Project Canterbury

Discerning the Lord's Body
The Rationale of a Catholic Democracy

By Frederic Hastings Smyth, Ph.D.
Superior of the Society of the Catholic Commonwealth

Louisville, Kentucky: The Cloister Press, 1946.

Chapter VIII. The Liturgy and the Atonement


EVERY OFFERTORY put forward by any group of the Divine Community of Our Lord's social humanity suffers from two kinds of limitations.

One of these is derived from the conditions imposed by man's situation within the environment of this fallen world. These are those residual limitations which Original Sin imposes upon the process of man's redemption so long as this process moves solely within what we have called its first stage. Limitations of this kind we discovered even in the perfected individual humanity of Our Lord Himself. They are called the contingencies of the Offertory.

Another set of limitations comes from the actual sins committed by members of the Divine Community during the period of the preparation of any given Offertory. Limitations of this kind can never be either necessary or proper to any perfected fruit of Our Lord's Incarnation within this world. In other words, they are not contingencies at all, but defects. Defects, as distinct from contingencies, are not to be found within the individual humanity of Our Lord; for His humanity, although contingent, was free from all sin. [Hebrews. 4:15. It is here stated that He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. "Tempted," in this context, may be interpreted as "including contingencies." "Without sin" certainly means "without defects."]

True contingencies within the Offertory are dealt with by Our Lord within that following Consecration to which every Offertory looks forward. As we have seen, they are there converted into their absolute counterparts, as the contingently perfected structures of the Offertory come to [96/97] be included within the transit of the Cross and are thus received into the level of the absolute perfection of Our Lord's risen Body and Blood. But just as actual defects were not present in that original transit of the Cross which was established with Our Lord's individual humanity at His own crucifixion, so too they are not dealt with by Him within His liturgical Consecration. Only a contingently perfected Offertory is fit to be put forward for the Consecration. Defects must in some way be eliminated before the Divine Community may presume to place its Offertory upon Our Lord's Altar for His acceptance within the movement of His Holy Sacrifice.

We shall presently see that defects or sins within the Offertory are dealt with by Our Lord through their conversion into contingencies before the event of the Consecration, so that then, as contingencies taken together with all those already present in the structure of the Offertory from other sources, they are capable of being received into His waiting absolute perfection. ["Waiting" in the sense intended by Our Lord when He says "I go to prepare a place for you," adding "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John. 14:2-3). Thus Our Lord waits behind the Consecration to accept an additional content into His risen humanity which He is to receive in and through the Offertory of His social humanity. The words which St. John here attributes to Our Lord seem saturated with metacosmic allusion.]

It is, of course, Our Lord alone who has power to accomplish either of these necessary actions upon both sins and contingencies. This re-creative power applied in these connections is usually spoken of as the power of His Atonement. Our Lord alone can convert defects into contingencies. He alone can accept contingencies into the level of His absolute perfection in eternity. Yet although the application of the power of the Atonement remains exclusively His work, nevertheless there are also certain prior cooperating conditions laid down for all members of His social humanity when they invoke this special boon. And the fulfilment of these conditions is required before those who present their Offertory may rightfully expect His creatively healing [97/98] and atoning response to their own utter need. Furthermore, when these prior conditions are not fulfilled to the utmost by any Sacramental group, those who so presume may run the risk of ruin instead of the atoning healing of Our Lord. [Matt. 22: 11-14; I Cor. 11:29-30.]

In addition, while the power of the Atonement, as we have just said, must be invoked upon the defects within the Offertory before the Consecration, and while it is then subsequently applied to contingencies within the movement of the Consecration, the contingencies of the Offertory themselves need to be further separated into three sub-groups. For the invocation of the Atonement upon each of these three groups has its own specific prior conditions and involves its own peculiar sets both of practical resolutions and corresponding actions. And these differ according to the group of contingencies under consideration.

We must therefore attempt a more detailed analysis of the applications of the Atonement to both sins and contingencies according to their various conditions and kinds.


It is a saddening fact, but one which must be realistically faced, that when any typical group of the Divine Community brings forward its Offertory of bread and wine, its members find themselves forced to admit that in one way or another they have introduced within the structure of its history certain defects which derive from their own shortcomings and sins.

We have already pointed out that in so far as the Offertory possesses to any degree the pattern of the perfection of Our Lord's humanity this must be recognized as exclusively His creation. Nevertheless, He wills to perfect every Offertory within and through a human group whose members are always enlisted to cooperate with Him upon a basis of a rational and free allegiance to His redeeming purpose. The inner freedom of no member is ever overruled, nor is an individual human will disregarded on any occasion whatever. No member is ever reduced to the status of an automaton. And although, like the first Apostles themselves, [98/99] those who are baptized into Our Lord's humanity are freed from the impossible burden of Original Sin, and although they are also given a peculiar grace by virtue of their membership in Him to avoid all voluntary dereliction, nevertheless--again, like the Apostles--they are not automatically restrained from human folly and the perversion of their human wills. They are restrained from post-baptismal sin only by Our Lord's grace working in and through their free and rational lives.

So far as we know, Our Lord alone as an individual within this world prepared a unit of humanity so perfected that it was without any defect whatever either of Original or of actual sin. It was this unit which provided the Offertory of the bread and wine of His individual natural body and blood as this took form during His human life on earth. Because He Himself has accomplished this and, in so doing, has initiated a social life-process under the form of His Baptized Community, extending His individual humanity in such wise as to be relieved from the otherwise unconquerable barriers of Original Sin, it is at least conceivable that any group of this Community which succeeds Him in the Incarnation might, through His continuing power, bring forward a similarly perfected Offertory free as was His individual Offertory from the taint of actual sin. Yet this is certainly not the usual performance of His social humanity. For even while His members try to follow Him, try by His grace to throw themselves completely into the corporate life of His perfection, they all too often fail. They all too often reintroduce a sinful disorder within the very boundaries of His potentially perfect social Incarnation.

Now this kind of disorder introduced into the preparation of the bread and wine within the Divine Community itself constitutes a defect of a very grievous nature. For Our Lord's social humanity has been given the potentiality of avoiding this kind of defection. It has the power, if this be rightly used, of redeeming those portions of the fallen world which it touches into a new and unblemished--although contingent--order upon the natural level of this life, because the one problem completely unsolvable from a [99/100] human standpoint, that of Original Sin, has here been solved by Our Lord. It follows that voluntary sin committed by baptized members of His Community is far worse than any disorder to be found within the environing world, because this is a marring of a newly created perfection first established by Our Lord and then freely entrusted into the hands of His Community for a further and a wider building. This kind of sin has the character of a betrayal like that of the denials of Peter or the kiss of Judas. Furthermore, it betrays both Our Lord Himself and all other members of the Community; for it tends to vitiate that corporate enterprise of the preparation of the Offertory to which all members of Our Lord's social humanity are otherwise unitedly bending their common efforts.

