Sacrifice Manufactures Society

The hunter has paid for his kill, by his excellence, his effort, his diligence in training and attention, his dedication and focus. Nevertheless it is the god who has given the kill to the hunter, by putting the prey in his way. In the excellence of the hunter and of his works is the way; the prey he finds in that way is from the god, and gratuitous, nowise earned. The hunter does not make the prey, after all, and cannot. All he can do is fit himself to the gift of it. He therefore stands in ontological debt to his divine benefactor (sometimes personified in and as the prey itself, often understood as an avatar or totem of the god). So the duteous, righteous hunter, who would that his own ways continued prosperous, is not proud, but rather gives back his kill to the god who sent it his way in the first place. Along with the effort he has expended in the hunt, and the excellence of his hunting (learned – earned – by arduous training to the mastery of his art), the sacrifice is partial payment for the hunter’s ontological debt.

It goes deeper. Like all his fellows, the hunter knows well and in his bones that he stands in irreparable debt to the god not just for the kill but for his own very being – and with it his capacity to pursue his way – which he cannot himself procure. As the hunter cannot create his prey, nor can he create himself. Everything, then, is owed to the god. So at the root and uttermost limit of sacrifice, the righteous man dedicates the whole of his own life and work to the god, and stands ready to make of himself the sacrifice, to the god and for his people, his flock.

Such is the signification of giving the first fruits to the god, the fruits that, as first, are most certain, most needed, best and most likely to prosper the clan through the coming seasons. The dedication of the first fruits to the god is the effectual dedication of the whole future life of the people. The whole people give themselves in offering and sacrifice to the god, and with that offering they too become the property of the god, members of his household entitled to a place at his table, and fellow heirs of his kingdom. So each citizen howsoever vile participates in royalty, and finds his humble life ennobled, and worthy, its humdrum perplexities and persecutions caught up in a vast and indeed cosmic enterprise.

When the hunter sacrifices his kill it is no longer his own, but belongs to the god. He gives it to the priest who is the angel of the god, to the king who is the head of the people, and of whose body they are all members. He gives it to his Lord – the loafward – who supervises the ritual, sees to the just distribution of the goods of the god, and administers justice among the people according to his holy laws, deciding who shall be banished from the common feast, who shall be welcome, and what honors – including portions – will be given to each.

When the hunter gives his kill to the god in the person of his vicar the priest, he is relieved of the jealousy he might otherwise have felt toward his fellows at sharing it with them directly. The food is no longer his, but belongs to the god. Why should he worry that the god shares his own food his whole flock? Is not all the food of the people derived from the god? Has not the hunter been himself nourished from his infancy at that common board supplied by the sacrifices of the people? To give the food of new life to his people is what the god does; it is his very nature. How resent it?

By the same token, the hunter’s offering relieves his fellows of the envy they might otherwise have felt toward him, and removes any temptation to covet his kill, or to act on those feelings and kill him.

So sacrifice procures peace. By way of the sacrificial offering that *all* the people are obliged to make, each in due proportion to his own wealth – even if it is only tuppence – the people all give to the lord of the clan, and he assumes, the power over them to judge and render justice – obviating the danger to the clan of falling into irresolvable disagreements over the rightful distribution of food, chattels, offices, powers, goods, and kills, into insatiable feud, vendetta, discord, violence, dissolution, chaos.

No sort of property is ever unencumbered by an obligation to provide an offering for sacrifice. The first born of every womb must be sacrificed; the first fruits of the harvest must be sacrificed; corvée labor must be given each year as the due of ownership, and in proportion to the value of what is owned. Only thus is ownership rendered legitimate by the authority of the god, and through his royal vicar of the whole people. As legitimately owned under the mandate of Heaven, property may not be alienated without due process of sacred law.

Sacrifice then is ritualized sharing; ritualized love. It is the operation by which society is manufactured and reproduced from one day to the next.

