A Simple Rite of Marriage for Two True Believers

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I take issue with the traditional western Christian understanding that the wedding vows are only in effect “until death do us part”. This would be appropriate in a Buddhist context, where there is a strong emphasis on the impermanence and conditioned nature of all phenomena, however I am utterly convinced that this sort of language is entirely inappropriate in a Christian context, which is supposed to give an absolute priority to the permanence and unconditionality of the eternal life that Christ has won for us all.

Appending “until death do us part” to your wedding vows strikes me as a blasphemy against the resurrection of Easter; as a denial of the total victory of life, love, light and grace over death, selfishness, darkness and sin; it is a repudiation of the conquering of evil, demons and damnation by goodness, angels and salvation; it is to renounce marriage and Heaven and embrace divorce and Hell; it is to substitute the obedience of Christ for the rebellion of Adam.

As far as I’m concerned, claiming that every marriage dissolves at death is strictly equivalent to denying that Christ has risen from the dead, and so even if this doesn’t make you a heretic in the eyes of Holy Mother Church, it renders you a heretic under the divine gaze of goodness, truth and beauty himself. If ever I find myself in the awkward and unfortunate situation where my conscience compels me to choose between God and Holy Mother Church, I will choose God every time. Thankfully it’s never come to that before, and I have confidence that it won’t happen over this issue either.

Of course, the Divine Liturgy is inspired and infallible, so there must be some reason why God allowed this troublesome phrase to be inserted into our wedding vows. Well, legal contracts dissolve at death, it is true. No law can compel you once you have passed from life into death. And in this sense, the “until death do us part” condition in the traditional Catholic vows is a valid summary of the legal situation we find ourselves in. But marriage is not merely a legal contract; it is also a holy and everlasting covenant, akin to the holy and everlasting covenant between Christ and Church.

DIVINE MASCULINE & FEMININE JAN 14 - 20, 2018 MULTIPLE ...According to the order of Law, marriage is understood in a legal and contractual sense and therefore divorce is possible and is in fact ultimately inevitable, as all sin and so all die. However according to the order of Grace, marriage is understood to be an unconditional covenant, and therefore once truly entered into, it is a divine relationship that never can and never will be broken by anything: On account of the resurrection, not even death is able to dissolve it. It is in this sense that marriage here on earth reflects the heavenly marriage between Christ and Church. Just as Christ will never abandon the church and the church always clings to Christ, and on account of the resurrection not even death can separate them, so too husband pursues wife and wife clings to husband, and on account of the victory of the resurrection, not even death can nullify this marital union.

In light of these reflections, I have composed a wedding liturgy complete with vows which better reflect the reality of the victorious Gospel.

The Wedding Liturgy

Twin Soul Ascension Report ~ Easter Gateway Divine ...

Groom:

I vow to you that I will love you and fight for you in every way, always and everywhere, whether we be together or apart,

I vow that as you ascend to Heaven, I will be your partner on the journey and assist you; and whenever you descend to Hell, I will be your companion in the darkness and rescue you,

I vow that neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers nor rulers, nor height nor depth, nor Hell nor damnation, nor anything else whatsoever, will divorce me from you.

I vow that even if God himself should declare us to be divorced, I will not accept it and will wrestle with him until he allows me to continue loving you in peace.

Groom (or a trusted minister)

Do you have faith that these my/[Groom]’s vows are infallibly guaranteed by the unconditional promise of God himself, by the supreme victory of the resurrection, and by the eternal and everlasting life that the Lord Jesus Christ has won for us all?

Bride:

Just as I have faith in these holy and divine mysteries, and just as I have faith in God, so too I trust you and I trust your vows.

Groom:

Truly, I am now and forever married to you.

[Put a ring on her finger and kiss her on the cheek]

Bride:

I vow to you that I will love you and fight for you in every way, always and everywhere, whether we be together or apart,

I vow that as you ascend to Heaven, I will be your partner on the journey and assist you; and whenever you descend to Hell, I will be your companion in the darkness and rescue you,

I vow that neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers nor rulers, nor height nor depth, nor Hell nor damnation, nor anything else whatsoever, will divorce me from you.

I vow that even if God himself should declare us to be divorced, I will not accept it and will wrestle with him until he allows me to continue loving you in peace.

Bride (or a trusted minister):

Do you have faith that these my/[Bride]’s vows are infallibly guaranteed by the unconditional promise of God himself, by the supreme victory of the resurrection, and by the eternal and everlasting life that the Lord Jesus Christ has won for us all?

Groom:

Just as I have faith in these holy and divine mysteries, and just as I have faith in God, so too I trust you and I trust your vows.