In addition, voluntary disorders introduced within the Divine Community are highly and dangerously infective. Like the first disorders in God's old creation which set going the irretrievable disaster of Original Sin, they initiate another train of difficulties within Our Lord's New Creation which are analogous to, but clearly more virulent than, the difficulties of Original Sin within the old. Corruptio optimi pessima. [Alexander Pope paraphrased this Latin saying with his line: "Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds." It is salutary to recall that the lilies that fester in the hands of baptized sinners are the Lilies of the Annunciation!]

Our Lord's re-creative power must therefore be invoked upon the defects within the structure of the Offertory before it may be borne to the Altar. The prior conditions laid upon all members of His social humanity before they may ask this kind of intervention in their behalf are those of careful self-examination, frank confession of faults thus unveiled and an act of penance for these derelictions, coupled with a resolution for the future that, by Our Lord's grace, such derelictions of the human will as have here introduced the disorders now discovered shall not reoccur.

Confession of the individual parts played in the introduction of whatever voluntary disorders are discovered within the structure of any given Offertory must, of course, [100/101]
be made to God. For it is from God alone that there proceeds the power of their radical reparation. However, they must also be confessed before the fellowship of Our Lord's Community as a whole; for an individually introduced defect carries a corporately damaging reference within the common Offertory, a reference which concerns all other members of the Community. For a Liturgical Christian there are no strictly private sins. If Our Lord is betrayed within the common redeeming enterprise of His corporate humanity, each and every one of His members is harmed by this betrayal. If the Offertory is rendered unfit for presentation at the Altar by one member, the intended Sacrifice is equally impeded for all the others. There must therefore be mutual confession within the Community. If demanded by circumstances, confession must be accompanied by corresponding acts of reparation or material restitution. There must be a movement of mutual forgiveness among all members of the Divine Community, even while individual derelictions are being confessed to God. [A so-called General Confession with an ensuing Absolution now occurs as an element in nearly all Liturgies of Our Lord's Memorial. In such a Confession, of course, no specific sins may be publicly mentioned. However, individuals should at this point mentally recall the personally known defects which they have introduced into their Offertory in order that these may be particularized for the invocation of Our Lord's Atonement.]

This latter condition is fulfilled by the discipline of individual confession in the presence of a priest who then acts as an official representative both of Our Lord's recreative absolving power and also of the forgiveness of the whole human Community which has been sinned against. Within this social act of confession--commonly called the Sacrament of Penance--, and under the authority committed representatively to His priest, Our Lord responds. His atoning action is Sacramentally mediated, and the penitent's disordered contributions to the Offertory are rectified. At the same time the Sacramental Confession and Absolution extend Our Lord's forgiving and creatively restoring action to the tangled corporate damage caused by the individual sins of the penitent. In this way the structures [101/102] of the offered bread and wine are given the full status of the contingent perfection of His humanity. Actual sins then no longer remain as defects within the structure of the Offertory. They are converted into contingencies. The bread and wine are then made available in the completeness of their historical structures for presentation for Our Lord's further reception within His Consecration, within the transit of the Cross.

One word of caution in this present connection ought to be added. A sin, considered objectively as a past event, cannot be obliterated from the history of the preparation of any portions of bread and wine. God cannot make a wrong deed committed in the past to be as if it had not occurred at all. He can, however, weave its otherwise disastrous present effects within the Offertory into the pattern of His human perfection, in such wise that these defects lose their inhibiting character and assume the character of true contingencies. And in this converted form they no longer block the movement of the Offertory towards the Altar. Members of the Divine Community, with all sins confessed and absolved, still retain in a certain sense the marks of these sins within their Offertory. A member's lie, for example, once told, cannot be historically "untold," even though it be corrected later by an act of truthful reparation to some fellow member. But a lie absolved can become a contingency within the Offertory in the sense that Our Lord's Atonement can eradicate its evil effects within the present time. And within the individual consciousness, its mark--or memory--may become an element of positive experience which may enable the one who has sinned, but has been absolved, better to recognize approaching dangerous situations in the future and so to avoid telling other lies.

Finally, we must carefully avoid the confusing heresy of thinking that a defect introduced into the Offertory is in some strange--or even mystical--manner really a good thing because by Our Lord's atoning power it may be converted into a positive element of content--contingent, to be sure, but nevertheless a real one--within the pattern of His perfected humanity. This is a scandalous error into which [102/103] certain Christians in the past have been betrayed. But it is nevertheless a joyful truth that upon the conditions of confession, penance and amending resolution, Our Lord can absolve and thus reperfect to His use within His Offertory even voluntary human derelictions, once these have been committed--derelictions which would otherwise be utterly fatal. Herein is seen most surely the marvel of the power of Our Lord in His Incarnation in that He can make all things work together for good to them that love Him! [See Appendix V, page 205.]


Once all defects are converted through Confession and Absolution into contingencies within the structure of the Offertory, the bread and wine of the Divine Community may be moved to Our Lord's Altar. There He waits to receive these contingently perfected increments of His Incarnation into the content of His absolute perfection, conveying them through the door of His Consecration into His risen life. But even at this point, His reception of contingencies through His atoning power within the transit of the Cross itself imposes certain cooperating conditions upon the members of His Community, and these must also be understood and fulfilled.

The contingencies of the Offertory may, as we have said, be distinguished in three general groups. These are as follows.

Firstly, there are those contingencies which are capable of being reduced or alleviated by practical action on the part of Our Lord's members, and whose reduction must be sought and worked for by all Christians under pain of finding them reconverted into defects or sins within the Offertory.

Secondly, there are those which, with the passage of time and the widening spread of the Incarnation in the world, may be reduced, but whose reduction--although it may be thankfully accepted if it occur--may not be deliberately [103/104] sought or aimed at under pain of finding them reconverted into defects within the Offertory.

Thirdly, there are certain seemingly irreducible contingencies which, so far as present knowledge enables us to judge, will always be found in every Offertory and which, in the very nature of the case, will never be eliminated while the Sacramental body of Our Lord continues its growth and work within this world.