The offering to the god earns a return to the donor. The consecration of the sacrificial offering confers its holiness upon him, for it is his own substance that has been given and consecrated. But when there is no god involved in the transaction, what was once a devoted offering in sacrifice becomes mere taxation of property – a coerced and aleatory taking, to which the merely secular sovereign has no title given ontologically in cosmic justice, so that the taking is at bottom only adventitious, and therefore incorrigibly wrong. Who makes sacrifice completes the transaction feeling cleansed, redeemed and sanctified, welcomed in the world and among his people by his god – which is to say, loved, and valued, honored and ennobled. But the taxpayer feels only that he has been ripped off; compared to the cost of the taking, the returns of taxation to the taxpayer are attenuated and threadbare, indeed too often only notional; so all men revile the publican, including – perhaps especially – the publican himself.

Unlike sacrifice, then, taxation does not salve resentment, on any part, but stokes it. The basic economic rite of civic life in a secular society engenders civil strife. It may fester long subficially, but it must eventually find outward expression, as all things do.

The same goes for any of the rules that enable social coordination. Where none of them are understood as deriving from and coherent with the sacred order that binds together the cosmos, none of them are at all endowed with inherent awful authority. They lose the sacred character of law. All are then more or less unjust, unjustified, only conventional, at bottom capricious, thus somehow tendentious, mere instruments of domination, and so more or less intolerable infringements upon the license of the untrammeled individual will. Mere regulation stirs resentment, and insubordination: transgression, perversion, criminality, revolution.

Thus in secular society you get class warfare; you get institutionalized, interminable feud, ritualized in reiterated profane scapegoating that through immolations of people or their property temporarily – i.e., vainly – quiets resentments. Social discourse then gradually devolves into a constant disputation, for in compensating for any one injustice, each such taking and destruction inflicts another. New scapegoats are therefore ever needed, and as each victim class is extirpated, new outcastes must be discovered among those that remain. In order to discern them, the rules of ritual cleanliness must develop ever more rococo refinements (viz., “privilege,” “microaggressions”), so that someone can be found who has broken them, who is thus demonstrably unclean, and who may therefore be destroyed with a clear conscience. As feud ramifies and the classes splinter, the limit of discord is reached at Hobbesian war between classes consisting each of one person. Each one fights with all others for his rights and privileges. Thus it is that the revolution always eats its young. There is then nevermore any justice, or peace.

Where no altar is found, there no civilization can long exist.

19 thoughts on “Sacrifice Manufactures Society

  1. Pingback: Sacrifice Manufactures Society | Neoreactive

  2. Two things happened when the Passion revealed the underlying scapegoat mechanism of Pre-Biblical society: The innocence of the victim became undeniable – and all social institutions and customs based on scapegoating became dysfunctional. One result is modern liberal society, which, rejecting Christianity, falls back into sacrificial patterns, but, due to the revelation of the victim’s innocence, can only practice sacrifice dishonestly by parodying Christianity. Thus the victims of modern liberal society can only be made into scapegoats by accusing them of scapegoating. This is precisely what Alan Roebuck meant by his analysis of the modern liberal jihad against “meanness.” The similar jihad against “hate speech” functions according to the same hypocrisy: It is Bacchic hatred righteously flattering itself for being “anti-hatred.” The working of the Paraclete throws light on the slanders against the victim, but this very illumination throws those who cannot embrace non-victimary ethics into desperate confusion, to which, of course, they respond by new, dissimulated versions of victimization. The Logos of the Gospel operates on an immense time-scale. In 2,000 years is has made only a little progress. Moreover, it cannot be hurried. The cry “hurry, hurry,” which is the essence of the “progressive” view, is merely a disguised cry to “build the balefire, build the balefire.”

    • Excellent. Just so. Love that bit about the time scale of the Logos. CS Lewis liked to remind us to remember that we are still the early Christians.

      So here’s a question. Was there a loss of faith in the pagan gods circa the year 1, that necessitated a surge in scapegoating? The animal sacrifices of the ancients were clean offerings, where consent of the victim, and its blameless, spotless innocence, were crucial to the rightness and efficacy of the rite. The scapegoat, NB, was not sacrificed to the god of the polis, but was driven out beyond the pale (where he did, in fact, die, but not at the hands of the people, and rather as a sacrifice to the demons than to the god).

