The end of time
The night will come when no-one can work (J 9/1)
The Plan of God
The question of the history of the Church, viewed not as a succession of temporal events but as the implementation of a “plan”, the Plan of God, was one of the principal concerns of Abbot Thévenon. His concern was certainly to prove the coherence of an ecclesiastic attitude which could appear changeable even opportunist but could decipher the prophetic aspect of the texts of Saint Jean, applied to our present time and to the future. He was convinced of the imminence of major upheavals. “I have the impression that we are at the threshold of a great storm, a major test, a great crucible in which we are going to suffer”. (1977 characteristic correspondence). He likened this situation to a survival. “We are already in a phase of survival. It is necessary to maintain elements of material and spiritual survival. “ (1981 notes). This study has been carried out under his direction as a collective. It is why it carries the signature of “Nahum”.
The best modern translation in French of the Cité de Dieu [City of God] of Saint Augustin is that by G. COMBES published in 1960 by DESCLÉE DE BROUWER. This work, which has become practically untraceable, is too recent to escape royalties. Whilst we recommend it for the quality of its texts and the numerous notes accompanying it, we cannot extract any of the quotes, and we are using here another translation which has the advantage of being accessible on-line and downloadable free of charge.
We do not know which English translation is actually the best. The advice of our English language friends is valuable in this connection (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org). We have used the translation by Rev. Marcus DODDS available on line from the site of “New Advent”:
The Latin text De Civita Dei is available on-line from the site of Nuova Biblioteca Agostiniana and Citta Nuova Editrice:
God did not create man to guarantee him, at the end of a life time of tests, the use of a paradisiac place amongst his equals regrouped into a sort of collection of accomplished and regenerated individuals. God wrote into the nature of man an irresistible social dimension. It is this social dimension which pushes him to serve a cause until death, and not, as some say, despair and hunger. On the contrary, despair and hunger are perhaps the only events capable of destroying in him this love for a cause.
The history of humanity is enameled with the failure of idealistic enterprises which had aroused the masses. And whereas it seems that we inexorably orient towards a form of world society, tolerant, brotherly, pacific and free, at no time has the pain of living been as patent and the despair of the young as pathetic. This society, which wants to record in counterpoint the past deliriums is tolerant but pitiless, brotherly but individualist, pacific but repressive, free but civilized in the extreme. It no longer calls on the enthusiasm of the people but on a super organization which takes responsibility for everything. And the laws, the regulations, the statistics and the mathematical models endlessly multiply to look after the inhumanity of the system by yet more system. Social cancer which is carried by a dying sick humanity.
This is how the Catholic Church is the object today of frequent attacks on its past behavior, especially in the political area. Many contemporary ecclesiastics, without questioning the underlying virtue of these reproaches, instead try to demonstrate that the Church has evolved, accepting the accusation and requesting forgiveness. This forgiveness aims at being the preamble to the demonstration of a perfect adequacy between the modern thinking and that of the Church today.
Here are they who seem themselves petrified at the only idea which could qualify them as fundamentalists. Fundamentalism, a word which kills! Officially, it involves protection against the violence committed in days gone by in the name of God. It is a rejection of the best and of the worst, based only on the fact that they belong to the past, the crusades, the colonization, the inquisition and all the nostalgia of an antiquated expression of the religion consisting of principles, social cleavages, bourgeois hypocrisy or misunderstood customs and habits. In fact it is a weapon. To treat someone as a fundamentalist is to refuse to listen because he/she does not deserve it. It is the classification in the camps of Hitler and of the totalitarian regimes even though it defends itself. It protests of a simply religious religion, it displeases modern thought, it is fundamentalist! And wanting to bring the proof of its political correctness, the affairs of God are forgotten, the holy liturgy, prayer and true charity.
Thus an impression is imposed, more probably than a certainty, in the view that we have of the Church of our fathers. A strange feeling about a religion whose leaders, greatly interested in temporal power, manage an army of soldiers of the faith, monks, missionaries or combatants, of whom one cannot deny having both courage and sacrifice, but it was necessary that they did not know how to understand the exploitation of which they were made the object, sometimes pushing their conviction to fanaticism. And today where the benches of our churches are empty, what do we conclude about the past...and of the present which we have inherited?
Escaping our analysis, other causes have perhaps produced the same effects. Regardless of the view which one has today, is it not true to say that the Christians of yesteryear had very different motivations to those we now ascribe to them?
Modern schemes, ordering themselves around a unique and global thought, do they not veil us from the truth of a very different era? And if this is the case, what would be the vision held by the ancient Christians on our contemporary world?
On the basis of the comments of Saint Augustin on the apocalypse of Saint Jean, here is an original reflection on the history of the Church, which leads to a reading of the past eras, very different from those with which we are accustomed. Which also leads to putting a non conformist view on the present.