Bride:

Truly, I am now and forever married to you.

[Put a ring on his finger and kiss him on the cheek]

Trusted minister/witnesses:

I/we declare and recognise {Groom] and [Bride] to be truly and eternally married as husband and wife!

[Thunderous applause from the witnesses]

[The newlyweds share a kiss and then depart to the bedroom to get it on all night long like it’s the song of songs, baby]

catholicity and covenant: Song of Songs: rediscovering the ...

What were the odds?

I look at the overhead projector;
A list of names each in their own sector.
There is one that’s strangely familiar
and it sounds eerily similar,

To a name I had forgotten long ago
The name of a girl I once did know.
I slowly turn my head around
As I look back my eyes uncloud

They come to rest on a face
and it was at a very fast pace
that it became much more familiar
and started to look eerily similar,

To the face of a girl I once did know
and was my friend six years ago.
She answers a question with her voice,
and I finally remember! Inside I rejoice.

How on earth could I forget?
That amazing girl, “Karla Burnett”
She’s been at Hornsby since year seven
And I only found out in grade eleven!

I travel home in amazement and wonder
This was too much of a happy blunder
Doubt… is it too good to be true?
Uncertainty… is it really you?

Because what are the odds
that these XORs and MODs,
could bring me at last
to this ghost from my past?

Of course something had to go wrong
I had known her for surprisingly long
But MY face was not recognised
a memory evading her magical eyes

She did not remember me!
A Six years corrupted memory.
For three weeks I lay low
How on earth to let her know?

At last I could stand it no more
I drop all I know to the floor.
I don’t know if it has any effect
Until I have a ticket to collect

I fail to communicate exactly what I need
To the ticket-teller taking the money I feed
But someone stalks up from behind
Someone who has the words I can’t find

With a grin
Karla conveys the correct choice
I smile within
“Thank you… for being my voice”

We all sit comfortably, talking on the train
Repression of a question at back of my brain
Somehow the discussion turns to the past
I meet her eyes and know it’s time at last;

Time slowed down as I finally let it free
“I remember you, do you remember me?”

Alex Herlihy – 2009

karla@2x[1]

The Journey is more Important than the Destination

I ran, I ran so far awayokalinichenko-sports-running_u-l-ptdii20[1].jpg
Oh how far I ran that day
No obstacles came my way
Before me a long path lay.

I did not in the slightest care
that the path was a circle
I could go as fast as a hare
or as slow as a turtle

and it would make no difference
How fast or slow I run
speed is of no consequence
The reason? There is but one:

I have to run as far as I can
An insidious curse has been placed upon me
The destination is not important
But I would die if not for the journey

There is a demon in my chest
And it will not let me rest
Until I have seen the whole road
Achieved that state of beast mode

It is momentum that cannot last
A state that is ludicrously fast
It lets you move at a speed
Sure to put you in the lead

But this is impossible to attain
I wanted it once, if only for fame
I travelled to see the speed king
Demanded that he tell me one thing

How on earth I run that fast
when my muscles will not last
The speed is physically impossible
making it extremely desirable

This was a god whose time I was wasting
He laughed and set the ground shaking
“You would have to earn it, this is MY power
I am not Prometheus. I will not drop the fire”

I should have backed down
But instead I wore a frown
“I can do anything you demand
Run on water, swim on sand

I have flown without wings
Around the devil I run rings
I have seen the center of this earth
and I understand life’s true worth.

There is nothing that I fear
I have kept my enemies near
I am as powerful as the thunder
I could have you torn asunder

Unless you grant me my only wish
you will become inferior to a fish
And you know I will make sure of it
When delivering revenge I do not quit”

Only then did I see my mistake
I gasped and turned to escape.
The sky exploded the clouds came down
Turning sepia, everything went brown.

The sea rushed towards me
A wave of a million swords
Each one laughing with glee
Music of the most evil chords

The mountains rose higher
The forests moved around
The deserts became fire
Heaven fell to the ground

I was swept up onto a rock
Higher then all else I perched
So there I did take stock
Below me reality lurched.

The voice returned, it made me tremble
It was so powerful, and too terrible.
“You are nothing to the likes of me!
You dare question my authority?”

This was overwhelming. He was so strong
If I keep this up I’ll be dead before long.
Tears fell, I knew this was the end
I collapsed to the floor, my legs didn’t bend.

Suddenly there was silence
But his voice was in my head
It whispered away my defiance
And swept out all my dread.