      If there is no faith in the god, then there is no true sacrifice; all that is left is scapegoating. Thus both the spotless sacrificial lamb and the scapegoat were assimilated in Jesus. The mob thought they were scapegoating him; he knew that he was sacrificing himself.

      Did the sophistication and cynicism, the syncretism and atheism of the Roman Empire gut the old religions of what power they had to sanctify?

      • Sacrifice made humanity. It was the glue of society for a hundred-thousand years. The Hebrew prophets and the Greek metaphysicians begin to doubt the reality of the gods who result from sacrifice hence they begin to doubt the efficacy of sacrifice. Heraclitus says of the Ephesians, “They should be hanged one and all because they have expelled the best among them, Hermodorus.” Of course, as the epigram tells of itself, Heraclitus wants to have it both ways. The story of Socrates, as told in the dialogues of Plato, is an anti-type, in the hermeneutic sense, of the Passion, which is how many of the Christian Fathers saw it, including Augustine. The Hebrew rejection of idolatry is anti-sacrificial. One important meaning of the ordeal of Meschach, Shadrach, and Abednego is that although they are put into the fire, they do not become gods. In the same way, Jesus is not made a god by being hung on the cross because he is already god. There is an entry in the sayings of Confucius to the effect that a certain adviser of the Emperor who objected to a proposed law that would ban the nobles from taking their servants with them alive into their tombs should offer to go into the tomb alive with his master, the Emperor.

        So sacrifice made humanity, but at some point humanity began to outgrow sacrifice – and it had to find new, non-sacrificial ways to do the things that sacrifice, that is, scapegoating, had once done. This task is obviously very much incomplete.

        The innocence of the victim does not require the victim to be spotless. Cain is “spotted” – the famous “Mark of Cain.” But the first law against murder protects Cain from being made a scapegoat to quell the communal tension resulting from his murder of Abel.

      • We still employ sacrifice; or rather, it still operates in society. It’s just that we no longer make it, but rather partake of it.

        Is not the mark of Cain the spot that prevents his elevation to victim, and so forestalls feud? As guilty of murder, he is no longer any good as a sacrifice.

        Only by washing out the spots of mundane life through baptism, confession and absolution, made efficacious to confer holiness by the perfection of human sacrifice effected at Golgotha, can communicants in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass be rendered fit to partake in it.

      • Surprisingly, yes, although a bit later, as I approach the question differently: why did people listen to Paulus? Because he was Nero’s contemporary, offering a solution. There was a kind of systemic crisis of the old faith and philosophy. When Seneca said I still prefer virtue but no longer know why, that sounded a lot like “I am giving up as a philosopher, someone come and take it over from here”. The fact that Nero could claim godhood and the pagan priests did not protest, or that it seemed there is nobody who can come up with consistent moral arguments why shouldn’t the emperor do as he pleases, yes, it all looks a lot like a crisis. Romans were open to something new, some kind of a firmer moral order.

        Christianity was not the only option, Egyptian mystery religions also flourished, Romans seemed to really turn away from the Roman gods whose priests were unable to maintain a moral order.

        Now as for scapegoating… maybe Nero was one. After all we don’t know he was really that bad, maybe it is just what Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio wanted us to think.

  3. A very interesting essay on sacrifice and society. I have always assumed that the sacrifices to pagan gods were fallen versions of Abel’s sacrifice: “Abel also offered of the firstlings of his flock, and of their fat: and the Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offerings.”

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  5. Interesting. This post reminds me of another De Maistre quote:

    Thus is worked out, from maggots up to man, the universal law of the violent destruction of living beings. The whole earth, continually steeped in blood, is nothing but an immense altar on which every living thing must be sacrificed without end, without restraint, without respite until the consummation of the world,the extinction of evil, the death of death.

