In a book on Catholic social doctrine, published just after Easter, I found myself integrating a lifetime’s work on a range of topics, from liturgy to politics, from sex to economics. Not As the World Gives aims to show us the nature of society by showing us ourselves. But that is the biggest reality of all, short of God. It opens us to the nature of love. We cannot know ourselves without knowing how to to give and receive. That is the doctrine of the Trinity, a doctrine which explains the world.
The Trinity reveals the pattern of the cosmos, of reality itself—from the stars to the dust we kick around our feet. The same Trinity that meets in a kiss between two people is the Trinity that governs the swirl of leaves in autumn when they fall from the trees. There is nothing beyond the Trinity, nothing beyond the particles that all things are made of, nothing beyond these pieces of stardust.
Atoms are forever. Most of the atoms created in the blaze of a star will not decay, just as the particles that make them up will not decay. All things are made of energy, which binds itself into multitudinous forms, giving rise to all that we see—a sparkling landscape that gets deeper and more mysterious the more closely we look at it.
Imaginative conservatism comes into play here. There is nothing more “conservative” than an imperishable atom, nothing more “imaginative” than a God whose sense of beauty generates a gigantic universe out of nothing. Last year I wrote a book called The Radiance of Being, which begins with the puzzles of physics and ends with the mystery of Wisdom (Sophia). I wrote about atomic physics, and especially about the nature of light. Not As the World Gives draws us into another mystery as well—that of human nature in its two genders. This lies at the heart of the social constitution of the human race, including all the tensions that lead to war.
There is no peace without justice, and no justice without goodness. The Ten Commandments are a search for justice, but the Commandments of justice are balanced by the Beatitudes, the vision of Moses by the vision of Christ. According to Pope Francis “a religion of money” dominates our global civilization. Money and sex, therefore—and one more determining factor: technology. We are living under the rule of the machine, and we are called to evangelize these three with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Not As the World Gives reaches from the Age of Money to the Age of the Machine. I don’t know which Age is worst, but I know that a God you can trust, ruling a Radiant City, is a vision worth fighting for. We can fight for truth and for beauty, but unless we fight for Beatitude—unless we fight for what makes us all happy—we are fighting for darkness. If anyone knows all this, Pope Francis does. “Following the Ten Commandments means being faithful to ourselves, to our most authentic nature, and walking towards the true freedom that Christ taught us in the Beatitudes” (Pope Francis, Magnificat, March 2014, p. 378).