History and the end of time
Saint Augustin of Hippo in "The City of God" Book 20, chapters 7 and later, developed a very interesting commentary on the following passage from the Revelation of Saint John relative to the bursting-out of the devil (Rev 20,1-3):
And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit (the abyss) and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. And he cast him into the bottomless pit (the abyss) and shut him up and set a seal upon him, that he should no more seduce the nations till the thousand years be finished. And after that, he must be loosed a little time.
What is this sequence, to which historical period do these one thousand years correspond and what does the release for a short time signify? Many questions which have been the subject of numerous commentaries, some more convincing than others. Intuition, generally shared by contemporary Christians, that we are close to the accomplishment of this prophecy, gives the Augustinian text an astonishing actuality.
“The City of God” is without doubt the most celebrated work of the Bishop of Hippone. The taking of Rome by the wisigothe hordes of Alaric in AD 410, provoked a violent attack of the enemies of the Christians, against these accused of being the source of all their ills. It was the pretext on which Augustin relied to undertake his work, "De Civita Dei", the City of God.
Man, the creature of God, has been conceived as a social being. His finality is in a city called in the scriptures the “City of God” or the “Holy City”, the “New Jerusalem” or “The Church” which, very different from a science fiction megapolis, is notably a new civilization, a holy people and, notably “The Bride of Christ” whose human marriage on this earth only prefigured the sublime reality. The construction of this “City” is so fundamental that the Christ has no other objective than to hasten its completion. All of His work, his incarnation and his passion, are directed towards this unique objective: to complete his Holy City which will then become His wife. This is the cause of the Christ which men are called in their turn to serve.
Satan, the enemy, is involved on his part, in opposing this work by his usual method: to imitate the work of Christ on his own account, that is to say, aiming at a diametrically opposed objective. The imitation is the “waiting for things to fall into his lap” which has the best chance of seducing man because man is made for God and orientates readily towards that which pretends to be from God. That is why Satan offers man another city, another church called “Babylon” in Revelation. It is why there is an irreconcilable opposition and a fight without mercy between the two cities. It is the only true history without which each event here below described has no meaning. Explored authoritatively by Saint Augustin, it is the cause of our God, which he invites us to embrace.
The thousand years
Satan has a power, a seducing action, which is not only exercised on each human being. It is primarily a political power which allows him to build a city on this earth. He is the ruler of it, and from where he derives his title “Prince of this world” (John 12, 31).
After his resurrection, the Savior decides to undertake against him a violent conquering action, intended to deprive him of this power during a given time. He enchains him and throws him into the abyss. This time is for a thousand years. A symbolic value, Saint Augustin speaks of it as an interval indicated by the number of thousand years. He understands it to refer to the period between the first coming of Christ up to the end of the world, when he shall come a second time (chapter 8). The thousand years signifies therefore a long period which Saint Augustin also calls this century.
"how can one enter into the house of the strong man, and plunder his goods, unless he first bind the strong man "(Matthew XII, 29). The strongman is Satan and it is the Christ who has bound him. If he has bound him, it is to prevent him from misleading the nations, in order to attract the largest number of people into the Church, which due to weakness would have been unable to overcome seduction. It is the exercise of political power which gives the Church this faculty of attracting a large number. To some extent, it is the period during which it fills with stones which are alive, the period during which the Savior builds his city.
How is he bound? “And threw him into the abyss”. By the abyss is meant the countless multitude of the enemies of the Church of God, in the depth of whose blind hearts he is continually shut up as in an abyss. The diabolic profanity is relegated to a private affair, because goods removed by Satan are the public and political goods. The City of God, makes irruption in the City of Men where Satan is the prince and, removing from him his power but not his title, imposes Christ’s royalty there, colonizing it.
The colonial idea is not a simple image, the Church is not of this world, it comes to substitute itself for the political power, to convert a large number or, if not. Yes, it conquers by violence and engages the Christian nations to be its arms in taking possession. Christianity becomes for the reasons which we are going to see, a private affair; it is difficult for people today to admit that it was social and political. The last sudden start of this conviction was the attempt of Christians of the left, to justify their faith in Marxism. Today, one more readily tries to make religion a bath of tolerance, a bath of youth transforming identically all the religions, philosophies and cultures. Violence of the verb and of the sacraments, first of all, with the sword following, "I did not come to send peace, but a sword.” (Matth 10, 34). In this regard, the Marxist analysis is correct, the Church was indeed the principle of colonization. The efforts of certain Christians of the right, to refute this idea, witnesses to the distressing ignorance of God’s politics. We have
to rather glorify ourselves, as all things belonging to our Savior. This is why, since the dawn of Christianity, to the last missions of the XXth century, missionaries were always the colonial assault wave preparing for the irruption of the political power, whose model was Christian, in spite of its imperfections. For this same reason, the decolonization in Africa for example and the return to the former schamanistic practices in public life are two of the precursory signs of the end time.