  6. I just want to go on record to say that I think I tend to reply only to criticize, and that should not be taken as an implication that I don’t see value in the posts on this blog. It’s more that I really like what this blog stands for, so I feel compelled to criticize where I see something awry. When I don’t feel I have anything constructive to add, I tend not to offer praise in internet comments because I feel it clutters the conversation.

    That said, this is all really very contrived. I have sometimes pretended to be a social scientist, and I understand the allure of developing a systems-based approach to explain human behavior, but really all of this stuff about hunters is academic-speak that has little to do with reality. It may well describe what occurred in prehistoric societies, but it does not at all describe what people did: we can be reasonably certain, since prehistoric hunters were not all that different in the scheme of things from hunters today, that none of them thought this way. When one is not trying to publish in an academic journal, one ought to try to describe what people did in terms of their intents and actions, and not what occurred in terms of a-personal systems of behavior.

    As to the meat of the argument, which in my opinion comes far too late in the final paragraphs, the feuding and scapegoating that go on in secular society are indeed due to a lack of connection to the sacred order, but this has really very little to do with sacrifice. It is not the lack of sacrifice but the lack of proper, virtuous order, which is due to a lack of truth. It is the Creator’s truth that makes and orders creation, and everything contrary to that truth is of necessity sinful and misshapen.

    Sharing meat from a hunt with neighbors in need isn’t sacrifice: it’s normal. It is miserly-ness that is disordered and therefore sinful. The sacrifice to which we are called as followers of Christ is not the simple humanity of sharing a meal; it is the Christian sacrifice of bearing the cross. He who believes his cross to bear is sharing a little extra with those in need is bearing a cross, but it isn’t what he believes. If the simple charities of life were all that were needed, Christ’s ministry could have ended with the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

    Sacrifice does not procure peace. God’s order and goodness procures peace. God’s order and goodness flow from adherence to God’s truth, as established by God’s Church and as evidenced in sacred scripture. Sacrifice is what we as Christians are called to do in the absence of peace. It is not a means of immanentizing the eschaton; it is a means of becoming virtuous disciples of Christ while living in a sinful world.

    In addition, I have to address Dr. Bertonneau’s comment. The Passion of Christ surely did not “reveal the underlying scapegoat mechanism of pre-Biblical society”. First of all, and I know this is my Catholicism coming through, but I don’t even know what he means by “pre-Biblical society”. Are we talking about society after the final books of the Bible were written down by the Church fathers in the late 1st century? Does he mean the society that existed following the Synod of Hippo in the late 4th century when most of the Biblical canon was established as such? All of this seems a bit removed from Christ’s Passion…surely he doesn’t mean when Moses wrote the Pentateuch – that would be really very far removed from the Passion and in the wrong direction temporally. But regardless of the historical period of “society” to which we are referring, the Passion by no means revealed the scapegoat mechanism – in any of these eras this idea was already very firmly established and widely known. The historic origin of the idea of scapegoating is, after all, from Leviticus. It is modern people who tend not to recognize scapegoating. Earlier peoples knew quite well what they were doing. So Christ’s Passion surely did not reveal to them something they already knew far better than we do today. I think it also irresponsible of Dr. Bertonneau, whose writings I generally respect, to speak as if the purpose of Christ’s Passion were to reveal this mechanism (which it clearly did not). I am absolutely sure that Dr. Bertonneau did not mean to imply that Christ’s purpose was to reveal the rather mundane fact of scapegoating in society, but I am sure of that because I know of his other writing; unfortunately, based solely on what he writes in the comment, that is what he appears to do.

    I feel compelled to add, in conclusion, that I think what would improve this blog is less academe-speak and more orthodoxy. I see, in general, far too much social science and not enough God. When I see someone say that “sacrifice made humanity” my immediate reaction is to note that in fact God made humanity, and sacrifice had nothing to do with it. Perhaps sacrifice helps humans to remain human in a sinful world, but that’s not at all what was written.