In the first group there belong those contingencies which derive from a kind of mutual interpenetration between the environment of the fallen world and the new organic society of the Incarnation, while this society is growing within the world, feeding upon it as it were, redeeming its disordered elements by vital appropriation into the order of Our Lord's social humanity. For during the development of this process, so long as the redeeming society remains relatively small in its compass, its members in obtaining their bread and wine necessarily have temporarily to avail themselves of many arrangements and relationships in the world around them, even while these still remain greatly at variance with the principles of that redeemed order within which the bread and wine for Our Lord's Memorial are required.

We have already touched upon this difficulty, pointing out that the Divine Community has thus far made relatively little headway in the task of changing the economic, social and political systems of its environment into an order even approximately based upon the motivating power of Christian love and brotherly cooperation. Instead, the world's present arrangements are grounded in the principle of self-aggrandizement at the expense of neighbors--a principle which is applied alike to the operations of individuals, regional groups and sovereign nations. [See Appendix VI, page 212.]

It is necessary to emphasize this latter difficult fact, because many Christians seem to be ignorant of it. For our actual world environment is so evilly disordered that if its extreme individualism, which leads to murderous competition, is at times somewhat mitigated during the so-called peacetime periods of our present economic process, this is really and basically contrary to, and therefore detrimental to, the full application of the competitive principles by which our system avowedly operates. This is proved by the fact that some of our keenest secular leaders recognize the dangers to their world which lurk in consistent plans for cooperation in economic affairs. For in the midst of some of the difficulties (business depressions, mass unemployment ) which a system of unbridled, individualistic competition brings upon itself even in so-called peacetime, an experimental approach within limited areas of business is sometimes made toward the development of a cooperative economy, that is, an economy based upon the goals of mutual social welfare and benefits, rather than of individualistic profit making. And this is at once greeted (even by many respectable Christians) as a threat to Free Enterprise. [E.g. We may recall criticism levelled at the United States Government T. V. A. power development in the decade of the '30s.] It is attacked as actually detrimental to the most desirable type of American (and British) character! It is then pointed out that cooperative enterprise, which also requires socially limited material property rights together with social authority distributed on a basis other than that of mere ownership of wealth, will give us a nation of government parasites, drones and moral weaklings. [It is curious to find that when a government freely provides for millions of its citizens the best possible clothing, the best food, the best physical care, the best transportation facilities, the best housing, the best procurable entertainment, the best specialized education for selected individuals, all distributed solely on a basis of admitted need and of tested ability to consume such gifts in a socially profitable manner, this is admired not merely as a contribution to public welfare, but as a boon to universal happiness and a builder of corporate morale--provided the recipients of these socially furnished bounties are engaged in the murderous art of waging international war! But if such provision were socially made in times of peace, in return for nation-wide cooperative effort toward the common welfare of all citizens, this would be hailed as a design for national decadence! Let us hope that when the members of the present world-wide armed forces return from their life recently mobilized for war, they may begin to see that it is only rational to mobilize in an analogous socially organized manner--instead of individualistically and competitively--for the arts of peace, for a common national and international cooperative welfare.] In other [105/106] words, the fallen world's notion of "good character" is very far indeed from the character which would be normal to a Christian (and a rationally planned) cooperative system--a system in which Christian love might be put by those who possess it to a functionally practical and constructive purpose for it turns out that Christian love radically applied to the secular world of our time would break up its organized economy completely. Therefore, the fallen world of our environment rejects the Christian order as it rejects Christian love in everything except a superficial application. It continues to insist upon exalting that fine, individualistic "strength of character" which is seen at its best in the developed, but non-rational natures of jungle beasts. [This is why the fascist system of government and of industrial economy encourages a school of "philosophical" thought which openly advocates the suppression of the rational human intellect. Fascism, being itself the enthronement by force of Capitalism Unashamed has seen more clearly than certain politically democratic nations that human reason is out of place within a framework of irrational, animal competition--especially when, as in fascist states, one small group of the competitors, following the logic of the whole process, have finally come out on top, and are thus able to eliminate the competitions of their lesser fellow citizens by force. In this kind of situation which is not merely the competition, but the triumph, of the beast, the special pleaders and apologists for the competitive victory begin to say that the highest type of man is found in a return to the beast. Away with Reason! "Thinking" is now to be done, not with the brain, but with the blood!] And this kind of murderous anti-Christian individualism (admired as Free Enterprise and The American Way of Life) is supposed not merely to breed good characters, but is actually thought that in some mysterious manner it works the greatest good to the greatest number. Two world wars in one generation are the judgments of God's justice upon such criminal naïveté. Yet it is out of an environmental world of this kind that [106/107] the bread and wine of the Divine Community are brought to the Altar, entraining--trailing in as it were--such disorders in the structures of their histories as would at first glance seem to render them utterly unsuitable for the Christian Offertory. The question therefore arises, how is it possible for the Divine Community to present such bread and wine before it has made a further headway in the reordering of the environing fallen world? From the human point of view it would almost seem as if the presence of so many and grave contingencies within the Offertory might be sufficient cause for the suspension of all celebrations of Our Lord's Memorial against the time when the bread and wine of the Divine Community may be prepared within a preponderantly socialized industrial system, rather than within the present competitive one.


This question does begin to weigh upon the consciences of a good many Christians today. Certain groups of Catholic Christians appear to think that no widely extending solution can be found. They therefore advocate the withdrawal of Christians into small homogeneous groups, apart from, and thus as independent as possible of, the rest of their environmental world. It is claimed that such groups could be large enough to set up a simple, self-contained material economy based upon a Christian order and motivation. The great modern scientific techniques and mass production of the material amenities of life, in the nature of the case, could not be employed by such small communities. Life would have to be simplified. Members of these communities would have to live, as did their remoter ancestors, largely by tilling the soil. And the manufacture of material necessities would have to be carried on in a revival of handicrafts and artisanship. But at any rate, bread and wine could here be prepared as representing a more Christian, if relatively restricted, structure of human relationships. The disordered relationships characteristic of the world environing the small self-contained communities [107/108] would not have to be admitted even remotely--so it is argued--into the Offertory of the Altar.

