deal with and negotiate bad liturgy. The real disconnect here - - the disconnect that causes people to walk away from the faith as irrelevant - - resides in the loss of the meaningful relational connection to the sacraments that has been caused by our buffered selves in a scientistic culture of atomized empiricism. In point of fact many people just don’t “believe in this crap anymore,” as one person recently told me. In other words, the frequent outward banality of our sacraments is a symptom, and not a cause, of the anesthetizing numbed-down naturalism of our lives in general. And I too am guilty of this since I too am a buffered, non-porous modern person and when I am tempted to think I am not, the agonistic anomie in my soul that makes me miserable resurfaces. And I only mention myself here because I am convinced that millions of other Catholics are similarly afflicted. I am not a one case induction, but a microcosm of the whole. Most truly modern people are miserable.
It is at this point in my Jeremiad that one might expect me to say that the Church needs to get back into the miracle business in order to buttress our faith in the supernatural via an emphasis on the direct encounters that people claim to have had with spiritual things/beings. And I certainly agree that the more credible of these should be highlighted more and not hidden away. However, such things only tend to reinforce the faith of those who are still open to the supernatural and are not deeply infected with the virus of modern naturalism. But for the latter, such supernatural happenings might be interesting, but are ultimately unconvincing unless witnessed directly by themselves. A woman who claims to have seen the Virgin Mary at a turnpike service plaza might gather interest from the “I see Jesus in my burnt toast” crowd, but it is just going to be summarily dismissed by all others as lacking in the authentication required for credibility. And even some of the more credible miracles such as the Guadalupe image, or the Shroud of Turin, or some of the truly amazing eucharistic miracles, might cause a skeptic to pause and ponder, but they will nevertheless remain on the level of an interesting curiosity and nothing more, even if accepted as possibly true manifestations of the supernatural. Oh yes, there will be some who will be provoked by such things to conversion. I myself came out of my adolescent atheism when, at age 16, I read Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” and became convinced that the literal fulfillment of Bible prophecies in our own times proved God’s existence. And so these things can have value for those of a more naturalistic and empirical bent who are seeking “evidences” for faith.
But the center does not hold and the credibility of such things is not enough to sustain faith in the face of our cultural tsunami to the contrary. Just as I soon came to see, after further education and intellectual maturation, that Lindsey’s book was a pile of risible dispensationalist drivel with an intellectual pedigree no more ancient than the late nineteenth century. I was also, and this is important, utterly repulsed by the evangelical Christians I was now associating with who had created an Americanized Jesus who was an amalgam of God, Capitalism, guns, Ronald Reagan, and American exceptionalism. And few of them actually read the Bible with any regularity, but they did walk around with it all the time like a kind of Protestant scapular wielded as a magical talisman for warding off feminists and the IRS. And the Catholic iteration of such cult-like groups in the many charismatic “communities” that formed in the last 50 years were little better, since so many of them hitched their wagon to the alleged charisms of a “gifted” leader or founder who ended up being an oppressive tyrant and a fraudulent grifter. I also feel the same about the explosion of late in Catholic “deliverance ministries” that appear to me to be little more than Catholic ghost chasers in search of spiritual titillations. From my experiences as a seminarian true exorcists don’t run around with a team of lay volunteers drawn from the ranks of spiritually wounded souls who have gathered around the exorcist like groupies in search of a guru, and who have loose lips that are constantly chattering to their friends about the “supernatural events” they have witnessed - - tales which are more than likely exaggerated or simply made up.
So no, a mere supernaturalism of alleged miracles and of chasing Satan’s skirts will not suffice. It is instructive here to inquire as to why it is that I believe in the veracity of the miracles of Jesus recounted in the New Testament. I do not believe in Jesus as the Christ because I first came to believe his miracles to be true, but rather, I came to believe in the miracles as true because I first believed in Christ. As I matured intellectually, and as I dove into the figure of Christ presented in the Gospels, I was moved to faith by the power of the towering figure that was presented to me. I was moved by its strange and compelling beauty, its haunting narrative of God’s kenotic descent into the muck, and became convinced of the credibility of the authenticity of that image. And then I saw how well the miracles fit into that credible authenticity as performative expressions of hidden supernatural realities. Christ had entered into the world as the great negation and reversal of our naughting of Being, giving to the Father the “yes” we are incapable of giving. The miracles therefore ceased to be for me mere “gee whiz lookie what I can do” events in the life of Jesus and became instead extensions of his reversal of our naughting in the concrete materiality of those he so healed. Jesus restored things - - “I make all things new” - - and that restoration into creational originality was for me the greatest thinning of the veil of all.
