Saturday, April 07, 2012

Holy Saturday: "Hast Thou Considered My Servant Job?"

Via Thornton Wilder and Mockingbird.

Now it came to pass on the day when the sons of God came to present themselves before SATAN that CHRIST also came among them. And
SATAN. [Said unto CHRIST:] Whence comest Thou?
CHRIST. [Answered SATAN and said:] From going to and fro in the earth and from walking up and down in it.
SATAN. [Said unto CHRIST:] Hast though considered my servant Judas? For there is none like him in the earth, an evil and a faithless man, one that feareth me and turneth away from God.
CHRIST. [Answered SATAN and said:] Doth Judas fear thee for naught? Hast thou not made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? But draw back thy hand now and he will renounce thee to thy face.
SATAN. [Said unto CHRIST:] Behold, all that he hath is in thy power.
[So CHRIST went forth from the presence of SATAN.]
* * * * *
[He descended to the earth. Thirty-three years are but a moment before SATAN and before God, and at the end of this moment CHRIST ascends again to his own place. He passes on this journey before the presence of the adversary.]
SATAN. You are alone! Where is my son Judas whom I gave into your hands?
CHRIST. He follows me.
SATAN. I know what you have done. And the earth rejected you? The earth rejected you! All Hell murmurs in astonishment. But where is Judas, my son and my joy?
CHRIST. Even now he is coming.
SATAN. Even Heaven, when I reigned there, was not so tedious as this waiting. Know, Prince, that I am too proud to show all my astonishment at your defeat. But now that you are swallowing your last humiliation, now that your failure has shut the mouths of the angels, I may confess that for a while I feared you. There is a fretfulness in the hearts of men. Many are inconsistent, even to me. Alas, every man is not a Judas. I knew even from the beginning that you would be able, for a season, to win their hearts with your mild eloquence. I feared that you would turn to your own uses this fretfulness that visits them. But my fears were useless. Even Judas, even when my power was withdrawn from him, even Judas betrayed you. Am I not right in this?
CHRIST. You are.
SATAN. You admitted him into your chosen company. Is it permitted to me to ask for how much he betrayed you?
CHRIST. For thirty pieces of silver.
SATAN. [After a pause:] Am I permitted to ask what role he was assigned in your company?
CHRIST. He held its money-bags.
SATAN. [Dazed:] Does Heaven understand human nature as little as that? Surely the greater part of you closest companions stayed beside you to the end?
CHRIST. One stayed beside me.
SATAN. I have overestimated my enemy. Learn again, Prince, that if I were permitted to return to earth in my own person, not for thirty years, but for thirty hours, I would seal all men to me and all the temptations in Heaven’s gift could not persuade one to betray me. For I build not on intermittent dreams and timid aspirations, but on the unshakable passions of greed and lust and self-love. At last this is made clear: Judas, Judas, all the triumphs of Hell await you. Already above the eternal pavements of black marble the banquet is laid. Listen, how my nations are stirring in new hope and in new joy. Such music has not been lifted above my lakes and my mountains since the day I placed the apple of knowledge between the teeth of Adam.
[Suddenly the thirty pieces of silver are cast upward from the revolted hand of JUDAS. They hurtle through the skies, flinging their enormous shadows across the stars and continue falling forever through the vast funnel of space.]
[Presently JUDAS rises, the black stains about his throat and the rope of suicide]
SATAN. What have they done to you, my beloved son? What last poor revenge have they attempted upon you? Come to me. Here there is comfort. Here all this violence can be repaired. The futile spite of Heaven cannot reach you here. But why do you not speak to me? My son, my treasure!
[JUDAS remains with lowered eyes.]
CHRIST. Speak to him, my beloved son.
JUDAS. [Still with lowered eyes, softly, to SATAN:] Accursed be thou, from eternity to eternity.
[These two mount upward to their due place and SATAN remains to this day, uncomprehending, upon the pavement of Hell.]
* * * * *
-from “The Angel that Troubled the Waters” by Thornton Wilder, pp. 129-133 (Coward-McCann, 1928)

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