This solution of the difficulties with which our first group of contingencies presents us has a strong appeal to a good many Catholics, especially those of the modern Roman obedience. [The Distributist League, a movement in the Roman Communion in England advocated by Mr. Hilaire Belloc and the late G. K. Chesterton, seems to favor this plan. The same ideas have found adherents among Roman Catholics in the United States. The American Organ of this Distributist-Pacifist movement is now the Catholic Worker.] This is why it is mentioned here, even while it is to be immediately rejected. For it is open to two fatal objections. Firstly, it is not possible to achieve a really isolated social unit. Certain relationships with the outside world would have to be maintained, unless members are willing to return to living conditions of a medieval primi-tiveness. For no local community in a modern world could, for example, manufacture its own iron for agricultural implements, its own rubber, glass, plastics, and other necessary modern materials. More often than not it would have to buy coal for fuel. It would certainly have to buy oil and gasoline and very likely, electric power. It would use the money of the state. To obtain money, it would also have to sell certain of its products. Its actual economic, as well as cultural connections with the outside world would be myriad. We have mentioned only a few here, by way of example. No one either of knowledge or imagination could be deluded into thinking that a "self-contained" Christian Community would completely eliminate the difficulty of involving some--in practice there would be many--of the elements of its disordered environment within the preparation of its bread and wine. Therefore, this "solution" is no solution at all.

But secondly, it is open to the still graver criticism of being extricationist. It is an experiment which seems to renounce the problem of the redemption of the world as a hopeless one. It is complacently content to let the world at large go to hell, if only little islands of calm and [108/109] over-simplified perfection can be built about certain rural altars. It renounces, as being too difficult to master, the bulk of the fruits of modern scientific achievement. It thus rejects some of the greatest and finest positive achievements of the rational human mind. Therefore, at its best, this solution represents a pathetic and weakly romantic confusion. At its worst, it comes to mere arty-crafty defeatism.


The proper Incarnational method of dealing with those environmental disorders which in our age survive in the secular historical structure of the Offertory, is by no means to flee them. Still less must there be made an attempt at group insulation from the world's environment. The Incarnational method is, instead, to develop a Sacramental group life of such vigor that through the redeeming, atoning power of Our Lord of which it is the vehicle it may triumph over whatever connections with environmental disorder are for the time being imposed upon the members of His Community. Connections with surviving disorders in the still unredeemed environmental world can then be appropriated creatively into the Offertory as true contingencies, and not as defects.

In this way, the elements within the historical structures of bread and wine which remain for the time being genuinely beyond all control of the Divine Community can be made available for the Consecration in a kind of interim way by the application of Our Lord's vital atoning power working in and through His Community. For example, when bread which has emerged from conditions of human injustice or the breach of the law of Christian love in the outside world is received within the Offertory, those elements of unredeemed secular disorder which it entrains can be made to take the same kind of contingent places within its perfected structure that Our Lord's own individual dealings with the surrounding unredeemed world of His day took in the structure of His individual humanity. For, as an individual, Our Lord Himself ate food which came to Him from a slave [109/110] society still untouched as a whole by His redeeming action. Yet the use He made of such food, once He had appropriated it, was a perfected use. His necessary relationships with the still unredeemed world, as these converged in Him, were wrought into a perfected pattern at His end of them, within His individual human unit. Such relationships, disordered though they still remained at their other ends, appeared in His humanity as contingencies rather than as defects. They were contingencies of our first group now under discussion.

The structures of the bread and wine of the Offertory are likewise perfected by Our Lord's same creative power as the disordered secular events and relationships residual within them converge into that Incarnational group which implements the redeeming order of His social humanity. The elements of their historical structures are perfected at the group's end of the relationships involved; and the still disordered elements of their histories within the outside world, as in Our Lord's individual case, appear here too as contingencies rather than as defects. And even though the immediate action of the Incarnational group upon its bread and wine be confined to mere purchase from the surrounding world, nevertheless, by virtue of Our Lord's Atonement such purchase becomes a kind of price of ransom from the fallen world. The structures of the bread and wine are, by this simple act, brought into the first stage of the process of human redemption. They become contingent, but none the less perfected structures, available for the Consecration within Our Lord's Memorial. And in this way, the Memorial can be performed with rhythmic regularity even long before the time that the organism of Our Lord's social humanity here in earth has been extended to encompass, and so to redeem, God's world in its entirety.

For the purpose of strengthening and deepening Our Lord's re-creative power within it, every Incarnational group must take form as a cell-like organic unit of His socially redeeming life. It must, in a proper sense, strive to emphasize the fact that it is a unit of a new social perfection clearly distinct from--in a manner indeed over against--the fallen [110/111] world of its environment. A unit cell of Our Lord's humanity must be quite unafraid to consolidate and to mature its distinct life and so to affirm the special, newly ordered quality of its own peculiar corporate structure; for it is indeed a social unit already received into the first stage of human redemption.

This affirmation of the possession of a new and peculiar organic being might, at first glance, seem to justify that very reproach of insulationism, of attempted separation from the world, which has just been decried. However, in this case the development of that sense of being a seed of a new world in Our Lord's Incarnation,--a world which shall supersede the old world of a fallen environment,--is properly developed not for the sake of separation from the old world, but for the sake of acquiring the necessaiy group strength and understanding to attack it and to deal with it intelligently, even with respect to its most difficult disorders. For only the members of a well consolidated Incarnational group can move freely, militantly, unafraid, within their environmental world, the more readily and determinedly to reorganize that world's relationships into patterns befitting the preparation of bread and wine for their Offertory.

It must therefore be the primary--and quite unashamed-concern of every Incarnational group to strengthen, enlarge and perfect in quality its own unit of redeemed ordered life. Such a group should emerge, in whatever time and place it finds itself, as a concrete, objective social manifestation of Our Lord's vital redeeming power. It must develop to the utmost fullness those habitual activities and cultural attitudes which are peculiar characteristics of a world newly re-created within the ordered wholeness of His social humanity. The prayers and meditations of its members must be habitually regular, sincere and purposeful. The fullness of its Sacramental life must be carefully maintained. But all this is not for the purpose of a kind of precious group insulation from its environment, but for the purpose of strengthening Our Lord's atoning power within its organism and the application of this power to the amelioration or correction of all persisting disorders of the fallen world environment.

[112] Furthermore, it is probable--however unfortunate this may be--that in the outside world the various members of any given group will have but little contact one with another in those businesses and professions by which they severally gain their present livings. This is just another way of saying that the average Incarnational group of today controls relatively few of the practical relationships of the modern world--either commercial or intellectual--within the ambit of its own peculiar order. Members are therefore compelled continually to go forth from their true world to perform within their surrounding fallen world many of the functions necessary to the maintenance of life. It is essential, therefore, that they be provided with that understanding and courage which can come only from membership in some central Community of Our Lord's Incarnation, a Community in which His atoning power is creative and sustaining. It is only against such a background that they will be able to further Our Lord's work in their environing secular world and thus to attack the sources of those contingencies which, because of the many unredeemed relationships still encountered daily, crowd a multitude of potentially damaging elements into their Offertory of bread and wine. Only the vitally maintained creative power of Our Lord's Atonement in His Incarnation can triumph over these great difficulties and so receive portions of bread and wine, which contain such and so many objective evils within their secular historical structures, as contingently perfected things available for His Consecration. It is to this positive end that all Incarnational group life is to be definitely defined and intensively developed.