“You want to run that fast
Even if your muscles won’t last?
I will not give up the secret
You yourself must go and find it

You must run for all eternity
Faster then me? Uncertainty.
But run hard enough and you will find
The thing that has plagued your mind

But I have made it harder to win
For you now have a demon within.
You will not stop you will not rest
until you have accomplished the quest.

But have some fun, enjoy the journey
Of beautiful things you will see many.
Now go and run as far as you can
Never forget that you are just a man.”

I knew what I had to do
Run and run over fields of blue
Run up mountains run down stairs
Run through the evilest of lairs.

Running and running until I see
The revelation that sets me free
The secret of travelling so fast
That future becomes present and past.

But this demon prevents all
It is a great physical wall
That stops me from running fast
Because my chest becomes glass

Just that extra bit of speed
and my innards will shatter
Every time I feed the need
That demon makes me splatter.

How can I discover the answer
when I cannot run like a panther?
Beast mode was already hard enough
Now I’m completely out of puff

But I know how to beat my demon
I will put an end to his screaming
If I simply run for a long time
This will remove his fowl grime.

Once he’s gone I will be free
I will run at full capacity
And at that speed I will find out
the elusive secret without a doubt!

Until then I must wander and roam
I must run. And run without a groan.
Speed does not matter, only distance
I’ll give this demon full resistance.

I mark that day down in my head
That day I could have been dead
I ran far, I did not wait
So far the trip has been great

I’ve seen a lot since then
and I would do it all again
The demon still lives inside
And I almost don’t mind.

That demon is why I’ve seen all this
He’s the reason that I run in bliss
Through the fields of red snow
Caves where we don’t normally go

The great pools of starlight
The rolling hills of fire
Coal heaps that shine bright
The sacred sun spire

Out of the realm eternal
and into the lair infernal
The green beaches of purgatory
The places found in a story

I don’t really care where it is I go
When I run the world puts on a show
Why run fast when there’s so much to see?
I’m enjoying this endless journey.

But at some point I will beat
the demon sticking to my feet.
It is my mission to run this road
at the speed known as beast mode

I will take this assignment
with no hesitation
The journey is more important
than the destination

Alex Herlihy – 2009

Curry Jack

Oa22b1958299ac7f5b23bb98a0b58ea97[1].jpgh no it’s Curry Jack
The guy who is totally wack
He gets high on smack
I’d be happy to see his back

The worlds biggest dickhead
He hangs with the gangs
Bashing kids till they bled
Drinking the blood with his fangs

Driving others to suicide
and laughing at their fate
He would enjoy genoicde
and gladly turn on a mate

But of friends he had none
It’s a good thing he had no gun
School shootings are his kind of thing
We’d all be dead before a bell could ring

I turned up at school this year
To news that produced a tear
Tears of joy of course
No one felt any remorse

Curry Jack has left our school
We were too smart and he was too cool
Being the biggest fish in a small pond
That’s the life of which he was fond

A feast was scheduled but never held
But we didn’t care, this was too good
Curry Jack is gone! Our fears are quelled
Time to take down that fort of wood

Jack is now a penno peep
He sits with the common sheep
He now gets herded from class to class
Smashing windows and breaking the glass

He will not be missed this day
That boy with a heart of black
And so it pleases me to say
Good bye Curry Jack

Alex Herlihy – 2009

Osmosis

36799eecddf334aff3ba8457289edd26[1].jpg

This word

This word osmosis
It sounds so awesome.
But its meaning is piss;
The definition of boredom.

Green mushroom clouds
are brought to mind
and firework shrouds
I do hope to find.

Red water, purple rain;
the essence of dreams
which can destroy all pain.
But this is not what it means:

“Osmosis is the diffusion of water
through a semi-permeable membrane.
When the plastic suffers pressure
Aqua pura goes down the drain.”

How could that be more boring?
It lacks any trace of imagination,
It’s sure to get you snoring,
My colours don’t even get a mention!

What a massive waste of a word.
To this I say “screw you science!
You transformed gold into turd
and killed this word, Osmosis.”

Alex Herlihy – 2009

Epistemology

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Belief

How do I know that you are really there?
How can I be sure you have a brain under that hair?
For all I know your skull is full of air!
To believe you don’t exist is only fair!

Even if I got inside your mind
I don’t think that I would find
A revelation that sets me free
For I’m in your mind; You are now me!

When I say “Blue”, you might hear “Red”
Where I see raging fire, you see a cold bed
I don’t know what you hear when I say “Red”
And it’s all because I can’t get into your head.

This uncertainty has occupied me
Ever since the age of three
The idea that I am all alone
In the kingdom without a throne

As a toddler I was the king
And of course I knew everything
But one day I looked at mums face
I asked the question that put me in place

Being young the words came out wrong
I had lost mum before very long
The question falling upon her ear?
“How do I know you are really here?”

