“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish . . . ”
Twenty-one centuries will have passed since He promised to come in His glory, 21 centuries since His prophet wrote, “Behold, I come quickly.” For centuries, then, men had beseeched Him with faith and fervor, “O Lord our God hasten Thy coming.” And He in His infinite mercy will come down to them. And that is just what will happen, believe me; He will show Himself, if only for a moment, to His people.
My story takes place in Rome, in the grimmest days of the fin de siècle 2000’s, when the European Union will have been moved there from Brussels after the declaration of sharia in Benelux and the setting up of cantons for E.U. citizens throughout the old Union in Western and Central Europe. In most of Italy, there was no immediate danger of this, as the emergency coalition government of the 30’s (all the parties except the Christian Democrats and Islamists) had adopted a policy of massive immigration to Central and Southern Italy of East Timorese and Filipinos in order to avoid the fate of the now separate Islamic states in the north of the peninsula, united politically with the Albanian-run Islamic states of the Eastern Adriatic. Although North American President-for-Life Jenna Gonzales y Obama had threatened sanctions and even military intervention to prevent the massive movement, Beijing had made it clear that the removal of these Christian populations from its Southeast Asian provinces was most welcome, and that any American intervention would result in the revocation of the Alta California Accord of 2030, which had granted the state autonomy within China’s Eastern Pacific Federation. The movement had been successful, and pansit and pasta were being served up in the once-deserted villages on the hillsides of Abruzzo. Rome had remained a Christian city, although not an Italian one, even if the cheerfully imitative Asians had quickly adopted a number of Italianisms, and the Italians, never very touchy about racial differences, had widely intermarried with the newcomers. Some wags from the remaining ethnic Italian population liked to suggest replacing the national anthem “Fratelli d’Italia” with the post-World War II Neapolitan jingle about the local children left behind by GIs: “Si chiama Ciro, Ciro, Ciro / ma è nero, nero, nero” (“His name is Jack, Jack, Jack / but he’s black, black, black”).
Of course, this will not be the Coming in which He has promised to appear in all His heavenly glory at the end of time, and which will be as sudden as a bolt of lightning cutting the sky from east to west. No, He will want to come only for a moment to visit His children when, throughout Europe, His sanctuaries, their refuge of olden days, will have been stripped, whitewashed, and reinhabited by strange gods.
In His infinite mercy, He will come among men in human form, just as He walked among them 21 centuries before. He will come down to the Eternal City the day after the World Day of Peace reinauguration of the old church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli on the Capitoline as the congressional aula of the Union. The E.U. authorities will have obtained the church from the Vicariate of Rome, which, in the absence of the pope, had found it necessary to make whatever accommodations it could to the new bureaucracy that wanted to install itself on the Campidoglio.
The pope will have been in Moscow since 2070, when the cardinals were impeded from going to Rome for the election after the death of Gregory XVII, not being allowed to pass through Islamic airspace. They had to come individually, taking a western route over America and Asia, as the Russian government, with the consent of their patriarch and Holy Synod, had invited them to hold the conclave in the Kremlin. Many of the Sacred College had remained there indefinitely in quarters around the baroque St. Clement’s in old Moscow. There were some Catholic faithful now in Russia—more, in fact, than ever before—since the offer of free land in the 50’s and 60’s had brought many traditionalist Europeans there from America and Western Europe. Many vast stretches that had been lying fallow and depopulated between the birch forests in the first decades of the century were now being cultivated by the new equivalents of the Volga Germans: Christian refugees with their numerous families. Out of deference to the sensibilities of the Orthodox, the much-contested Roman liturgical restoration of the 20’s was observed exclusively, even by the prelates who had resisted it in their home countries. The Old and the Third Rome were thus united by mutual interest and goodwill, even if not by dogma. Only the remaining Poles in the cities insisted on maintaining the liturgy of the 1970’s and kept insisting that the pope would do better to join the assortment of patriarchs living in Kiev, where even the patriarch of Constantinople had fled, claiming jurisdiction over the old Rus along with four others. On Latin Easter and Christmas, the patriarch graciously invited Pope Cyril and, later, his successor, Pope Methodius, to give his Urbi et Orbi from the St. Michael Gate of Red Square. Only those over 40 remembered the pope in Rome.
The E.U. authorities had agreed with the Vicariate of Rome—after some concerns were met about the presence of Christian symbols in their newly secularized meeting place—that, on account of the overwhelming popularity of the veneration of the Child Jesus among the Filipinos and Timorese (something they had in common with the old Italians), the traditional procession and blessing of the city with the image of the Santo Bambino of Ara Coeli would be permitted from December 25 to January 6 each year, as long as the image was not brought through the new aula but carried only outside at the scalinata in front of the closed doors. So it will be that, on January 2, the day after the World Day of Peace celebrations, the procession will halt at the top of the steps according to immemorial custom.