I think this insight translates as well into why the veil between the natural and the supernatural remains opaque and impregnable to so many Catholics today. The Church claims that at her core is the holiness of Christ and that the sacraments are genuine encounters with the supernatural power of God. But how can the credibility of this claim be taken seriously when the Church’s sins rob her of her authenticity and “smear” and “smudge” the image of Christ she so proudly proclaims? And this is more than a complaint about a few pesky ecclesiastical peccadillos. How can you accept the credibility of a Church which has simply become one giant smudge? A Church of smudges? We are told that it is necessary for the Church to be indefectible in order to preserve the integrity of Revelation. Really? Integrity? How can an institution that lacks integrity vouchsafe the integrity of Revelation to a skeptical audience? Your doctrine can be as pure as the driven snow, but it certainly does not communicate anything supernatural and it certainly does not thin the veil, when it all comes across as a self-referential and self-justifying ideology of power that creates an entire hermeneutic of the naughting of the image of Christ. We can prattle on about the importance of “dogmas” until we are blue in the face, but when those same dogmas have been used as a justificatory pretext for murdering heretics, or declaring those who do not submit to their authority “damned,” and when those dogmas are no longer argued for but merely imposed as an obligation of obedience, and when the Church exempts herself from the supernatural praxis those dogmas demand of us, then one is perhaps justified in seeing in “dogma” nothing more than the expression of a monumental charade and a screaming hypocrisy. It destroys the Church’s credibility since it destroys any claim she has to authenticity, which in turn destroys her claim to be communicating something supernatural. I have simply reached a stage where I can no longer accept this strong bifurcation between “pure doctrine” and “flawed praxis” that has become the principle we have invoked for white-washing the tomb of our ecclesial execrations for centuries now. And then we wonder why people cannot see the supernatural element of the Church? Why they drift off into strange occultist practices or join up with various ecclesial sub groups that promise them a true experience of the holy? How can we blame them when the Church seems more interested in thinning your wallets than in thinning the veil?
Therefore, in order for the Church to become a more transparent vessel of the supernatural realities that are at her core we need to restore the Church’s credibility by first restoring her authenticity. Yes, yes, “wheat and tares” and all of that. But as a farmer I can tell you that it is indeed necessary at times to just allow some tares to remain in your fields. But you also cannot allow the field to be overwhelmed by the tares. If you don’t stop that from happening then you are being an irresponsible farmer, a lazy farmer, a useless farmer. At some point, if you are not attentive, a tipping point is reached and suddenly you can no longer find the crop at all and the crop withers and dies because the field has been consumed by tares. It is my claim that the modern Church has gone beyond that tipping point.
But how do we restore the Church’s authenticity? I don’t know. I honestly do not know. From where I sit the Church has gone beyond the point where a reform that merely “tweaks” things will not do. We are at the point where only a true and deep revival will suffice, a revolution of the heart as Dorothy Day was fond of saying. We are beyond “fixing things” with Thomas Aquinas and more Latin, no matter how good those things are. However, I have a hunch that the answer resides somewhere in the Church’s Marian subjectivity. As a sinful Church in need of grace, the Church’s subjectivity must be grounded in the receptive and engraced subjectivity of Mary whose sinless and, therefore, perfect fiat to the Father’s will, was in its own quiet way a scorched-earth destruction of every one of our grace-nullifying “naughts” to God’s kenotic initiatives within us. Pope Francis often appeals to Mary as the “untier of knots.” I hereby propose a new title for Our Lady, most appropriate for our own times: “Mary the untier of naughts.” If we had the spiritual capacity to see and to hear on the spiritual level what the effect of Mary’s fiat was, we most likely would have heard the loudest sonic boom in the history of creation and we would have seen giant spiritual gravity waves racing away from that small room in Nazareth and radiating outward with a concussive force that shattered the demonic shackles around our necks. We need a Church that harnesses that concussive force. As Peter Maurin said, we need to blow up the dynamite of the Church. And it is only Christ’s kenotic, incarnational grace, received by us in and through the engraced receptivity of Mary’s fiat, that explode that dynamite.
Finally, as an adjunct to “Mary, untier of naughts,” I would propose a new hermeneutic for the Church’s retrieval of her own doctrinal tradition. I will write more on this in the future. All I will say now is that instead of a hermeneutic of continuity or one of rupture or reform, I propose a hermeneutic of kenosis. A hermeneutic of the cross. Because only such a hermeneutic can thin the veil in the same theological register that Christ did. Mary’s fiat was an act of engraced charity. Christ’s death on the cross was an act of divine kenosis rooted in the trinitarian charity. Only a seriously lived revival of the Church along these same lines can restore her authenticity and thin the veil. For as Balthasar puts it: “Only love is credible.” And only love can compel us erotically upward and away from the abyss below.
Dorothy Day, pray for us.
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