• Rob Friedl

The Purge

The only kind of jet I'm qualified to fly: a decommissioned one.

Should a man fail to properly acquaint himself with the reality of his condition and the world at large, he risks being buried beneath the onslaught of everything he did not anticipate.

My dad has a term for this. He calls it, "persistence of reality." And despite the innocence one might insist upon by virtue of their ignorance of such reality, the objective nature of that very thing dictates its ambivalence about whether or not you survive your encounter with it.

Think of a pilot, flying through mountains. There are two things he must absolutely get right: navigation and aircraft performance.

The former requires knowledge of the environment, the latter requires an understanding of one's aircraft, and more precisely, how that aircraft will act as it engages the environment being navigated. For this reason, a pilot studies his route for weather conditions and ventures forth only after he's practiced dropping out of the sky enough times, that he can consistently do so without destroying himself. Should a pilot fail to give proper regard to both these important features of air travel, the immovable and extremely unforgiving ground will be more than happy to reunite itself, at a very high rate of speed, with his aircraft, regardless of how much the pilot himself expects or desires it.

Just as for the pilot above, there are two things indispensable to every successful journey: the knowledge of reality without, and the knowledge of reality within. Even in the case where a freak mechanical or meteorological event is responsible for the tragedy of an accident, there is present to some degree, an ignorance of reality. What pilot would continue on into certain calamity? But like the lessons which can be learned from examining aircraft accidents, so too can much be learned from the tragedies of Truth abandoned.

Truth or Death

It is a tragedy, for instance, that a man would so critically trivialize his ailments, as to suffer his death by their disregard. And while this is unfortunate to witness for the mortal life, it is heartbreaking to see happen for the immortal soul. For those willing to acknowledge the metaphysical reality of their being, there exists the same humane concern for the eternal soul of their brother, as there does for his mortal life, only with much greater consequence. Even while a man might struggle to raise himself beyond the muck of his own moral failings then, it is not inappropriate for him to still share a concern for the state of his brother's eternal life. The witness of a spiritual death, is, if anything, a far greater tragedy than that of a bodily one.

What constitutes a spiritual death, of course, becomes an important distinction. The Judeo-Christian tradition defines itself apart from its pagan alternatives through its assertion of the existence of Hell- a state where corrupted souls find the ultimate fulfillment of their natures as they were expressed on earth- encompassed in sin and in total separation from all things good, true, and beautiful. A man condemns himself to hell by choosing to remain in sin, thus willfully rejecting the absolute love of God and thereby being granted his expressed desire to be separated from God. To die in such a state, is to be granted said wish for eternity.

This, we define, as spiritual death.

To avoid this death, as the pilot would avoid crashing, a man must live his life in accordance with the reality of his environment and his own human nature.

One inescapable aspect of human nature, is its unfortunate proclivity for sin- for choosing the 'self' above God, and by such temporal gratifications, to suffer injury to its greater whole.

This penchant for sin, while not itself damning, does warrant recognition and continued vigilance, lest it transform itself from temptation into standard procedure. This calls for a regular renewal of the soul, or a "reconciliation" of the self with God's will. The ultimate experience of which, is the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation, commonly referred to as "Confession."

Of course, while many balk at the audacity of the Church to assume its God-granted authority to confer His absolution of sins, these same folks are perfectly content to appoint themselves with such authority and self-direct their own absolution. It could hardly be argued that truer humility has any greater expression.

To be fair, we must grant that the Protestant professes to recognize God as the guarantor of grace, but as it is with their interpretation of His word, the Protestant remains individually responsible for the communication of all that God would offer to mankind. The opportunities for a conflict-of-interest are not difficult to imagine, but this problem pales in comparison to the greater Protestant assertion of perpetual absolution.

The problem of what is commonly known as "being saved," lies in the incompatibility between Truth and sin. The proponent of this idea cannot put forward the concept of uninhibited communion with God without disregarding either the nature of God, or the nature of man. For all the condemnation that the Protestant would visit upon the "total depravity" of human nature, espoused by both Lutheran and Calvinist alike, he would simultaneously declare man's simple profession of faith to be sufficient transformation of the soul to warrant it as immediately and unceasingly worthy of communion with God.

While not disregarding God's infinite capacity for loving mercy and forgiveness, it is an injustice to His nature to assert that no more transformation of our fallen state is needed before we might endure his unlimited presence. By simple definition of God's nature, nothing of sin can tolerate the His presence, and to define human nature apart from its proclivity to sin, is to abandon truth. Thus, before any man who has suffered the scourge sin can stand in the presence of God, he must first in some way, be freed from any attachment to sin. Even should we profess our faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we remain burdened in our human nature by a certain attachment to sin, as evidenced by the mere appeal that temptation has for us. For one who is truly pure in heart, temptations do not appeal. But this purity of heart is the supernatural state of man, not the natural. To reach communion with the desires of Christ, one must rise above the desires for the self, and in so doing, "die to self." This is by no means a comfortable process, and those blessed enough to have faithfully endured such suffering, we call Saints.

The Bright Side

Before we risk making salvation sound cruel and dark, it would be important to emphasize the mercy bestowed upon us by God through this purifying suffering. The Catholic tradition refers to heaven as the "beatific vision," for good reason. For in heaven, we are joined to God in all things, including an understanding of what is truly good and what is truly detestable. The eyes of the saints are opened to the fullness of Truth, and cannot regard the sight of anything sinful without complete and righteous revulsion.

How would it be then, to enter the King's throne room, adorned in human excrement? Such would be the experience of an impure soul exposed to the presence of God- only a million times more so. God is pure Love and pure Goodness. But while something can be objectively good, it's possible that a man could be wholly unprepared for such goodness, and by such exposure, be damaged by the experience. A hot shower, for example, is a very enjoyable thing. Unless one is suffering from a sunburn, in which case a hot shower is one of the more painful things a person can endure. So much worse than this would our suffering be, to have our impurities exposed to God's presence. Thus, it is by His mercy that He allows our souls to be purified before being joined in communion with Him.

To be joined with God in heaven, then, we must make the journey through life with a very clear knowledge of reality. We must embrace the saving love of Christ while also acknowledging our human nature- both in blessings and limitations, and by the grace of God, conform ourselves to His objective Truth, thereby ridding our souls from attachment to sin in all its capacities. Only by such grace can we hope to attain eternal life, and by example of our joy, lead as many others to Christ as well.

In this spirit, I pray that you're blessed with the strength to endure the purification of your heart, and I'd ask the same from you.

Good luck, and die to yourself.

-Rob Friedl

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