Weekly Column by Fr. Rutler for December 21, 2014


December 21, 2014 by Fr. George W. Rutler

Where there is light there is life. That is a basic fact of botany and biology, and even moss and moles attest to that. While darkening days and cold winds have brought winter early, the season begins officially with the Winter Solstice. The “shortest day of the year” is as long as all the others, but darkness seems to cut life short. It is a good time for contemplating the difference between life and its absence, and so the Church leads ever deeper these days into the mysteries of Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. As the opposite of Heaven, Hell would seem to be the last thing anyone would want to think about just before Christmas, but the whole point of the Nativity of Our Lord is that it brings Heaven to earth in order to save us from the darkness of Hell.

Even those who would avoid these mysteries betray some intuition of them when they say in unguarded moments that something “Looks like Hell” or is “Heavenly.” Even an atheist is willing to contradict himself by telling believers to “Go to Hell.” As it is darkest before the dawn, so in these solemn hours when we try to imagine what it is like to be separated from God forever, there is a thrilling sense that something glorious is about to come into the world. Nothing could be more Hellish than the possibility that there is no Hell, for it would mean that there is no moral judgment. It would be like there being no up because there is no down, or no right because there is no wrong. 

Every time Christ spoke of the “fires of Gehenna,” he was intimating the eternal Heaven where there is no need of sun by day or moon by night, for the Lamb is the light, and thus all contradictions cease only in that eternal radiance: no darkness in contrast to light and no death in contrast to life. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:4-5).

To worship is to announce what we think of ourselves, as well as what we think of the object worshiped. That is why the worship of the true God, and him only, is at the top of all the Commandments. We can be Christians living in the “light from light,” which is the uncreated Christ himself, or we can be updated Druids worshiping the darkness and confused by a glimmer of light, but that would make us a perpetual confusion to ourselves. That is a foretaste of Hell where all is chaos in disunity. The truth is different: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).