Plague and Enlightenment

As the pandemic is being overcome, I am returning to this piece I wrote on March 16, 2020 weaving together Albert Camus’ The Plague with the contemporary events that were emerging with COVID-19.

Here’s the last paragraph of the novel with some lines emphasized:

None the less, he knew that the tale he had to tell could not be one of a final victory. It could be only the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers. And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linenchests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.

“For the bane and enlightening of men…”

The word “bane” has the sense of “that which causes ruin or woe” and is related to the terms “killer, slayer, murderer, a worker of death.”

The word “enlightenment” has the connotation “‘to remove the dimness or blindness’ (usually figurative, from one’s eyes or heart).”

Has this COVID-19 pandemic in any way removed the dimness from our hearts?

“Plague” and “enlightenment”, which at first seem greatly opposed, are, in Camus’ understanding, more related that they appear.

Resting in Abraham’s Bosom

Thomas Aquinas died on this date 747 years ago. Accordingly, I decided to see what came up first with a quick search about Aquinas on death. I was led to the Summa Theologiae and, specifically, to Question 69 on “Matters concerning the resurrection, and first of the place where souls are after death.”

During his lifetime, Thomas Aquinas considered many questions that most people would never consider at all. Take, for example, Article 4 of Question 69 in which he asks: “Whether the limbo of hell is the same as Abraham’s bosom?”

I had not heard (or didn’t particularly recall hearing) of “Abraham’s bosom” but a detailed Wikipedia article discusses the concept as it appears in the Bible, Jewish and Christian history, and religious art and literature.

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Treasuring Time

Yes, even on my birthday I keep my death before me. It makes life sweeter by increasing my sense of its preciousness.

A friend of mine gave me a birthday card with this quotation by Josemaria Escriva: “Time is our treasure, the ‘money’ with which to buy eternity.”

On my birthday, I am filled with gratitude and responsibility – gratitude for God’s generosity in giving me these years and responsibility to live and love well with vision, depth, and hope.

I am thankful to my friends and family who have helped me to treasure time in this season – to sincerely savour and cherish it rather than wasting time or wishing it were some other time.

There is no better time, and “my times are in [His] hands.” (Ps. 31:15)