My own loving mother may not exist,
No matter how much I’ve been kissed.
At only three years old I had faced the idea
That I am the only one far and near

And “Impossible” you surely say
But even you may wake up one day
And find that you are stuck in life’s play
Where only you can exist in any way

Because there is no way to make absolute certain
That someone else is behind the unknown curtain
How can you be sure they are really there?
Senses don’t prove that anyone is anywhere

Even if you can hear and see them,
Even if you Taste, smell and feel them
There is no way you can truly know
Whether it’s all part of your mind’s show

Reality is what you make of it
The imagination immaculate.
It is all contained in my head
And so I wonder, could I be dead?

If I am the only one that lives,
That is death for what it gives.
The mind is a lonely place
Almost like living in space

For all I know I do live up there,
On Mars or Saturn or god knows where.
One plus one may equal three
Everything is a possibility

Science and maths are as bad as religion
Proven fact today may tomorrow be beaten
Humans know nothing for nothing is certain
The world was once flat, it had been proven

I would not be sane with such theories in mind
So I have found a way to keep myself blind.
A concept that I borrow from religion,
Promises to keep me as unaware as a pigeon:

So how do I know that you’re really there?
How can I be sure you have a brain under that hair?
How do I know your skull isn’t full of air?
And how do I know that you think and you care?

Belief. Convincing yourself that it is true,
Even though no facts will come to you.
With this in mind I can control the world
I could be a redhead, blond or bald.

I know nothing, but believe anything.
Religion, maths and science are the same thing
I could never know that God exists
and I don’t truly know maths one bit

But I believe and it is so
I believe and so I know
People exist and so do I
One plus one does not equal five

I think therefore I am
God may be a giant sham
But I don’t really know
Hell may be ready to blow

So I have found my reality
But I won’t forget the ability
That helped with this discovery
(Doublethink is oh so lovely)

I live my life by belief, not religion
I follow possibility, I am not a Christian
But anything is possible! God may be king,
Because I know nothing and believe everything

Alex Herlihy – 2008

 

Formal

Normanhurst-Boys-High-School[1].jpgWe were Sitting down at lunch one day,
Me and Ba, and Scott and Ray,
Being Happy and merry (But never gay)
Until Shank decided to come our way.

The conversation quickly turns,
To that which makes the stomach churn;
Hot chicks, porno, renticle tape
To make shank stop it, we give him a shake.

“Profanities Shank” loudly proclaims Ba,
“Give it a rest” I say, “You’ve gone too far”
“bIsAmused equals false” guffaws semlar,
And Ray just pretends to play a guitar.

Ba scratches his head and thinks of a topic,
one that is safe and will make shank stop it.
Up until then, everything was normal…
“So who are you guys taking to the formal?”

This quickly got everyone’s attention,
I stayed quiet, as if on detention.
I was interested but it did not show,
Everyone became edgy, ready to blow.

Semlar coughed “Sarah”, we whacked him hard,
“She’s in France, are you a retard?”
Ba says that he wants to ask Alanna
This gets met with “Ba’s gonna be a father!”

Ba hides his face and talks to shank
What did they say? I drew a blank.
I became apprehensive as of then
“Who did you say you are asking again?”

His one word answer, as it sunk into my mind
Sent my heart crazy and put shivers down my spine
The one name that I did not want to hear
“Nicole” said shank, confirming my worst fear.

She was the only girl that I wanted to take
And now she’s about to be stolen by Shank.
The gears in my head started to revolve
A plan was formed and I was resolved.

Shank will NOT be stealing my redhead;
He will be taking someone else instead.
This occupied me for the rest of the day
Shank had become my enemy in a way.

As I looked at my options I exclaimed “damn”
I didn’t know whether it would go to plan
But I was possesed and my fingers would shake
In such a frenzy I made a fatal mistake

One email that I don’t want to recall
I was putting too much faith in it all.
With butterflies in stomach, excitement, nervous,
I pushed “send” and the words did their service

I had no idea that I was already dead,
So I felt better then ever as I climbed into bed.
I had to make certain that shank didn’t ask,
His real words are superior to an email from my arse.

The next day was friday, both a blessing and a curse.
After school was youth group at Ba’s Christian church.
This meant I could ask her for real
Shank could too; so it was not ideal

I had a sense of “Carpe Diem”, Sieze the day!
On top of the world? I was feeling this way.
But behind it all there was a sense of betrayal:
No matter what, one of us is going to fail.

