To think of the end of the world as an event frightening and distant is to think a boring thought, one that will make a man weary of existence, akin to viewing Christmas with a hostile suspicion, or a birthday with twinges of fear. For the truth – if we are happy enough to admit it – is that every man reaches the end of his world within his own lifetime, not a moment too soon and not a moment later – and I write with all literalness. Death is mighty close to the living. And thus every sky must be an apocalyptic sky, every advice a prophecy, every evil an Antichrist, every moment with friends a battlefield reunion, and every lover’s kiss sweet, for they are parting kisses. The sunset – to we who live in Our End Times – must be less of man’s idea of the sun and more of the Son of Man, a fiery warning to repent! and pray! and love! and be joyful! For heaven is near.
Such were my thoughts as I raced a storm home. She and I were headed in the same direction, but I was faster in my red pickup truck, and so broke out of the rain and dark into a breathtaking blue, the exact color of Our Lady’s mantle. The clouds were cathedrals of white, and had that quality so unassociated with clouds, but so very apparent on tumultuous days – they looked hardened, polished, ready to drop on the earth with a clang. The dark storm clouds were things of the past, reserved for my rear view mirror, a device I’ve never looked at enough anyways. And it was in that moment – leaning over my wheel to applaud heaven’s display – that I began to understand the old pagans a wee bit more. They worshiped the sun and the stars and the moon, not because they were things frighteningly distant, but awfully close. They put their gods in the sky, not to put them above and beyond, but to keep them at arm’s length. The earth – to them as to us – is not a desolate rock surrounded by the heavens, but a thing pressed by the heavens, caught in between skies like an orange between hands; squeezed by the celestial for a libation of appreciation, a drop of love. Like the pagans, we Catholics have an affinity for being human – How apparent this nearness is for us, and for all Christians! We, alone among the religions, do not climb into the heavens. We do not attempt to scale the peaks of nothingness to reach nirvana, nor to gradually become worthy of being one with the divine. Rather heaven is pressed upon us, God is near to us, Christ is our brother, our lover, our food.