Let us suppose that a certain Sacramental cell of Our Lord's social body has, by His grace, been given the power adequately to cope with its as yet unredeemed environmental disorders. Let us suppose, that is, that the power of Our Lord's Atonement within its corporate life is enabled here to emerge with sufficient strength to convert the cell's [112/113] present connections with external disorder into contingent, but none the less temporarily acceptable, elements within its Offertory. There is still a certain prior condition which must be fulfilled before this atoning power may be invoked and applied. Our Lord Himself expressed this condition both simply and directly when He said: If thou bring thy gift to the Altar and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift and go thy way. First be reconciled with thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. [Matt. 5:23-24.]

This condition applies obviously to the matter of actual voluntary sins committed by baptized members of the Divine Community. With the application of the Atonement in this connection we have just dealt in the consideration of Confession and Sacramental Absolution. Our Lord's condition implies in this case both confession of sin, and a proper effort at correction of past wrongs coupled with resolution not to commit the same wrongs in the future.

Historically speaking, it seems never to have been anything like so clear that this condition of Our Lord's concerning the gifts brought to His Altar also has parallel applications to the involuntary defects which, by reason of its evil structure, an unredeemed environing world habitually forces Christians to admit into the structures of their bread and wine. Christians have seemed to place such involuntary deficiencies--when they have been conscious of them at all--in the category of the inevitable, in the category of things about which, although they are doubtless deplorable, it is impossible to do anything. All too often Christians have even failed to take them into account at all, thinking of them at the most with a kind of sentimentally moral regret. Christians often become almost unconscious even of a sense of strain in these matters. They have not realized, therefore, that environing evils upon which they are forced in great measure to depend in the production of their gifts to Our Lord can, unless something is either done or resolved to be done about them, turn into [113/114] serious threats to the perfection of their Offertory of bread and wine.

Thus Christians who as individuals would guard carefully against telling deliberate lies, find it possible to earn their livings as modern salesmen, or advertising agents, or radio announcers, without even seeing that there is an incongruity between the commercial lying thus often forced upon them and their own personal truthfulness. People who would certainly refrain from using physical force to impose even their own rational opinions on others who disagree with them, for the reason that they have a genuine Christian respect for rational human freedom, have in past times found nothing incongruous in the forcible owning of whole classes of their fellow men, body and soul, when they have been born and conditioned in a slave-holding economic system. The same type of Christian today is apt to be completely unmindful of the fact that the economic system in which he gains his own living robs millions of subject colonial peoples of both their spiritual and physical freedoms. Christians who would never steal the property of their immediate neighbors find it possible to live on dividends which come out of an established capitalist system of industrial production which in principle robs the great bulk of our working people of their full and just share in the wealth which issues from their work. Christians who would never dream of committing an individual murder, for the most part fail even to view critically our mal-organized economic system which, by virtue of its constitutional structure, leads unavoidably to the mass murder of modern wars. [Unfortunately the majority of Catholics have not yet been led to think of the disorders of their individual lives in terms of an Inear-nationally social reference. The Sacrament of Penance is seldom thought of as a social act perfecting the structure of a community life and thus moving to prepare an offering of perfected bread and wine. Today it is one of the major tasks of a vital Catholicism to recall nominal Catholics from exclusive preoccupation with sin as a purely individual matter, as a disorder in individual life only, without reference to the corporate Offertory of Our Lord's Memorial. If the Church continues to be complacently concerned with individual sin and individual "salvation" apart from corporate redeeming growth, she will before long prepare a terrible punishment for herself at the hands of a contemptuous world. She will rob herself of much of her power of furthering Our Lord's Incarnationally redeeming work in this moment of crisis in world history. She will have continued her dreary surrender to an unchristian, extricationist religion.]

The reasons for this seeming indifference to enforced social wrong-doing, as distinct from voluntary individual sinning, are manifold. Certainly one of the chief of them is [114/115] sheer ignorance. In times past, as in our modern world, the majority of Christians simply have not understood that political and economic systems could be organized on a constitutionally unchristian basis. They have not understood that whether they as individuals wished it or not they could thus be prevented from conducting their business and professional affairs according to the requirements of their religion. Especially in modern times, they have tended to view the current social and economic order as, in its constitution, morally indifferent. Thus they have been led to think that individual Christian virtue may be exercised in any such order. In fact, Christians often argue that "if everyone really did act like a Christian," our present economic and political arrangements would be greatly improved. This argument presupposes as a truth that social systems are disordered only because the individuals within them behave in individually evil ways.

An analysis the exact opposite of this would come nearer the truth. Our present system, for example, is so constituted on a basis of individualistic competition for profits that the universal practice of true Christian love and cooperation would not improve it, but would effect its collapse. On the other hand, just so long as the capitalist system as we now have it persists, the universal practice of Christian virtue will be inhibited, no matter what the intentions of the individuals may be. As a matter of fact both the environmental, socially structural difficulties, and the human moral difficulties have to be taken into account in the Christian approach to a solution of this problem. By way of illustration, let us suppose that an investigation of a certain automobile accident reveals two contributing causes. For one thing, the car is found to be outmoded, [115/116] structurally of a type unadapted to the exigencies of modern traffic. It is also found that the driver of the car was drunk at the time of the accident. We have here both an environmental, structural cause and a human, moral cause.

Clearly, for the sake of safety hereafter, we have to demand both a modernized mechanism and a sober driver. On this point we might expect universal agreement. But oddly enough, in analyzing our present economic disasters we do not find this kind of agreement. Materialists tend to say that the only thing wrong with the human world is the conflict enshrined constitutionally in our outmoded capitalist system of production. Christians--together with many non-dogmatic idealists--tend to say that there is nothing constitutionally wrong with the economic system, but that our troubles arise solely from human sin--in this connection usually called "greed" and "selfishness." In other words, materialists seem to take the position that there was nothing amiss in the incident of the automobile accident except the outmoded car. Christians, on the other hand, seem to contend that there was nothing wrong except that the driver was drunk!