For the first time I could see what paths lay before me
Extreme jealousy or sweet victory, which was it to be?
I was determined to see this through
“Damn you Shank, this is all because of you!”

And so there we we’re on friday night
Soccer in the park; it was a vicious fight.
Does shank suspect why I am here?
If he does then I must fear:

If Shank Knows my thoughts then he’ll be using all speed
He will pounce on Nicole like one full of greed.
But if he doesn’t know my plan he will take his time,
Wondering how to word himself, while I make a beeline.

Either way the race is on, for I will not be waiting long.
Besides I’m wearing sneakers, I can’t lose to his thongs.
For Nicole I begin to search around,
I covered quite a lot of ground.

But what is this? I can not find,
the thing that has plagued my mind.
Where on earth could Nicole be?
Surely she can’t be hiding from me.

The night dragged on and it became clear:
Nicole was not going to be coming here.
I was disappointed until I saw the truth
More time to practice not sounding like a goof.

I withdrew from my thoughts and looked around
There was Ba and at Shank he frowned.
Shank had no idea that he was spoiling Ba’s chance
For Ba to man up and ask Alanna to this dance.

I laughed and let the night take me away
The stress was gone until another day.
And so I had a lot of fun
Before I knew it, the night was done.

I woke up and it was saturday
I felt good but the sky was grey
This was a bad omen that I ignored
I had slept so well! I never even yawned

I turn on the computer, I let it load
I waited and waited until the windows logo showed.
I decided to check email but I had totally forgot,
That email of doom that I should have let rot.

I had new messages but none from Nicole
But I didn’t worry. Today won’t be droll.
So I let the morning go flying away,
Before I knew it, it was the end of the day.

Once again I returned to my email
To find a reply from a certain female.
And there it was waiting for me;
The reply of success, surely.

My heart was beating, I didn’t dare
To read that which was written there.
My hand hesitated for I could not bare,
A reply that causes me to tear out my hair.

But then I decide to take the plunge
This sweat making me as wet as a sponge.
I opened the email that decided fate
No more delay. I could not wait.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t go”
This can not be! No no NO!
“I’m sorry, but I can’t go…with you”
No…After what I’ve been through…

The world had ended, Shank had won
I had failed, the game was done.
Silent tears flowed as I retreated to bed
Sadness was swept up into dreams instead

I woke up feeling depressed the next day
I couldn’t believe that it had happened this way.
But I would not go down like this,
I must stop Shank, make him miss.

I come to school, Shank says “Wassup!”
“What a bummer that she didn’t turn up!”
At recess I find Ba talking to Shank
The subject, “Revenge” and some stuff about tanks.

Ba says that the Bible condones vengence
“How ironic, that means I won’t pay repentance”
“Only if the punishment fits the crime”
“Perfect. You know, that sounds just fine”

So I vowed to stay close to Shank, never give him a chance
To ask Nicole to the formal, they would never dance.
To me it seemed an eye for an eye
I couldn’t forsee how this plan died

And so it was Friday night once more.
We were in a church with leaky walls.
This time Nicole did indeed show
What Shank was thinking we could only know.

An awkward triangle we three made
In a river of emotion I did wade
While Shank stood silent trying to think
And eventually, Nicole ran off to get a drink.

Shank stayed away from her for most of the night
I relaxed and watched some bogans fight.
The next thing I know Shank has disappeared
But before I could swear I saw what I feared.

Shank had a look of confidence on his face
As he turned round the corner I was frozen in place
But what came next was not expected
Shank looked strangely affected

He rounded the corner looking resolved
but as he came back the look had dissolved
From within came an exclamation of glee:
“She didn’t pick him and she didn’t pick me!”

To me it came as a great victory
Shank tried to take it happily
His poker face hid what emotion he felt
He eyed me off till my face almost melt.

He was thinking the same as me
“My ranga was stolen by Herlihy”
I laughed and told him of my fail
He seemed to be turning pale.

My thoughts turned inward, as they do
And I got thinking about things undue
This was not a victory at all,
Oh boy did I just drop the ball

Revenge is a dish best served cold.
That’s what I have always been told.
So of course it came as no suprise
When all of a sudden, I realised:

Nicole would not be at our formal
With me or Shank or someone normal.
I couldn’t help feeling that it was all my fault
I should have locked my hard feelings in a vault

I was blind. Look what I’ve done.
Oh sad consequences of my fun.
As I dealt with reality
It finally sunk into me

This formal is more trouble then it’s worth
Time to get more down to earth.
And so I chose to forget these incidents
I did not want to remember, the memory was rinsed

And so I forgot, I could not recall
Until another email brought me back to it all.
Ba gives the facts as blunt as a plank
“Nicole wanted to say yes to Shank.”

