For October 3 my Commonplace Book quote comes from my favorite atheist, Percy Bysshe Shelly. "I met a traveler from an antique land Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them. on the sand, Half-sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And Wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that it's sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, snapped on lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal these words appear; "my name is Oxymandias, king of kings; Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away." In an age of vicious political discourse, i am reminded that all worldly power is fleeting.
“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. 18 And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:13-18 RSV
As i was reading Shelley’s poetry i couldn’t help but think about the tragedy that in the words of his contemporary, William Wordsworth, “The world is too much with us…” and poor Shelley did what so many do, he looked for God within himself. My heart aches at the darkness of the culture. The Shelly’s of our age feel the pain and know no whence to go to find the light. When they find darkness within, they deduce that God does not exist. All the while we, who have been blessed to have been given a flicker of light blow out our candles by hurling vituperative at the dark.
i am thinking that St. Silouan the Athonite was on to a greater truth when he began to pray for the world. “The ontological unity of humanity is such that every separate individual overcoming evil in himself inflicts such a defeat on the cosmic evil that its consequences have a beneficial effect on the destinies of the whole world…Prayer keeps the world alive and when prayer fails, the world will perish…”
To be light we need to pray for the world. We don’t need to pray that our enemies will be vanquished. We can remember that all earthly kingdoms fail. “The great ones” are just modern day Ozymandias. We need to be praying. If we pray in the spirit, in the Spirit, as James epistle teaches above, we can allow the Spirit to burn through our prayer.
Are we praying for the world?