The unknown good

Let it not be said that no truth is ever spoken in our Canadian House of Commons, notwithstanding the Party of Lies has been in power these last 148 years (9 months, and 4 days). On Maundy Thursday of this year, the Hon. Kevin Sorenson (Battle River-Crowfoot), rose to say:

“Mr Speaker, this weekend, around the world those of the Christian faith will celebrate Easter. Western civilization, our Parliamentary institutions, human rights, the Canadian Constitution, common law, criminal law, and le Code Civil all have deep roots in Christianity.

“Our traditions and cultures have evolved over time from the promise of a coming Messiah in the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. We are promised everlasting life when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. The struggles of our daily lives and the sacrifices that we make pale in comparison to the sacrifice of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He died on the Cross at Calvary to pay for our sins and then rose from the grave to give us hope for our resurrection and eternal life.

“This weekend we celebrate the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, but even more we celebrate his victory over death.”


“What is truth?” Pontius Pilate famously asked. This was very droll.

I love old Pilate. I’m sure Jesus did, too, in his tough-love, Christian sort of way. Here was a man with plenty of guile, but also at some level, an humane administrator given half a chance, usually in control of his personal demons. At this key moment, it is remarkable how many, not only of droll lines, but of droll situations, have been captured by Saint John the Divine.

Or by Saint Luke: for instance, the little affair of the two administrators, as Pilate, discovering that Jesus is from Nazareth, thinks he can shunt Him off on the governor of Galilee. For that governor, Herod Antipas, happens to be in town. Herod, who does not know what to do with Him either, sends Jesus back. Neither could have wanted the Son of God to land in his jurisdiction.

We “just know” that given a choice of Jesus or Caiaphas, Pilate would rather take tea with Jesus. Early churchmen and mediaevals often saw it that way. Pilate is less than perfect, ahem, but he is a civilized man, and one may imagine him rolling his eyes at all the religious crazies, of whom he must be thinking, “this Jesus is hardly the worst.” The instinct to wash his hands is itself the mark of a good man. It is as if he already knows, in the Trotskyite vernacular, that he is getting put on “the wrong side of history.”

I have no idea how the Risen Lord must deal with gentlemen like Pilate. The Living Christ did, however, break His silence to have a few words with him. This, to me, seems to have some significance: that Pilate was not beyond speaking to. And in the words, “thou sayest,” Our Lord is speaking in Pilate’s own language of legality.

O poor Pilate, whose political office has blinded his eyes to Faith. Like the rich man, the man of power cannot afford to give up all he has. This saddens him; he must make compromises. He tries to squirm out of impossible situations. They are “above his pay grade,” or, he wishes they were. He gives the crowd the choice, Jesus or Barabbas. But he knows what crowds are like, once aroused. Pilate has instead given himself the choice of this choice; and finally he “is stuck with” the Crucifixion. He was no Judas, however; he wasn’t doing it for money and fame. He was only doing “what he had to do,” in the order of his blindness.

It is my belief that John, in his Gospel, fully apprehends the political “ironies” which each of the Synoptics has touched upon: the ironies, and with them, some of the implications, that otherwise must speak for themselves. I, at least, think the disciple that Jesus loved was, for all his virtues, ill-fitted for the first papacy.

John emphasizes the little paradoxes, the little twists, to carry a minor theme. This is the impossibility of “political solutions,” including, most pointedly, “democratic” political solutions. The others know this from Christ’s own lips, but John has it, too, from the deepest meditation: that Christ alone can save. Hence, paradoxically, he is the boldest of all the Apostles; and in his boldness at the foot of the Cross, the only survivor among them to old age.


John on Patmos with his eyes fixed on Heaven, faithfully transcribing what he has seen. That John, who is a small wooden statue standing as sentinel beside my bed: carved, I think, in the eastern Carpathians. His symbol is the chalice he is holding, which, like the figure, is tall and thin; John’s hand is cupped over the chalice. A world of meanings in that symbolic gesture; the peasant wood-carver successfully conveyed them.

It was sold to me by a Persian junk dealer, many years ago. He had no idea what it was or from where it had come. My sense of its provenance is from my own researches.

The sight of it reminds me there are no political solutions. We think there are, sometimes; sometimes we think this even up here in the High Doganate. We think, at least we can pass them off. Someone can be elected “to take care of it”; someone will know what to do. But no one knows.

And it is the man who says, “I know what to do,” while he is running for political office, who scares me. The Mister Fix It who will make us all great again. When, in reality, in the conditions that pertain to this planet, we are all going to die. Yet it is also pointless to fear: for what will happen, will happen.


Thomas Traherne: “News from a forrein Country came, / as if my Treasure and my Wealth lay there: / So much it did my Heart Enflame. …”

“Few will believ the Soul to be infinit,” the same poet wrote in his Centuries of meditations, “yet Infinit is the first Thing which is naturaly Known. Bounds and Limits are Discerned only in a Secondary maner. Suppose a Man were Born Deaf and Blind. By the very feeling of His Soul He apprehends infinit about Him, infinit Space, infinit Darkness. He thinks not of Wall or Limits till He feels them and is stopt by them. …”

The “news” of this Easter season comes only to one thing: that, from all the “wall or limits” of this world, He is risen.