Ba haven’t you heard that ignorance is bliss?
Why oh why did you have to tell me this?
I demand that you now let me know
From where this information flows

But Ba is silent, he does not say
Why these tidings came my way
So I leave the mystery unsolved
And once again the memories dissolved

The formal it did come and go
And I did not toss to and fro
I just came and had some fun
Before I knew it, the night was done.

On the bus I sat with Shank
We talked of all things rank
Hot chicks, porno, renticle tape
But I didn’t stop it, It was too late.

Shank was not an enemy then
“I still wish you asked Nicole again,
Even though we had such fun,
I still wish that she had come”

I hear a sigh, he gathers breath
I’m so tired I feel like death
“We’re still learners” is the last thing he said
But I still wish that I had my redhead.

I haven’t seen Shank since then,
And I have taken to the pen
“We’re still learners” lingers in sight
With that in mind I kiss the Formal good night

I finally can let it go
No more of this horrible show
Months have passed since I last cried.
To the formal, a big “Good bye!”

But no, I had a dream last night
You see, it gave me quite a fright
Not because it was a nightmare
But for what was contained in there:

The formal again, I’m back on the boat
With Ba, Alanna and a red goat.
But there is one I was not expecting to see
Nicole! And she is coming towards me.

But before I can say “This must be a dream”
There appears Shank, his smile like a beam.
Hands clasped firmly with Nicoles, I was enraged at the sight
Such a fury that I woke myself up in the middle of the night.

I do not know what this dream meant
But one thing I know as hard as cement:
This formal will not close it’s door
It will plague my mind forever more.

Alex Herlihy – 2008

Drugs: Legalisation, Liberalisation and Harm Minimisation

shutterstock_170939975[1].jpgI got into an argument today over whether or not weed is moral or immoral and whether it should be legalised. Unfortunately it was two against one and I totally lost the argument, however it put me in a reflective mood for the rest of the day.

At one point I brought up the fact that alcohol is legal and yet it is by all accounts more harmful than weed; my opponents response was that alcohol is physically harmful whereas weed is mentally harmful (as if this makes any difference). After some protestation from me, they made a point which completely stumped me: It’s all about the intention. The intention when you drink a glass of wine is not to get drunk, whereas the intention when you smoke weed is to get completely baked “off your tits”. I was unable to answer this point. It raised the question for me, “Is it really sinful to smoke weed with the intention of getting high?” The Catholic catechism would seem to imply so. However after some reflection, I have come up with the answer “not always”.

Context is an important factor in the discussion. Is it wrong to intend to get high? I say “no”, so long as you are in an appropriate context. An appropriate context would be a weekend off from work or study, where you don’t have any other obligations to attend to and can well and truly kick back and relax. If as part of this recreational Sabbath you desire to alter your state of mind – via chemical assistance or otherwise – that is completely ok. People have many ways of altering their brain chemistry for the purposes of recreation, including dancing, listening to music, eating, drinking etc.  In this sense, smoking weed is just another form of recreation.

An inappropriate context for smoking weed and intending to get high would be if you are about to pilot a passenger aircraft loaded with people. The mild dissociative effects could be disastrous and cause you to crash the plane. Another inappropriate time to smoke weed would be right before your wedding, or before an important exam. There is a time and place for everything, however the time and place for weed is during recreation; not during everyday life. Exactly the same arguments can be applied to the responsible use of alcohol. It would be entirely inappropriate to turn up to work or your own wedding inebriated.

This principle can be extended to almost all drugs. No drug is intrinsically immoral so long as it is taken in a recreational context. If you have a weekend free and have no obligations to meet, then by all means take LSD and enjoy the profound spiritual experience that it provokes. If you are going to a music festival and there is some MDMA on offer, then by all means feel free to partake (Although MDMA is a complex drug and there is more to say about it).

Drunkenness is an interesting case, seeing as St Paul explicitly names it as a sin in his epistles. Speaking from experience, there have been times when I have socially drunk to the point of drunkenness, and yet I didn’t do anything sinful, feel any increase in temptation, say anything stupid. I just felt on a slightly different plane of reality. There have of course also been other times when I have been drunk and done lots of stupid things. And being drunk to the point of vomiting is a sign that you are physically disrespecting your body, which is the temple of the lord. However the state of mind of being “drunk” is not inherently sinful. It’s only if you get “totally wasted” and start saying and doing stupid stuff, vomiting etc.