The nations mislead
However, there are nations made up of a multitude of irreligious people who are, as such, abysses where Satin is chained. They are therefore the nations in which we find that the devil is shut up as in an abyss. These are the seduced nations, motivated in opposition to the Church by a hidden hatred. One calls Christendom the people colonized by the Church, which then takes part in the Holy City. Dominated, the misled nations become politically unfit and can only exercise their Satanism in the private sphere.
The Christian nations
The Christian nations however, are not composed exclusively of saints, because the good grain is mixed with the ryegrass (Matth 13, 24 & following). The period defined symbolically as the thousand years, ensures a Christian policy and spreads it to other nations converting a significant proportion or achieving submission to the politics of God. In fact the only true Christian nation is the Church itself, the Holy Nation. It is composed of all the just people, spread across the earth. It shall be in all nations, as is signified by "the breadth of the earth" (Revelation 20,7).
Composed of the living and the dead, the Christian nations are in fact an individual component of the single nation, the City of God. But if the Church, the Holy Nation, is present in all the nations, all the nations are not components of the Church. Thus, if indeed England, France and Spain, for example, are undoubtedly Christian nations (they are not as undoubtedly today), Egypt, Turkey and Irak, as a second example, were never although one cannot deny the heroic and indefatigable membership of the Coptic Egyptians, the Armenian Turks, or the Syriac Iraqis, in the Holy Nation.
The duration of the Holy Nation
At the end of the thousand years, Satan is unchained. "Satan will be released from his prison, and he will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth". (Rev 20, 7-8). This does not mean that the Church, the Holy Nation, will be enchained in its turn. Indeed these are not the thousand years of the reign of the saints that are completed, but those of the chaining and the confinement of the devil. The thousand years of the reign of the saints does not terminate, though the imprisonment of the devil does. The Holy Nation is eternal and indestructible.
"Or how can one enter into the house of the strong man, and plunder his goods, unless he first bind the strong man" (Mat. XII, 29).
The strong man is Satan and it is the Christ who has bound him. He has bound him so that the nations will not be mislead, in order to attract to the Church the largest number of people, who would otherwise on account of their weaknesses, be incapable of overcoming evil temptations. It is the exercise of political power which gives the Church this facility to attract a large number.
The outburst of the devil
In the same way as the thousand years, the three and on half years of the outburst of the devil, is a period symbolised by half a week (three and half years). A short period compared to the thousand years, Revelation talks about “a little time” (Rev 20,3). For Satan, the outburst is the accession to political power. It is he who will exert it at this moment, with as a corollary the end of the exercise of the Christian politics. For this reason, he will initially make the Christian life a private affair. It will be his attempt at binding the Church in his turn. Saint Augustin concludes that this will be a period during which proselytism will become impossible. He wonders about private proselytism, that is to say the capacity of the Christians to communicate the faith to their close relations and he thinks that this will be possible. The reduction of the Chrsitian life, at least in the will of the devil, will be the prelude for the final phase of the war at the Holy City, to which the impious nations will be invited. A period of great persecution. But, we learn from Father Humbert Clérissac in his remarkable "Le mystère de l"Eglise" (Dismas)[“The Mystery of the Church”, NY Sheed and Ward 1937]. “Our Savior did not want either an individual religion, nor a national church (in the mosaic or schismatic sense of the word): but He wanted that His Church remained a kingdom”. The political strength of this kingdom is out of reach of Satan. The Church, Holy Nation, will not be reduced to a religion of individuals. It is only his colonizing action on the world which will die out because it will have arrived at its conclusion.
The Church of the three and one half years.
Will the church at this time be misled by Satan? The Church, the Holy and predestined nation cannot be seduced. What action will be necessary for the strong one to be bound so that his goods can be removed and he then be loosed? Remember that Satan is the Prince of this world, that is to say, certainly, principally of the multitude of human sinners. The Church will undertake its final and ultimate mission, which will consist of displaying the power of its Savior, seeing "how mighty an adversary it has conquered, to the great glory of its Redeemer, Helper, Deliverer". The Christians of these times, will have a “resoluteness,…that they shall conquer that strong one, even though unbound". Also, when this new courage appears, never seen in the Christian people, this will be one of the major signs of the end.
When is the thousand years and the three and half years?