It may be remarked in passing that the materialists in this case seem slightly more on the practically correct side than the Christians. For a drunken driver might drive a mechanically perfect car without an accident, while the soberest of men would be almost bound to come to grief with a defective mechanism.


A rational, scientific understanding that the secular organization of the human social environment may effectively inhibit the nurture and the practice of Christian moral virtue, regardless of the intentions and wills of individual Christians, is of comparatively recent appearance in human history. Historically, Christians have often felt this difficulty. But they have had no scientific analysis to enlighten them and to guide them to solutions. Ignorance of this sort accounts for the fact that the Christian protest [116/117] against environing secular disorders has so often seemed blind and almost hysterical, devoid of scientific suggestions towards finding remedies.

For example, the Church of the first two centuries was deeply conscious that by the very fact of the tremendous newness of her own socially organized life, she carried a revolutionary threat to the established social and economic disorders of her day. Her members often refused to resort to secular law courts, because they realized that secular decisions would have been based upon unchristian presuppositions. Christian martyrs refused to burn incense to a deified Roman Emperor by way of protest against the evil basis of the political order. But nobody seems to have known what to do about the disorders of the secular world except to protest against them. No one seems to have had any idea that Christians, by careful planning and by united, organized action, might be able to attack their contemporary world and then reorganize it on the basis of more Christian social presuppositions. Indeed, the notion that man can rationally plan and then act socially to change the economic order of his corporate life has been historically largely absent from Christian thought. It is, shamefully enough, far from universally present to Christian thought today, even while the better elements of the secular world are beginning to realize that this kind of action lies open to rational man, quite apart from any religion whatever.

This kind of tension between the requirements of the bread and wine of a Christian social order and the realities of the organization of an unredeemed secular environment when keenly felt, but blindly confronted, by members of Our Lord's Community, has had some distressing--not to say perverting--consequences. In the early Church it gave birth to an irrational and emotional protest, which, whether we like to acknowledge it or not, must have given many an early Christian gathering something of the hysterical atmosphere of certain modern sectaries, such as the Holy Rollers. Another result was to cause some Christians to despair of the problem of the redemption of the world altogether. The more earnest of these betook themselves to [117/118] save their individual souls to desert hermitages and, later on, to extricationist monasteries. But the most widespread result was to reduce the requirements of the Christian life to a set of individualistic moral precepts and religious practices (a kind of legalistic payment of premiums for an after-death heaven-insurance), while at the same time permitting most people to carry on their secular affairs according to the established requirements of an unredeemed world without critical analysis and without protest of any sort. Every one of these consequences of Christian ignorance is discernible in the accepted conventional "Christianity" of our present time.

In view of our present day scientific knowledge concerning the possibilities of rational control and rational direction of desirable social and economic changes, there is no longer any excuse for those ignorances which have hitherto prevented Christians from dealing with the disorders of the environing world which tend so dangerously to vitiate the perfection of their Offertory. Therefore, when they now bring their gifts to the Altar, let them indeed stop to remember whether their brothers have aught against them; but let them do this with their minds guided and clarified by all the available knowledge of modern economic and technical science. For it is not merely certain unresolved personal quarrels which they must here recall. On the contrary, if it is a fact that the members of the Christian group have drawn some of the income with which they have just bought their bread and wine from a capitalist system so constituted that it necessarily (i.e. as a matter of scientific economic fact) robs hundreds of thousands of other men and women of just individual shares in the products of their own labor, then these hundreds of thousands of people have aught against them. If they are acquiring their bread and wine out of an international economic system of so-called free competition which, on scientific analysis, can be proved to lead inevitably to international wars intrinsically uncontrollable by any kind of peace machinery whatever--the only alternatives being war or radical change to an economic socialism--then millions of [118/119] young men now dead or dying on battle fields have aught against them. [The greatest pioneer in the field of demonstrating that our capitalist economic system, as it has now developed, is constitutionally (not merely accidentally) unjust, and that it not only can, but must be radically reorganized on a socialist basis, is undoubtedly Karl Marx. He has been followed by worthy successors, such as Lenin and Stalin, in both the fields of economic theory and of revolutionary practice. It is the present simple duty of Christians to gain a broad familiarity with the basic principles of Marxian economic and social theory. This does not mean that Christians are to embrace Materialism as a philosophy. But it does mean that they should understand what Marxian theorists call the dialectic nature of the process of human history. And understanding this, they should become able to cooperate intelligently and selectively with whatever secular revolutionary forces of our own day are gaining the power necessary to bring about the economic changes now categorically required if natural bread and wine are to become better available for the Christian Offertory.]


In addition to the fact that we have gained such scientific understanding of the unchristian disorders within the constitutional structure of our present Western economic system that we are able intelligently to set about seeking a remedy in socialist economic change, we have another reason which compels Christians to act for such change within their environmental world. This reason is found in the fact that our modern scientific techniques of production of the material needs of men have become so abundantly advanced that the required economic reorganization has become a practical, as well as a theoretically desirable, aim.

