Tuesday, 29 April 2014

'Satan's Dance of Triumph'

Scene II of Ralph Vaughan Williams'  ballet, Job: A Masque for Dancing, a work influenced equally by the Old Testament text and the illustrations of William Blake, is entitled Satan's Dance of Triumph. 
This is a description of the tableau which unfolds:

"So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord" 
Heaven is empty and God's throne vacant. Satan alone on the stage. 
He dances, and climbs up to God's throne and kneels in mock adoration. 
The hosts of Hell enter running and kneel before Satan 
who has risen and stands before God's throne facing the audience. 
Satan in wild triumph and with a big gesture sits in God's throne..."

On a quite unrelated subject (to quote Fr Hunwicke: "Beware of irony here, too") the latest meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales presented an agenda and a series of ... what are we to call them ... deliberations .... which are a vivid illustration of Bl John Henry Newman's prophetic words about the Church of England:

"...While Catholics are so weak in England, it is doing our work; and, though it does us harm in a measure, at present the balance is in our favour. What our duty would be at another time and in other circumstances, supposing, for instance, the Establishment lost its dogmatic faith, or at least did not preach it, is another matter altogether. In secular history we read of hostile nations having long truces, and renewing them from time to time.......
Doubtless the National Church has hitherto been a serviceable breakwater against doctrinal errors, more fundamental than its own. How long this will last in the years now before us, it is impossible to say, for the Nation drags down its Church to its own level...."

Clearly, the 'long truce' is over .... both for those united to the See of  Peter and those in communion with Canterbury who struggle, against all the odds and our leaders' ongoing abject capitulation to the neo-pagan relativism of the nation's  'post-Christian' culture, to live a Catholic, sacramental life within our Communion's confines.
The greatest wounds to the Body of Christ are always inflicted by those within the household of faith; most destructive of all are the unintended consequences of decisions made on the basis of a theologically false and philosophically deficient concept of compassion. 
I am aghast - 'chilled' would be a better word - at some of the language used, especially by those chosen to be our Fathers in God, and particularly in the debate on 'assisted dying.'  
There is now indeed significant "dissonance" - to use a word employed by the Archbishop of Wales last week  - but between the opinions expressed this Eastertide at Llandudno and the Christian tradition itself. [here]

"Satan in wild triumph sits in God's throne...' 

Part of  a televised performance from the Royal Festival Hall in 1972 with the great Sir Adrian Boult conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra 

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