THE CANADIAN RED ENSIGN
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2021
Lighting Candles and Cursing Darkness
The expression “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” is often said to be an ancient Chinese proverb. Many even attribute it to China’s greatest philosopher, the legendary sixth century BC sage and government advisor/official Kong Fuzi himself. There is not much in the way of evidence to support these claims. The earliest known use of the saying goes back only to the early twentieth century AD, during which century it spread like wildfire due to its popularity among liberal Democrat American presidents and their wives. Although Roosevelt and Kennedy predated the period in which liberal Democrats became enamoured of all things Chinese provided they were no older than the Cultural Revolution it is probably stretching credibility to the breaking point to suggest that they had some special insight into the Confucian origins of an adage that continues to elude the best scholars in the field.
In actuality, it is difficult to imagine such a saying originating in the wisdom literature of any ancient civilization when it so clearly bears the manufacturing stamp of twentieth century, Western, liberalism on it. As a comparative value judgement it is a truism and an insipid, banal, and trite one at that. It implies that we are under some sort of moral requirement to make an either/or choice between lighting a candle and cursing the darkness, thus demanding the question why one cannot do both, to which question, of course, there is no answer.
Today is a good day to be contemplating these matters.
It is the second day of the second month. On the liturgical calendar it is a Feast Day, the official designation of which in the Book of Common Prayer is “The Presentation of Christ in the Temple Commonly Called the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin”. This is because it is forty days after Christmas. The Mosaic Law required in the twelfth chapter of the book of Leviticus that after a woman gave birth to a male child she would undergo a forty day purification period after which she would present the child in the tabernacle – later the Temple – to which she would bring a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering, or, if this was beyond her means, two turtledoves or pigeons for both offerings. The fulfilment of these requirements is recorded in the second chapter of the Gospel According to St. Luke – it is specified that the second option for the offering was taken – which is the occasion upon which Simeon and Anna prophesy over the Holy Infant. The informal designation of this Feast is Candlemas. (1) This title alludes to the ancient custom of the blessing of the candles which traditionally occurs on this day. The candles, representing Christ as the Light of the World, are presented in Church in ceremonial reenactment of the presenting of Christ in the Temple, and are blessed.
In how many parishes will this be occurring this year?
Not very many.
The Hungarian Jewish writer Arthur Koestler is most remembered for his 1940 novel Darkness at Noon. In the novel, his protagonist, Nikolai Salmanovich Rubashov, is taken away by the secret police of the revolutionary regime he helped create in the middle of the night, and imprisoned. He is given a number of hearings, not for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence but obtaining his confession. Ultimately, he gives the confession and is executed. Although the story and its characters are fictional they represent real events that had just taken place in the Soviet Union. After Joseph Stalin had become dictator he had secured his control over the Communist Party and his absolute rule over the Soviet Union by ruthlessly eliminating his rivals within the party. One of the more conspicuous elements of the Purge were the show trials, held in Moscow from 1936 to 1938, in which Trotskyists and other Old Bolsheviks who dissented to Stalin’s rule were made to publicly confess to various crimes before they were put to death.
It was Koestler’s girlfriend at the time, Daphne Hardy who later went on to become a sculptor, who gave the book its title. She was also the one who translated it from his German manuscript and arranged for its publication in London, while Koestler was fleeing the Nazis in a highly adventurous manner. The title was inspired by the fourteenth verse of the fifth chapter of Job although it has little to do with what Eliphaz the Temanite was haranguing Job about. It refers to the contrast between the reality (darkness) and the illusion (noon) of Communism as experienced by true believers – such as Rubashov within the novel, and Koestler its author (2) – who are brought to the realization that the ideal paradise they believed they were creating was actually an extremely oppressive tyranny.
It seems that no matter how many times the darkness of Communism is revealed for what it is – when a Malcolm Muggeridge tells the world about the Terror Famine in the Ukraine, when an Arthur Koestler paints a literary picture of the Show Trials, when an Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn brings the GULAG to light – there will be those who blindly look to Communism as a source of light.
Today, our governments have taken away our most basic rights and liberties. They have forbidden us from gathering together socially, assembling as religious communities to worship, and in some jurisdictions, even to leave our homes without their explicit permission and a justification they consider valid. They have forbidden large portions of the population from running their own businesses or earning their own livings for extended periods of time, and basically told us all that we must look to government rather than to our businesses and jobs for our means of support. They have conditioned us to expect security guards to be the first and last people we see everywhere we go, to be under constant surveillance, and to be stopped by enforcement agents at any time and made to give an account of why we are out and what we are doing. They have encouraged us to snitch on our friends and neighbours every time we see or suspect them of violating any of an ever growing list of infractions. Protests against these lockdowns are broken up by police and the protestors fined and/or arrested. We are told by the media, speaking with a monolithic voice much like the press in the Soviet Union, that all of this is humanitarian and necessary for the greater good. Everything about this, right down to the “science” invoked as justification for it all, resembles nothing so much as the dark tyranny the Bolsheviks imposed upon Russia a century ago.
These lockdowns are the reason that Churches will not be meeting to bless the candles today. The politicians and health bureaucrats have declared that Church services are “non-essential” and, even though it is clearly Satan’s opinion that the politicians and health bureaucrats are speaking, the Church leaders have decided to obey man rather than God.
Which brings us back to where we started. The nonsense that it is “better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”.
Unless the Churches start cursing the darkness that is Communism – including the Communism that wears the mask of public health orders to slow the spread of bat flu – instead of kissing its butt they will never be able to light candles again.
(1) An old tradition says that fair weather on Candlemas indicates that winter will be long. In North America, this has led to the day acquiring the secular name of “Groundhog Day” after the creature assigned the task of checking the weather. The legend accompanying this name is more specific than the tradition from the Old World and the specifics are rather amusing. The groundhog or woodchuck – a really big squirrel who lives in a hole in the ground rather than in a tree – comes out of hibernation on Candlemas to check the weather. If he sees his shadow – which will only happen in fair weather – it means there will be six more weeks of winter. If he does not – it will be an early spring. The joke of this is that the vernal equinox in this part of the world is always more than six weeks after Candlemas. It falls between the nineteenth and twenty-first of March – this year on the twentieth. Thus, a mere six more weeks of winter after the second of February would constitute an early spring. The outcome, in other words, is the same whether the groundhog sees his shadow or not. Very amusing – almost as much as Harold Ramis’ 1993 comedy film Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.
(2) Nine years after Darkness at Noon came out, Richard Crossman’s anthology of ex-communists-turned-anti-communists The God That Failed was published. Koestler was one of the contributors.POSTED BY GERRY T. NEAL AT 6:02 AM LABELS: ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN, ANDIE MACDOWELL, ARTHUR KOESTLER, BILL MURRAY, CANDLEMAS, CONFUCIUS, COVID-19, DAPHNE HARDY, FDR, HAROLD RAMIS, JFK, MALCOLM MUGGERIDGE, RICHARD CROSSMAN