Both of these factors in our present world situation are of recent development. For even if our ancestors had understood the nature of their problem and of its solution, they would have been prevented in any case from working for it practically because of the meagre and primitive character of their material techniques. [In this connection it is interesting to recall that the Church, at the end of the feudal period and at the beginning of our present bourgeois capitalist era, tried to inhibit the growing economic practice of taking interest on monies loaned. Since taking interest on loaned capital is the very life-blood of the capitalist system, the Church by forbidding interest was really condemning this new economic structure while it was as yet in its infancy. However, because of the actual human and material situation at that time, it would not have been possible to establish a socialist economy, even if in principle this had been understood. The Church was therefore faced with only two possible choices. She could have remained adamant in setting her face against the development of the capitalist system by continuing to refuse Absolution to anyone who received interest on loans. In this case she would undoubtedly have dwindled in size to a mere remnant, awaiting further secular developments while almost completely isolated from the world around her. Or she could have got around the difficulty by casuistic discovery of certain kinds of loans (i.e. capitalist investments!) upon which she permitted a paid interest rate. She could have thus come to terms with the secular world. She chose the latter course and retained intact her membership, her wealth, her power and her worldly prestige. It is not unprofitable to ponder on her conceivable position had she chosen the other course. She would at least have kept her witness against the injustice of material exploitation of one class of human beings by another class on a basis of property ownership. She might have survived, humanly speaking, only with great difficulty. But at least it would seem that she would be in a vastly better position at the present time; for she could now proclaim that socialism represented the kind of economic principles for which she had been contending all along. As it is, her situation is almost the complete reverse of this.] But they did not so [119/120] understand these things. From the beginning of the Christian movement even down to the nineteenth century it is not too much to say that nobody understood that men's economic and political systems might be changed by rationally directed planning. Christians have shared the general human attitude in this respect. They may have realized, more or less vaguely, that secular society has been preponderantly organized on a basis such as to enshrine relationships of injustice and oppression within its very fabric, but they seem never to have realized that they could effect a radical improvement through deliberately organized effort. Until recently men have tended to accept the economic and political systems into which they were born as having the nature of given, or even of eternal things. All they ever thought they could then do was to make the best of the evils [120/121] around them. It follows from this belief that the only disorders which Christians had it in their power to correct when they remembered that their brothers had aught against them, were disorders in the relatively restricted fields of their own personal and voluntary behavior towards their fellow men. These disorders they could--and often did--remedy before invoking the re-creative power of Our Lord's Atonement upon them. But the deeper and more widely involving disorders of the social system in which they lived and worked, either were not understood, and therefore were not realized at all, or they were considered eternally fixed and beyond all radical human attack. Hence social and economic disorders enshrined organizationally in the current economic system have come by long habit and custom to be brought forward at the Offertory under the cloak of the Atonement, without so much as a single prior effort to reconcile them. All excuse for the persistence of this kind of neglect is abolished by an increase in the scientific understanding of the social process and by the modern advance in production techniques. For in addition to the requisite knowledge, we now have the requisite material techniques for reorganizing our economic order upon a basis not of competition, but of cooperative production for a just social distribution fitted to acknowledged human needs. Therefore, this immediate Christian economic objective not only ought to replace the non-Christian individualism of our present competitive system, but it can be brought about. Indeed it must be brought about if we are not to revert completely to pagan barbarism. [Because the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has been the first great national unit to take this economically forward step, it is to recent Russian economic organizational experience that discerning Christians ought to look. This will without doubt prove to be the most hopeful guide in our quest for a solution of the capitalist dilemma on which the western political Democracies are now impaled.]


For all these reasons Our Lord's blunt warning, first to be reconciled with thy brother, takes on a wider, a deeper, [121/122] a more portentous significance than in any previous period of Christian history. For it now enjoins not merely the righting of individual wrongs, the reconciling of individual quarrels among baptized members of Our Lord's social humanity. It enjoins not merely the confession and absolution of actual sins within the Divine Community. It also demands as well a carefully planned, progressively spreading, scientifically guided attack upon all environing economic and political systems which constitutionally enshrine disorders in such wise that these can be corrected only by radical reorganization of the systems themselves. [This truth seems to be acknowledged by the Bishops of the Episcopal Church in their Triennial Pastoral Letter of 1943. They speak of corporate sins. These are said to be "concentration of wealth in a few hands," "class distinctions that are anything but brotherly," "racial discriminations that are anything but just," "social injustices that we have tolerated until they now return to plague us with an ugly breed of antagonisms and tensions that tend to disrupt rather than to unify our economic structure and our body politic." This is a fairly mild statement. Although it will not be news to Marxists, it represents nevertheless an advance in ecclesiastical thinking in that sins which are not merely personal and individual are recognized as facts of concrete experience. Corporate sins would better be called constitutional (or structural) social sins. We must speak of these evils in a way which leaves no room for doubt that they cannot be eliminated by mere moral reform, corporate or other. There must be radical, scientifically guided, reconstruction of the social constitution. The Bishops ought to remember that in general they speak to people who are largely uninstructed in scientific social analysis. Therefore, they ought to make it indubitable to everyone that what the concept of moral reform conveys to most people will not by itself suffice to solve the problem of what they call "corporate sins." We do need moral analysis from the Bishops. But we also need scientific analysis of the actual social and economic situation. And we also need both moral exhortation and scientific guidance for practical action in the future. Considering the audience which will be reached by the Bishops' words, their task is left very incomplete.]

Furthermore, Our Lord's injunction has a future, as well as a past reference. For example, even in the case of the simple personal illustration in which He set forth the general principle of His teaching, it might well prove impossible on some occasion for a member of the Incarnational group even to locate that particular brother who is remembered as being in need of reconciliation. Every effort might have been made to comply with Our Lord's condition, but it might still be impossible to fulfil it. Does this mean that the offered bread and wine--the gift--must be left at the Altar for an indefinite period before Our Lord's Memorial may be completed? Unmitigated enforcement of such a rule would, as we have now seen, entail this kind of postponement.

The way out of this apparent dilemma is found in a resolve for the future. If the required reconciliation is [122/123] genuinely impossible, Our Lord's Atonement must of course be invoked upon the past. His re-creative response will then come and the humanly unresolved disorder will be received from the category of a sin into the category of a contingency within the structures of the offered bread and wine, provided: firstly, that a full effort really have been made to reconcile the disorder in question, and that this effort have failed through circumstances genuinely beyond the control of the individuals involved; and secondly, that the disorder thus unavoidably unreconciled be brought forward to Our Lord for His Atonement accompanied by an unreserved resolve to work for its correction whenever future opportunity may offer. Under such conditions Our Lord can receive a disordered past into a perfected present in Himself, that this may then be in turn the basis for an efficient and powerful working towards a more nearly redeemed future. The Christian Offertory may then be brought forward. Our Lord's Memorial may be completed.

Thanks to the labors of certain secular economic scientists, the wide social extension of the concept of reconciliation with a brother is now beginning to dawn even upon the consciousness of the organized Church. [It was Karl Marx who in 1845 first wrote in his Theses on Feuerbach: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point however is to change it." Unfortunately, the same observation can be truthfully made about most Christian theologians.] And this consciousness gives to the resolve for the future part of Our [123/124] Lord's condition a reference which seems genuinely a new thing in Christian history. For, as we have now seen, relatively few of the elements within the historical structures of the average Christian Offertory have as yet been brought within the redeemed order of Our Lord's social humanity. Relatively few of them are immediately open even to partial reform or to ameliorating secular influence from Christians as they go about their necessary businesses within their environing world. Our Lord's Atonement has to be invoked to cover a really vast number of inaccessible disorders that these may be reconciled as contingencies in the offered bread and wine. But to ask Our Lord to receive such disordered gifts without a very far-reaching resolution to work in the future towards the remedy of the environing evils which have vitiated their sources would be, as it were, to overwork the Atonement. It would be a form of tempting God. Therefore, at the time of every Offertory, every member of a group of Our Lord's social humanity must resolve to go forth from that Memorial to attack those economic and political systems of the surrounding world which enshrine the disorders which have hitherto damaged the perfection of all obtainable natural bread and wine. Only thus can the grave danger of tempting God be avoided. Only thus can the members of the Divine Community avoid the terrible danger of eating and drinking damnation to themselves. [I. Cor. 11:27-30.]