The thousand years commences at the time of the first accession of Christ. They appear gradually by the erection of the papal throne in Rome. A veritable taking of power, which marks the beginning of the diffusion of the Christian policy throughout the whole empire (1). The colonization of the provinces will be the receptacle of the cruel invasions which, by the conversion of the people invaded, will produce the roots of the future Christian nations. This will be the start of the Christianity which will find its apogee in the Middle Ages. The Christian nations become simultaneously schools, missionary bases and armed branches of the triumphant Church. These armed branches, will fix the limits of the Islamic spread. It is these missionary bases which will spread Christianity to the four corners of the earth. These are the schools which will make the Christian science reach to the unutterable summits in fields as varied as the art, architecture, song, doctrine, ecology, justice ... The first beginnings of it, will be the beginnings of liberation when the Christian nations turn little by little toward wordly seduction. In the beginning it will only be the personal failings of the princes, but little by little, the Christian politics will undergo the infection and the ties of it will be stretched. The time will finally come when the diabolic politics will dawn whose crescendo will superimpose itself on the decrescendo of the Christian politics. One can see fairly clearly the deterioration of the individual morals becoming widespread, then establishing itself in the 15th century, and accompanying the first political revolution with the reform. The continuation is only a relentless evolution of the phenomenon which one can affirm today, distinctly passing the point of equilibrium, and accelerating in a fall revealing the approach of the end. The change of the order and of the law and its logical consequence, the extinction of the faith in the majority is a proof that escapes no Christian. It is the imminence of the end of the thousand years. How much time remains before the total bursting out? Certainly very little time but we must not underestimate the power of the enemy and he has probably not yet expressed all his abomination. As that may be, it is not excluded that we have entered into the beginning of the three and a half years, if not we are very close. The annihilation of all individual thought, replaced by the single thought, the setting up of this fantastic technological instrument, the television and the internet, a real tool of “mans’” collective thought, can be mistaken for a sort of diabolic caricature of the Holy Spirit.
To be and to last
With an image of the last true jews, such as the old Simeon, waiting with certainty for the advent of Christ which they knew as near, the last Christians were a small remainder. In thinking of them remember the words of Christ: "look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near.” (Luke 21,28). The painful observation that they were the completion of one thousand years, the end of Christianity, must not result in the sinking into nostalgia and despair. "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Matth 8, 26). Their mission is to “be and to last”. “To be” is to continue the combat of the ancestors with the same certitude of the final victory, with the same faith in Jesus Christ and His Church. They must adapt but not doubt.
" When the wicked increase, sin increases; but the righteous will see their downfall." (Prov 29, 16). The pathetic cry of the Christ on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15, 34) is the revelation that the Savior has assumed alone and totally the distress of these final times.
Because he brought himself the response by his resurrection, he saved us to issue the same cry. Individual graces will be sent to the last square grouped around the standard. Satan will not colonize the Church, vexed, he will take vengeance on its children, the Christian nations from which he will remove the terrestrial political power. It is the Holy Spirit, the “Great Eagle” (Rev 12,14) which will give its wings to the Church to withdraw it from the Serpent in order that it flies away
"into the wilderness to her place, so that she might be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. The dragon grew angry with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep God’s commandments and hold Jesus’ testimony (Rev 12, 13,14 and 17). The desert is the asceticism of solitude, the food of survival of the church because there it draws the essential in a life where only subsist the holy liturgy, the sacraments, contemplation, and prayer. "I tell you, keep asking, and it will be given you. Keep seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and it will be opened to you”. (Luke 11, 9).
A time, two times and half a time, these are the three years and a half, during which it must “last”. "But he who endures to the end, the same will be saved." (Matth 24, 13). Excluded from the political life and we have not yet seen everything, it will be necessary to become attached to this idea that the only true politics, those of our Savior, is the politics of His city and this will not delight us so that the Church sees how mighty an adversary it has conquered, to the great glory of its Redeemer, Helper, Deliverer. The last Christians need to be imbued with the certitude that, by divine grace of the Spirit, there shall be such resoluteness that they shall conquer that strong one, even though unbound.
“When all men have fought their fight, ours will remain, because we are reserved for the final battle. We will expose the greatest violence in the world: not killing others, but risking one’s own life” (RP Fillère)
30 May 2000 at the feast of Marie Queen, 1 June 2000 at the feast of the Ascension of our Savior, 12 June 2000 at the feast of Pentecost.
NB : in italics and without other reference, extracts from The City of God by Saint Augustin
(1) It illuminates perhaps the remarks of Saint Paul, sibylline for our time “You know what now holds Satan ... It is only necessary that the one that keeps it disappears” (2 Th II, 6 and 7). What holds Satan is certainly the abyss, the one which keeps it is probably the Pope. It is an interesting question to study, in particular to discover what is the “disappearance”.