Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Cross, the Crescent, and the Glories of This World, II

In considering what to write on the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I found I was unable to improve on what I had written last year, save by updating it and making it more concise:


"To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to whomever I please."


Last year in an online political discussion forum, another Orthodox Christian poster raised the question of why Islam is the fastest growing religion on earth. The answer I proposed makes the words of the Evil One to Our Lord as reported in St. Luke's Gospel, a fitting starting point for a meditation on this, the sixth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001:

. . .at a material level, birthrate; at a noetic level, Islam is a nearly perfect demonic lie consonant with the interests of the prince of this world--it mingles appeals to all of the eight grievous vices catalogued by St. John Cassian (lust and gluttony in Mohammed's picture of 'paradise'; lust, wrath, and avarice in its promise of war-spoils; sloth in its fatalism; and pride, self-esteem, and (since they started losing to the West) envy in their haughty concern for every imagined slight to Islam or their 'prophet') with little fragments of true piety copied from our Orthodox traditions (prayer five times a day is the hours and compline, prostrations in prayer, women covering their heads).

The present conflict, begun in earnest with America's sudden awakening on that September morning six years ago, to the fact that terrorism is not a mere crime, but an act of war, has its origins not in the truths of Islam--that there is but one transcendent God, that we ought fall down before the One God, that we ought pray daily--but in the vices woven into its fabric asserting themselves once again. Envy and pride drive the leaders of the terrorists, who hide, cowering in caves from the new-wakened might of the West, even as lust for virginal 'houris' is dangled as a prize for the self-immolating cannon-fodder of the jihad.

But the devil's words should give us pause. That we have the material glories of economic power and military might, which is the envy of our enemies, outward symbols of which were the targets of that attack, should not be the ground of our hope for victory. ". . .I give it to whomever I please," the Evil One declared. While he is a liar from the beginning, the lie in the tempations of Our Lord was buried deep in, the surface meaning of the words spoken by the Evil One in each case was true. Material glory belongs to this world, which is passing away, and to the prince of this world. The seeds of cowardice sewn by the Evil One in the minds of our countrymen may yet blossom in a victory for Islam, or we ourselves being victorious, we may become even more convinced to our own ruin of the American fallacy that we, rather than God's providence, are responsible for our lives.

It is well for those of us on the New Calendar that a mere three days after this anniversary is the Feast of the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross.

"O God, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance, granting to Thy people victory over all their enemies, and by Thy Cross preserve Thine estate,"

the democratized version of the troparion runs. Singing it now, with barbarian enemies assailing Christendom once again, surely feels much as it did when the words ran, ". . .granting to our believing Kings victory over all their enemies. . ."

Let us remember that the True Victory by which death and the demons and this world were overcome was wrought on the Cross, "[the] weapon of peace, [the] trophy invincible" as another hymn terms it; that victories over the barbarians who beset us now must partake of that Victory in some way, lest they prove to be gifts of the Evil One and worse than defeat; that true victories may look like the Cross, or the Field of Kosovo, or the field near Shanksville, PA.

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