In the light of present day scientific knowledge and techniques, we can therefore see how vast must be the compelling purport of this Christian resolution in connection with the first group of contingencies in the Offertory. It means going forth from the Divine Community with intelligent and organized effort to reconstruct the environing and fallen world. If this world will not immediately respond fully, will not as yet be converted to the point of entering the Incarnational world, it may at least be improved. [Matt. 18:3.] For it may be so progressively reorganized even upon its secular basis that the contingencies within the structure [124/125] of the Christian bread and wine may be greatly diminished. The resolution required for the conversion of defects into contingencies within the Offertory in this connection is therefore one for a mission like that of John the Baptist. It is a resolution to go forth as messengers to prepare the way of the Lord, to make His paths straight; that every valley may be filled and every mountain and hill be brought low; and the crooked made straight and the rough ways smooth, against that still more distant future when all flesh shall see the salvation of God. [Luke 3:46; cited from Isaiah 40:3-5.]

The carrying through of such a resolution will need much careful analysis, much gathering of relevant information, much intellectual work, much practical effort, much prayer and much divine grace. But, as the resolution is made, there must be present one particular moral element, and without this the resolution is invalidated. There must be a clear intention to go forward with those practical actions which the resolution may involve without being deterred by any considerations of personal comfort, security or, if one is called upon for an extreme sacrifice, even by fears for life itself. To reperfect God's fallen world involves a genuine battle. Our Lord said: Think not that I came to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father (i.e. if the father resist the encroachments of the Kingdom of God) and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law: and a man's foes shall be they of his own household. If any man come unto me and hateth not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also (i.e. consider all these as of less importance than Our Lord's work) he cannot be my disciple. [Matt. 10:34-36; Luke 14:26.] It is these extreme conditions which Christians must be ready to face in their proposed battles to eliminate the disorders which an evil world still intrudes into their gifts to Our Lord. In other words, Christians must seek first God's justice in human relationships, and only after that (and as a result of its achievement) can [125/126] either material benefits in this life or uninterrupted happy human relationships be accepted complacently as elements within the pattern of their Offertory. Until that time arrives the Christian resolution which enables Our Lord to apply the power of His Atonement to their Offertory will inevitably lead them into painful conflicts with the established disorders of their unredeemed social environment and with all those persons who uphold them. Yet it is only by this kind of resolution that Our Lord's condition of "reconciliation" may be met with regard to involuntary and non-personal disorders which now find their way into the structure of the Christian bread and wine.


We come now to those contingencies which we have said are in a sense reducible, but whose reduction may not be made a primary aim of militant Christians within this world. Here we may place those which emerge inevitably from the struggles required as a condition for the invocation of the Atonement upon the first group. These stem from the wounds received by baptized members of the Incarnation in their active battles with an evil world while they attack its disorders and try to redeem them. Such contingencies are illustrated by the Crown of Thorns, the Scourging and the Cross. They enter the Offertory under the forms of experienced persecution and defamation, the pains of weariness and frustration in the face of the world's indifference to Our Lord's own anguished cry for help in His work. They are the fruits of disillusion, of the experience of betrayal, of isolation and the burdening sense of the vast corruption of the human content of even that very Body of Christ in and through which the faithful members now try to bring forward their Offertory.

Contingencies of this group are received by Our Lord in His Offertory as in some sense normal--or at any rate expected--elements of its content. They can be received without other conditions within the Act of Consecration, through the transit of the Cross, into those absolute perfections which correspond to them in Our Lord's ascended and eternal life.

[127] As the redeeming work of the Incarnation spreads further and also deepens towards a fuller restoration of God's creation to the order of His will, contingencies of this group may also lessen both in number and in intensity; for in a world completely redeemed upon the natural level of this life, this type of contingency would cease to emerge within the Offertory altogether. If the battle with the world had been largely won, the wounds of that battle would no longer so grievously appear. It may therefore be held that this group of contingencies, in this respect like the first group, also belongs to the category of the reducible. But a distinction must here be made. It is the very aim of the Christian Community to reduce those contingencies which stem from the disorders of the unredeemed environment. This is to be done by attacking the corresponding environmental evils which give rise to them. On the other hand, it is certainly no primary part of the Christian aim to reduce the contingencies of weariness and pain which come from the wounds of the Incarnational battle itself. Such an aim would be a seeking of human comfort, rather than the furthering of Our Lord's Kingdom. It would signify an evil type of ex-tricationism or a self-regarding appeasement of evil. Therefore if these latter contingencies tend to diminish with the passage of time and because of the spread of Our Lord's redeeming work, this happy fact should be accepted thankfully as a kind of grace or boon from Him. And among the members of every Incarnational cell, if contingencies of this group be temporarily diminished, there must remain the willingness to face them anew, to take up the Cross again, whenever the battle thickens and again becomes more fierce.


Finally there remain those peculiar contingencies which, so far as we may judge, seem ineradicable so long as the redemption process moves within this world. They will always be found within the first stage of human redemption. These stem from such evils as the innocent sufferings of various individuals. They arise too from scientifically [127/128] unpreventable illnesses of various kinds and from accidents which can also inflict injuries upon the personally innocent. However, certain kinds of illnesses and certain kinds of industrial accidents should, on the other hand, be put in our first category; for they can result from social disorders which are entirely remediable through human action, from indifference to the material conditions of human life, from callous disregard of one social class for another which it exploits economically and from whose oppression financial profit is derived. In such cases illness and accidental suffering are largely remediable and, like all the other contingencies of our first group, their causes have to be attacked by Christians who find them contributing their corresponding contingencies to the Offertory. But it would seem that there will almost certainly remain an irremediable residuum of illness and accident so long as human life and human activity continue. And these are contingencies which, although irremediable, may nevertheless be united with the central and redeeming sufferings of Our Lord Himself as He takes them with Him in the transit of the Cross into the level of His absolute perfection.

As the most unyielding element among all the contingencies of this third group there remains the ineradicable-seeming fact of human death. There remains too, if we look sufficiently far into the future of our cooling solar system, the almost certainly predictable final extinction of the human race. This defeating contingency of human death can be redeemed within the Christian Offertory only as it is received at its Consecration into the level of the eternal life of Our risen Lord. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ. [I Cor. 15:26, 57.]

Project Canterbury