Nothing is strong. Very Strong.


The Readings for Wednesday in the 5th week of Easter (C1)

Without me you can do nothing.

St Thomas Aquinas calls God the root of being, itself. God’s being is the very beingness of everything. St John says that God is love. That means the very beingness of the entire Cosmos is rooted in Love. Or, as I tweeted earlier this month:

Ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. (St John) + Deus est ipsum esse per se subsistens. (Aquinas) = Love is all there is (Beatles)

Today, Jesus says “without me you can do nothing”. That is literal truth. Nothing at all (of value) is done without Jesus by anyone at all. Even non-Christians can do nothing without Jesus. Jesus is the Logos, the word of God. Each thing has its own logos, its own “word”. In that it has a being it is participating in God, in that it has a thingness, a function, a logos of its own that is its own participating in Christ. “At the heart of each thing is its inner principle or logos, implanted within it by the Creator Logos; and so through the logoi we enter into communion with the Logos,” said Bishop Kalistos Ware back before he went off the rails. Your action to start the car, to type a blog post, to read a blog post, to whine in the comments is a participation in the Logos or it is of no value, no reality, at all. Even if you’re not a Christian, even if you’re not a theist.

The beingness of God the Father, from which every being generates, and the indwelling principle of the Logos, the very life of God communicated by his pneuma, his Spirit, makes all things an ongoing participation in the Trinity to the eyes that can see it; and yet this is no less true if you can’t or won’t see it.

Bishop John Zizioulas sums this up nicely: To be and to be in communion are the same thing.

There is no way to act that is not an active participation in God, even if you are trying to undermine Godly people in the world. And yet to the degree that you manage to close yourself off to God, to reject participation in God, it is entirely possible to achieve the opposite goal. There are only two choices: being and non-being. There is nothing you can do that is not God in Christ working in the world… Unless it’s not. Then it is exactly the reverse. There is no way to express love that is not a participation in God – even if you reject the idea that God exists. You may have imperfect or disordered love, but God is love. You may deny the very being of those around you or in your womb, but God’s being makes them. You may rip their life – or your own – out of the body, but that life is God’s nonetheless. It’s only you that are cut off.

Without Jesus you can do nothing. Uncle Screwtape knows this. CS Lewis gives him this amazing text in Letter XII which is even now describing Facebook on your phone, Game of Thrones on your TV, twitter on your computer at work, porn…

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. 

You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. 

All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

Porn makes you imagine sins… but you never get to do them. Facebook feels like gossip, even if no one reads your post. Humans are the only being with an ongoing choice, open and active until death, to decide for or against God. To bear fruit, much fruit, good fruit, you must be in Jesus.

Now, some pagans do an awful lot of good: that’s all Jesus. Some Christians do an awful lot of evil. That’s the non-being swallowing things up.

Without Jesus you can do nothing… and you’ll get around to liking nothing, and soon… that’s what you’ll get. As Magenta says to Dr Frankenfurter,

“I ask for nothing! …Master.”
And he replies, “And you shall receive it. In abundance.”

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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