    As I said, I really like what this blog stands for. I’m not so certain you all are being very good representatives of orthodoxy. I don’t see very much of it here. I have to say I don’t read this blog all that much anymore, and based on this exchange I still don’t see any reason to pay attention more frequently. I will, however, be sure to check in again at some future date to see if there is any sort of meaningful discussion going on.

    • This is valuable criticism from a friend and ally, and I shall think about what you say about our focus here on orthodoxy, or lack of it. Thanks.

      Some immediate reactions to the detail of your comment:

      I had no thought of a systems or social scientific approach. I just read and think a lot about sacrifice, and felt as though I had figured some stuff out about the social and psychological functions of sacrifice among early men.

      I’m not sure how it can be true that the post “… may well describe what occurred in prehistoric societies …” *and* that it “… does not at all describe what people did [in prehistoric societies].”

      You write that, “… we can be reasonably certain, since prehistoric hunters were not all that different in the scheme of things from hunters today, that none of them thought this way.” I have never thought early man was much different than we are. It seems to me that if I was an ace hunter, and most of the clan was living off my prowess at hunting, I might be a tad resentful. Same if I was a lousy hunter, and living off the largesse of some alpha who was naturally more gifted than I. If you are right that early man thought about things more or less the way we do, then it seems not unlikely that he thought this way.

      Free-riding is inherent to the socialization of costs, risks and effort that make society social. It is a problem that will never go away, and has always been with us. I was prompted to write the post when, in the middle of reading a book about sacrifice among the Greeks, I suddenly I saw how sacrifice solved this problem, or at least coped with it.

      You write that, “… one ought to try to describe what people did in terms of their intents and actions, and not what occurred in terms of apersonal systems of behavior.” That’s what I was trying to do; put myself in the place of the hunter, or of his beneficiaries, and see how I would feel.

      You write that, “the feuding and scapegoating that go on in secular society are indeed due to a lack of connection to the sacred order, but this has really very little to do with sacrifice.” I think it does; connection to the sacred order consecrates the whole of social life, including the sharing of food that was the final end of sacrifice. When sharing is not sacramental, its connection to the sacred order is lost – this is tantamount to rebellion against the Decalogue. So there’s more to it than just the sacrificial aspect, of course. The loss of the sacred ruins everything, as I said late in the post. But, crucially, it ruins the sharing and allocation of resources, which is the sine qua non of society. When the very idea of the sacred is rejected, any suprapersonal resolution of disagreement becomes impossible. So all resolutions are rendered purely personal, thus implicitly tendentious, a matter of sheer physical power – and disaster soon ensues.

      You write that, “Sharing meat from a hunt with neighbors in need isn’t sacrifice: it’s normal. It is miserliness that is disordered and therefore sinful.” But it is normal for man to be sinful, these days.

      You write that, “The sacrifice to which we are called as followers of Christ is not the simple humanity of sharing a meal; it is the Christian sacrifice of bearing the cross.” Bearing the cross is the apotheosis of simple humanity. Sharing meals is implicit in it. Along with a lot of other stuff.

      You write that, “Sacrifice does not procure peace. God’s order and goodness procures peace.” Sacrifice is an aspect of God’s order. So fit is sacrifice to that order, that YHWH gave detailed instructions about how to do it! What perdures is fitted to the order of being; sacrifice perdured for millennia; so is it fit. The question the post was interested to answer was: how?

      I’ll think some more about your comment, and may have more to say.

    • “I am absolutely sure that Dr. Bertonneau did not mean to imply that Christ’s purpose was to reveal the rather mundane fact of scapegoating in society, but I am sure of that because I know of his other writing; unfortunately, based solely on what he writes in the comment, that is what he appears to do.”

      On the contrary, that was mostly, if not precisely, my meaning. So yes, I meant it – directly and intentionally, not indirectly or accidentally. For one thing, scapegoating was not a “mundane fact,” known to everyone, as the account of Christ’s Passion records. The murderers of Christ (everyone in Jerusalem – the total community) do not see themselves as immolating a scapegoat (“They know not what they do”); they rejoice in the execution of someone who appears to them an enemy of the whole people, one who has disrupted the social order and who must pay the price. Even the Apostles are assimilated to the crowd and pass through the unanimity that the immolation produces. The next day they are ashamed and that is what differentiates them from others.

