There are only two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way"What does this mean, or, perhaps more acutely, what might Lewis' assertion look like if it is true? I think Edna St Vincent Millay painted a very poignant picture of what Lewis asserted in her poem "The Suicide." Her poem begins with the narrator saying,
Curse thee, Life, I will live with thee no more!In what way has life mocked, starved, and beaten this distressed person?
Thou hast mocked me, starved me, beat my body sore!
And all for a pledge that was not pledged by me,
I have kissed thy crust and eaten sparingly
That I might eat again, and met thy sneers
Ah, Life, I would have been a pleasant thingIn light of the rest of the poem, it seems to me the key phrases here are "playing in the sun" and "hated tasks."
To have about the house when I was grown
If thou hadst left my little joys alone!
I asked of thee no favor save this one:
That thou wouldst leave me playing in the sun!
And this thou didst deny, calling my name
Insistently, until I rose and came.
I saw the sun no more.—It were not well
So long on these unpleasant thoughts to dwell,
Need I arise to-morrow and renew
Again my hated tasks, but I am through
With all things save my thoughts and this one night,
So that in truth I seem already quite
Free,and remote from thee,—I feel no haste
And no reluctance to depart;
After the seventh stanza there is a break in the poem marking the act of suicide- the passage from life to death. When "the suicide" reaches the other side, she finds herself in her "father's house." When she arrives at the house there is a feast in progress. Looking in on the feast, she notices how shabbily dressed she is compared to those who are feasting at table. Recalling that this her father's house, she summons the courage to knock on the door;
Tattered and dark I entered, like a cloud,There is another break, like the one marking the act of suicide. I find it intriguing that no mention is made of her being invited to join in the feast. After this break she describes her life in the father's house:
Seeing no face but his; to him I crept,
And "Father!" I cried, and clasped his knees, and wept
Ah, days of joy that followed! All alone
I wandered through the house. My own, my own,
My own to touch, my own to taste and smell,
All I had lacked so long and loved so well!
None shook me out of sleep, nor hushed my song,
Nor called me in from the sunlight all day long
But after awhile she begins to wonder what else is happening, what her father's business is and how she might participate in it:
"Father," I said, "Father, I cannot playTo which the father soberingly responds:
The harp that thou didst give me, and all day
I sit in idleness, while to and fro
About me thy serene, grave servants go;
And I am weary of my lonely ease.
Better a perilous journey overseas
Away from thee, than this, the life I lead,
To sit all day in the sunshine like a weed
That grows to naught,—I love thee more than they
Who serve thee most; yet serve thee in no way.
Father, I beg of thee a little task
To dignify my days,—‘tis all I ask
Forever, but forever, this denied,
..."All things thy fancy hath desired of meIn his homily at daily Mass just a few days ago (Friday, 25 November to be exact, the penultimate day of the liturgical year) Pope Francis said:
Thou hast received. I have prepared for thee...
No pleasure shalt thou lack that thou shalt name. But as for tasks—" he smiled, and shook his head; "Thou hadst thy task, and laidst it by," he said."
Eternal damnation is not a torture chamber. That’s a description of this second death: it is a death. And those who will not be received in the Kingdom of God, it's because they have not drawn close to the Lord. These are the people who journeyed along their own path, distancing themselves from the Lord and passing in front of the Lord but then choosing to walk away from Him. Eternal damnation is continually distancing oneself from God. It is the worst pain, an unsatisfied heart, a heart that was created to find God but which, out of arrogance and self-confidence, distances itself from GodPray for the dead, especially those who for reasons known only to them and certainly to God (in some instances, no doubt, only to God), took their own lives. We know that serious mental illness is the cause of many suicides, which certainly inhibits freedom and in some instances, no doubt, prohibits making a free choice. Inhibited and prohibited freedom diminshes or entirely eliminates culpability altogether. Have hope. God, as Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, C.S. Lewis, and Edna St Vincent Millay all tell us, is a kind and merciful Father.
Of far more relevance than theologizing or psychologizing about suicide, especially during Advent, in the midst of what I find to be incomprehensible "holiday" chaos, is to take the opportunity to honestly ask yourself, "Am I seeking to draw closer to the Lord, or am I arrogantly walking my own path and, by so doing, acting presumptuously?" Hell is not, as Sartre famously averred, other people. Hell, to use a phrase of St Augustine's of which Luther was quite fond, is Homo curvatus in se that is, "man curved in on himself."