There He will come, unobserved and moving about silently, but, strangely enough, those who will see Him will recognize Him at once. People will be drawn to Him by an irresistible force, gathering around Him, following Him, and soon, the whole crowd will be about Him. He will walk among them in silence, a gentle smile of infinite compassion on His lips and the sun of love burning in His heart. Light, understanding, and spiritual power will flow from His eyes and set people’s hearts vibrating with love for Him. He will hold out His hands to them, blessing them, and just from touching Him or even His clothes will come a healing power. The people will keep saying, “It is He, He Himself, the Nazareno, the Santo Niño.” The friar who had come out for the procession will look perplexed and frown.
Just at that moment, the Cardinal Vicar Cesare della Sentina and the E.U. president Isidore Soros will be watching from Michelangelo’s piazza. There will be no need to confer or discuss what is to be done. A death-like silence will descend on the Capitoline as guards lay hands on Him and lead Him away. The compliant people will slowly depart, discretely whispering in Italo-Visayan about what they have seen.
The guards will take their Prisoner to a dark but well-known palazzo between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. In the night, the door of His cell will open, and there will stand the Cardinal Vicar. “You? Is it really You?” Receiving no answer, he will continue in great haste: “You need not answer me. Say nothing. Besides, we all know well Your silence before Pilate. ‘What is truth?’ Now there’s the question that puts You and him and Satan himself on the same side, and us on the other! What a disastrous claim You have made, ‘I am the Truth’! Of what use was it for Satan to know who You are? ‘If Thou be the Son of God,’ indeed! Such preciosity, and at what expense for the millions who would come under the rule of men who believed Your promise, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’? Your professed love for men, what has it gained them, since You put them under the burden of truth? Satan’s hatred for You, what has it meant, except that, in order for him to draw them away from You, he must make them guilty of the truth and so capable of recognizing him for who he is? But we have loved men more than You ever will, and we have kept more from Satan’s grasp, far more, than You ever will. When You come into Your kingdom, remember us, just a hundred thousand or so, all at Your left, when You turn to look at the hundreds of millions who will be at Your right, not, mind You, because of You, but because of us. Yes, sublime indifference, invincible ignorance, these have been our weapons against the madness of the truth. To be sure, You will forgive them, for, thanks to us and not to You, ‘They know not what they do’! Yes, we will be lost, but the Devil will not be pleased with our company, since we do not share his aversion to You, since we are better than either of you. We have saved all we could from the intolerable and dangerous burden of truth. Not that it has been easy: it has taken four centuries of careful effort and planning. Equality, Reason, Progress, Democracy, Freedom, Inclusivity, Tolerance, Civil Rights, Global Solidarity, Security, Peace—anything but truth has been our motto, and we have succeeded on the whole. (There are certain sad exceptions here and there, like Your pope’s prolific flock in Russia, or those pathetic Nigerians, but these only serve as a warning to our good people. How fortunate they are to have me as Your Vicar’s vicar!) See how easily our faithful have accepted their fate! No one even thinks of defending the Faith, and even less of spreading it. The Islamists only make our point for us: Let our children convert and turn toward Mecca, it does not matter. They only prove that we Christians are not like them; we make no claims to recognition; we are just one voice, venerable, respected, chastened by our past errors in the symphonic dialogue of the New World Order. And no, we have not changed one iota of Your law and teaching; our personal orthodoxy may never be called into question; we would not be so stupid as to make the mistake of drawing attention to the truth by denying it: Leave that to the Jews. (How carefully we finessed their removal, and now, who remembers them? Just a handful left in America. I know this pains You greatly, but they were too risky to use for our cause, haunted by truth: You can have them all now, Your brethren! To think the bombs came from Sunni France, and not from Iran! Vive la Résistance!) We have found a better way: the way of love. How could You ever teach that love and truth are compatible? Truth defines and excludes; love includes all. Our damnation will be the triumph of servant-love, utterly humble and unrecognized, since You are surely not going to let Your happy elect in Heaven know to whom they really owe their bliss. This will be our satisfaction: We never taught them to hate You. You see how much You were loved today? And yet, tomorrow, they will have forgotten Your appearance. You can be sure there will be no record of it in the news: just another of the numerous apparitions that keep our good people harmlessly occupied. Now, have You nothing to say? Still playing the silent mystic?”
He will suddenly go over to the Cardinal Vicar and kiss him gently. The prelate will start and shudder. He will open the door: “Go now, and do not come back ever. You must never, never come again!” The kiss will glow in his heart, but the Cardinal will stick to his old ideal.