      Once the concept of a scapegoat appears, there is already a crack in the ice. The scapegoat appears in the Old Testament, in Leviticus. Elsewhere in the Old Testament we read of the Suffering Servant and the wickedness of the Canaanite child-sacrifice. Before these observations, the concept did not appear, but the institution nevertheless operated, continuously and relentlessly in every society. It operated without ever being a theme, which is, of course, how it is able to make its effects seem providential and supernatural. The Old Testament and the New Testament constitute the Bible – hence what seems to me a perfectly understandable chronological demarcation: Pre-Biblical, an age coming to its with the Ministry of Christ as recorded in the New Testament.

      Hence the impeccable logic of our dating system of BC and AD, which our liberal enemies and would-be immolaters want to obfuscate. And why do they see a need to obfuscate? Because the demarcation is true and has a profound epistemological implication.

      Just as I am certain that it was Yahweh’s purpose to prevent Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, by offering the animal-victim as substitute, so I am certain that Christ’s purpose was to reveal the scapegoat mechanism. (That was not his sole purpose – but it was one of his purposes, and an important one.) It turns out that revelation, despite happening in a moment like a thunderclap, takes a long, long time to make its effect. The Ministry of the Paraclete will probably need to be measured in Millennia.

  7. The meal is shared out (“metered,” usually by the mother, who lends her name to the verb) after the father and his fellow hunters have supplied the meat. It looks like something other than sacrifice because the moment of the kill, when the hunters closed in on their prey and took it down collectively with arrows or spears, is separated in time from the carving of the torso, the roasting over the fire, and the consumption around the hearth. Despite the interval, at the meal the family, or the greater community, is made one by mediation of a killing.

    I differ by a few degrees (I believe) from Kristor. I see sacrifice as part of God’s order until the Crucifixion. After the Crucifixion, something, anything, as long as it is other than sacrifice, becomes the substitute for sacrifice in God’s order. The murderers of Christ thought that they were making a sacrifice, but what they were really making was the end of sacrifice-in-good-conscience. Hence Christ’s words, “They know not what they do.”

    God teaches the lesson of non-sacrifice slowly and patiently, conceding its necessity in the case of Cain and Abel; still conceding it in the case of Abraham and Isaac, but insisting on the animal rather than the human victim; making his position clear when Jesus tells the self-righteous would-be murderers of the prostitute that the one of them without sin should cast the first stone; and then deconstructing it entirely in the Passion.

    Christ resembles Oedipus and other sacrificial figures of myth out to several decimals of ninety-nine-plus-a-fraction per cent, but it is the surd that counts: Oedipus cannot resist pressure to join the crowd in blaming himself for the woes of the city; Christ knows his own innocence; sacrifice makes Oedipus a god (the apotheosis happens in Oedipus at Colonnus); sacrifice cannot make Christ a god because He already is God. Etc.

    There are some semantic pitfalls in the discussion of sacrifice. I want to restrict the term sacrifice for collective murder or expulsion. For other activities, I would employ terms like askesis and charity.

    An extremely useful text for understanding these issues is the chapter of Rene Girard’s I See Satan Fall Like Lightning called “The Horrible Miracle of Apollonius of Tyana.”

    • I am sure that Tom and I differ in a few things, but confidence that sacrifice is part of God’s order for man until the Crucifixion is not one of them. We might however differ in respect to whether sacrifice still is inherent to human nature. I don’t think we do; I think our difference is two fold: one of diction, one of emphasis only.

      In respect to diction, Tom wants to use “sacrifice” to refer only to collective murder or expulsion from the polis. I would apply it more broadly, to any motion of making holy by dedication of resources to the god, as the etymology of the Latin term indicates. Thus I would take sacrifice to include the rites of pouring out a libation to the gods, and its descendent in the toast. Likewise with the perennial custom of the paternal blessing upon the meal, and especially of tithing, fasting, etc., in dedication to the god.