Of course context is not the only consideration when tossing up the morality of taking drugs. Something else to consider is the side effects. If the drug is known to cause severe physical and mental harm even with casual use, it should not be taken – even in a recreational context – unless there is some way to offset this harm. For example MDMA is known to cause slight-yet-notable, permanent brain damage if it is taken alone. This is because MDMA works by increasing the rate of serotonin consumption in the brain to a point where the brain literally runs out of serotonin. At this point when there is no more serotonin, the receptors that would usually receive serotonin start to eat the dopamine in the brain instead. However dopamine is toxic to these receptors and ends up killing them off, leading to brain damage and an extreme hangover. All of this can be avoided simply by taking a serotonin supplement at the same time as the MDMA. In this way you get an awesome high and no hangover, no brain damage, no harmful effects. One friend of mine reported that he actually felt even healthier after the MDMA wore off than before he had ingested it, solely because he had also taken a serotonin supplement.

The sin with drugs is not so much the taking of them as it is the addiction to them. Smoking a casual joint every 3 months with some mates is completely fine. However if you get to a point where you are craving weed at every hour of the day and are sneaking out of the office at regular intervals to light up a fat one – this is a habit that is interfering with your life. It is similar to alcoholism: having a casual drink with the boys after work is fine, but once you’re addicted to booze it starts to invade every other aspect of your life.

Addiction is also relevant when it comes to some of the harder drugs: Heroin, Cocaine and Methamphetamine. In these cases, the drugs are actually physically addictive because they target the addiction center of our brain (The dopamine system). Theoretically it is possible to take these drugs casually without becoming addicted to them, and I have heard anecdotes from people who have successfully tried them without getting hooked, however the common story is that these drugs lead to total addiction and an utterly ruined life. In this situation you have to ask the question “am I tempting fate by taking this drug?” and the answer is very much “yes”. In this way, taking these harder drugs is immoral, because they are inherently addictive and as such are much more likely to lead to addiction and a ruined life.

Every drug has side effects which need to be considered too. For example excessive marijuana use can lead to schizophrenia. Excessive psychedelic use can activate latent bipolar. Excessive cocaine use can lead to mania and psychosis. None of these dangers make casual use of the drug inherently immoral, however they must be taken into account when assessing whether or not it is “tempting fate” to take the drug in any given situation. “Tempting fate” is definitely sinful.

The conclusion of the matter is that it is ok to desire to change your mental state (read as: get high), so long as it is in a recreational context and you have assessed the risks in your personal situation and found ways to mitigate them. For example when taking psychedelics it is advised to find a good “set and setting”, otherwise you run the risk of having a bad trip. Or as mentioned, when taking MDMA it is highly advisable to take a serotonin supplement such as 5-HTP so as to avoid brain damage. There is nothing inherently sinful about striving to change your mental state: monks do this all the time during intense contemplative prayer. Chemicals can be used to assist the process and so long as they are used in a responsible manner, there’s nothing sinful about them.

St Maximus the Confessor and Apokatastasis

St Maximus the confessor draws a distinction between the “wanting” of God and the “willing” of God. Importantly, this maps directly onto the “wanting” of the soul and the “willing” of the soul. This is very important for understanding how universal Salvation is compatible with the popular understanding of free will.

The Willing and Wanting of God

God wants to save everyone: According to Catholics this is indisputable and fundamental. Because God is love, how could he ever want to damn someone? However, just because God wants something doesn’t mean he wills it. Wanting is a desire, whereas willing is an active manifestation of an intention, aimed at the satisfaction of a desire.

So on the one hand, God loves us all and wants to save us all. However, we abuse our freedom, and therefore God wills to punish us. The analogy of the father and the child helps to make sense of this.

A good father never wants to punish his child. So too, God never wants to punish us. However, the father sometimes feels compelled to punish his child, so as to “teach the child a lesson”. This should be both a corrective and a retributive punishment – which is to say, the punishment should be fitting and in proportion to the crime, but the punishment should also be aimed at educating and correcting the child and encouraging him to return to the right path.

Now, all of us have sinned, and therefore even though God wants to save us all, his will is compelled by his perfection of justice to condemn all mankind to damnation in Hell (Samsara). So there’s two things happening here: there is the Apokatastasis (Universal Salvation), in which both God’s willing and God’s wanting are in perfect harmony, and then there is the Massa Damnata, in which God’s willing is out of sync with God’s wanting: In the Apokatastasis, God both wants and wills all to be saved, and so all are saved. Whereas in the Massa Damnata, God wants to save everyone, and he does not want to punish anyone, but his will is compelled by his perfect justice to punish us all.

