Capon on The Great Heartburn

That much done, however–having provided baking soda for your solace and soup for your sustenance, I press on to the last consideration of all: the higher distress for which earth has no cure–that major, vaster burning by which the heart looks out astonished at the world and, in its loving, wakes and breaks at once.

For all its greatness (trust me–I am the last man on earth to sell it short), the created order cries out for further greatness still. The most splendid dinner, the most exquisite food, the most gratifying company,

arouse more appetites than they satisfy. They do not slake man’s thirst for being; they whet it beyond all bounds. Dogs eat to give their bodies rest; man dines and sets his heart in motion.  All tastes fade, of course, but not the taste for greatness they inspire; each love escapes us, but not the longing it provokes for a better convivium, higher session. We embrace the world in all its glorious solidity, yet it struggles in our very arms, declares itself a pilgrim world, and, through the lattices and windows of its nature, discloses cities more desirable still.

You indict me , no doubt, as an incurable romantic. I plead guilty without contest. I see no other explantation of what we are about. Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers, why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry, or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half of earth’s gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become. For all its rooted loveliness, the world has not continuing city here; it is an outlandish place, a foreign home, a session in via to a better version of itself–and it is our glory to see it so and thirst until Jerusalem comes home at last. We were given appetites, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.

That is the unconsolable heartburn, the lifelong disquietude of having been made in the image of God. All man’s love is vast and inconvenient. It is tempting, of course, to blunt its edge by caution. It is so much easier not to get involved–to thirst for nothing and no one, to deny that matter matters and, if you have the stomach for it, to make your bed with meanings which cannot break your heart. But that, it seems to me, is neither human nor Divine. If we are to put up with all other bothers out of love, then no doubt we must put up with the bother of love itself and not just cut and run for cover when it comes.

First of all, such faintness is unworthy of true men. We are the lords, the priests, and the lovers of the world: It is by our hands that its cities will be built if they are built at all. But anything to which we lie so close cannot be a matter of cool detachment and scientific indifference. If I am to lift music, I must lay such hands upon it as not only to give me power over it, but also to give it power over me. If I am to be the priestly agent by which some girl with high cheekbones enters the exchanges of the city, I must be prepared for the possibility that she may wind my clock beyond all mortal hope of repair. Love is as strong as death. Man was made to lead with his chin; he is worth knowing only with his guard down, his head up and his heart rampant on his sleeve.

But second, last and most important, playing it safe is not Divine. We have come to the end. I tell you simply what I believe. Love is the widest, choicest door int the Passion. God saved the world not by sitting up in heaven and issuing antiseptic directives, but by becoming man, and vulnerable, in Jesus. He died, not because He despised the earth, but because He loved it as a man loves it–out of all proportion and sense. And when He rose again, He stood up like a man indeed: with glorious scars–and with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature.

It is through that Sacred Humanity–and through the mighty working whereby He is able to subdue all things to Himself–that He will, at the last day, change these corruptible bodies of ours, make them like His own glorious Body and, through them, draw all things int the last City of their being. The world will be lifted , as it was always meant to be lifted, by the priestly love of man. What Christ has done is to take our broken can, you see, take it with us. It will be precisely because we loved Jerusalem enough to bear it in our bones that its textures will ascend when we reis; it will be because our eyes have relished the earth that the color of its countries will compel our hearts forever. The bread and the pastry, the cheeses, the wine, and the songs go into the Supper of the Lamb because we do: It is our love that brings the City home.

It is, I grant you, an incautious and extravagant hope. But in such a place as this–in a world that so regularly winds our clocks and breaks our hearts, that laughs at caution and cries from every corner for extravagation–only outlandish hopes can make themselves at home. Spare me, therefore, the sanity of more modes expectations and less loving looks.

If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; yea, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

And I saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem coming down from God out of Heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Raise her not for what she is not;
But lift her up herself
To grace the Supper of the Lamb,
The unimaginable Session
In which the Lion lifts Himself Lamb Slain
And, Priest and Victim,
Brings
The City
Home.

Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb, Ch 16 The Burning Heart, pg 189-191

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