      So to avoid terminological confusion, I would cleave to the Church’s custom of calling collective murder or expulsion “bloody sacrifice.”

      In respect to emphasis, Tom focuses on the fact that, as the fulfillment and culmination of sacrifice, the one and only true, perfect and truly all-sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, the Crucifixion was the death knell for bloody sacrifice among Christian nations; and that the whole story of Israel points toward Calvary, and prepares for it. For all those who understood it, the Passion rendered any subsequent ritual murders or killings superfluous, absurd, and therefore abominable.

      But I would argue – not to the contrary, but in addition – that Christ’s fulfillment and completion of sacrifice did not render it obsolete, but rather for the first time made it really possible for us. Prior bloody sacrifices had been types and foreshadowings of the sacrifice on the Cross. They had not sufficed as it did; so they had to be repeated, daily.

      It could be said furthermore that the Passion of the Second Adam and the True Man was the establishment from before all worlds of sacrifice as integral to human nature. No other human had been quite completely what man is intended to be, and so no sacrifice had quite completely met the criteria of a sufficient satisfaction for sin – which is to say that no other sacrifice had been quite completely a sacrifice.

      Christ’s sacrifice gave us for the first time a way to reap the soteriological fruits we had always intended from our own. We are still called upon to make sacrifice, but never of others, only ourselves. There are to be no stand ins, no scapegoats or champions. All are called to the altar. And our sacrifice is to be complete, holding back nothing at all for ourselves. This is one meaning of the Summary of the Law: to love God with our whole being, and our neighbors as ourselves.

      For Christians, thank God, this utter self-sacrifice need not involve immediate martyrdom (although often it can, and eventually must; for everyone arrives at the hour of death). It gave us a way to participate in the perfect sacrifice that did not require our own actual holocaust. Participation in the Christian mysteries allows us to do give God everything we have, our selves, souls and bodies, without instantly destroying our lives, thus destroying the Body of Christ in all her members, and bringing her historic mission of evangelism to a speedy end. And without that participation, there is no Church to begin with; for, to be a Christian in the first place is to partake of Christ, and to join one’s own body with his. So are we all enjoined to that sacrifice.

      O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

      – Romans 11:33-12:1

      As this passage indicates, sacrifice is given ontologically in the relation of finite creature to infinite creator. God adores us so much that he makes us. It cannot but be proper, then, for us his creatures to adore him back, to the fullest extent of our being; to make return of everything that we have been given. Where else than a return to the source of all being, after all, could any motion of ours go, other than to non-being? Ontologically, there are only two ways a creature can go: toward God, or away from him.
      Only by our participation in Christ’s Passion can we make that return.

      And making it, we discover that the rite of our sacrificial return to the Lord is a participation in the basic procedure of Heaven, that everlasting celebration which is the archetype of all creaturely becoming: the wedding Feast of the Lamb.

  8. This is overall an outstanding post. But I’d like to re-register my complaint about the idiosyncratic, and therefore confusing, use of the word “secular”. Secular (properly) rulers rule in “the world”. What other kind of rulers could one wish for? Do we really advocate for One City Theocracy? I think not. “Secular (properly) society” is just a society “in the world”. Well… that’s where societies on earth happen to be. What you mean here is “godless”, i.e., recognizing no transcendent authority. “Godless” is not a synonym for “secular”. At least not a very good one. The axis on which “sacred” and “secular” are differentiated is not at all the same as that of “good” vs. “evil”.

    • I see now the precise nature of your worry about that usage, which was not clear to me from the comments in which you first expressed it. I agree. But I don’t think that my usage is idiosyncratic. My impression is that as it is usually employed, “secular” is indeed taken to be synonymous with “godless,” or perhaps “irreligious,” or “profane.” Broadly, they are all used to denote what is extra-ecclesial.

      This is wrong. These four terms each denote and connote subtly different things, and I shall henceforth try to use them more precisely.

  9. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/05/15) | The Reactivity Place

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