The summary with respect to God is that God always wants to save us all, however because all of us sin, he wills to damn us all.

The Willing and Wanting of The Soul

The analysis of willing and wanting with respect to God maps directly onto the willing and wanting of the Soul.

Every soul wants and desires God, and every action that a soul undertakes is aimed at trying to move that soul towards God. However due to our limited perspective, we often make mistakes, due to lack of prayer and mindfulness of what is right and wrong in any given situation. With our will we make choices which we think will satisfy our wanting, but often we are mistaken and our choice has the opposite effect.

In this way, with our wanting, we always seek after God, but with our willing we often fall short of God and find ourselves deeper in the darkness.

Synergism and Predestination

Now, the doctrine of synergism states that there is a perfect harmony between the wanting of the soul and the wanting of God, as well as – startlingly – perfect accord between the willing of the soul and the willing of God. That is to say, the soul always wants God, and God always wants the soul.

However when the willing of the soul is not directed towards that which will truly satisfy it’s wanting, then so too the willing of God will not be in accord with that which truly satisfies his wanting. Both God and the soul always want the soul to move towards God, but sometimes the soul wills to move away from God, and whenever it does this, God accordingly wills to move away from the soul.

In this way when someone sins they have failed to act correctly and have chosen wrongly. The result is an explosion of justice from God in the form of an increase of retributive punishment. And so when we reject God, we are punished, but the key thing is that this is not the punishment of a king towards a slave; it is instead the punishment of a father towards a son.

As such, God’s justice is a merciful justice: it aims at the salvation of the sinner. But God’s justice is also a retributive justice: his punishment always fits the crime.

Lets take things to the extremes: When the soul definitively rejects God (and St Maximus firmly maintains – along with popular catholic tradition – that this is possible), God’s justice responds with definitive rejection of the soul.

According to Paul in his letter to the Romans, all of us have definitively rejected God and we all continue and persist in this rejection. And so all of us have tasted Hell. In a sense, St Augustine was right about the massa damnata: all of us will be damned forever.

But there’s a rubber band effect in play here. It is just because all of us are damned, that all of us will be saved; the punishment of Hell (Samsara) is the very means by which God educates us to be able to make the right choices. Sometimes it takes total damnation of a soul; it requires a soul to hit rock bottom, in order for that soul to finally realise the truth of his situation and repent.

So even if a soul ends up in Hell by means of it’s own mistaken willing, that soul still desires to be in heaven by it’s infallible wanting. Everlasting damnation is the educative means by which God will bring that soul back to heaven.

If a soul ends up in Hell, that soul’s wanting and willing are out of sync. They are willing the wrong things in an attempt to satisfy their wanting. Similarly with God; when a soul ends up in Hell, God does not want the soul to be in hell, but he does will that the soul be in Hell.

In summary, the willing of the soul is directed towards the satisfaction of the wanting of the soul. So too, the willing of God is directed towards the satisfaction of the wanting of God.

The implication of this is that everything God wills, ultimately has the purpose of satisfying his wanting. So if God wills that someone be everlastingly and eternally damned forever and ever, then in a most mysterious way this act of will has the purpose of satisfying God’s want to save that soul. In other words, everlasting and eternal damnation is sometimes exactly what it takes in order for the soul to ultimately get what it wants, and also for God to ultimately get what he wants.

Conclusion – God or Hell: Which is More Eternal?

St Gregory of Nyssa – who was a firm universalist – pondered these ideas, and speculated that for most souls the stay in Hell would be a temporary one, but for some souls (for example perhaps Satan and/or Judas) their damnation will be so complete that their purification will “extend into infinity”.

But he also remembered that “God is infinitely more infinite than infinity and eternally more eternal than eternity”, and so he had the wisdom to ask “What happens after forever?” and his answer was αποκαταστασις; the final and universal rest of all souls in paradise . Those who find themselves stuck in Hell forever will finally begin to repent after a forever has elapsed. For the forever of Hell cannot compare to the forever of God. Hell may very well feel like forever to a soul who is stuck there, but to God, the punishments of Hell do not last even as long as the blink of an eye.

In this way, we have both the massa damnata and the Universal Salvation shown to be compatible with each other. Everyone will be damned for all eternity, and everyone will be saved for all eternity, and the key to understanding how this can be, is St Maximus’ distinction between willing and wanting.

Footnote

Just as the Catholics are correct to insist that “God loves everyone and desires to save all without exception”, so too, the Calvinists are correct to insist that “God is just and actively wills to send sinners to Hell”: When a soul finds itself stuck in the torments of Hell, this is because God wills it, but not because he wants it.