Monday, 17 April 2017

Hell's mandarins

The gods of Hell consider themselves to be the most benign  and generous of hosts.  After all they give their "guests" exactly what they want; exactly what they preferred over and above the Love of God. In a parody of the Mansions of the Father, the mandarins of the underworld fit out with excruciating precision and attention to detail, personalised teenage bedrooms of  vice, where their guests will have an eternity forced to entertain their lust, gluttony, avarice or whatever cocktail of vice they chose for themselves.  The claustrophobia and misery are exquisite.  These mandarins are happy in their work, they have devised a Blairite Meritocracy for which they are the overlords and they are in love with their own ingenuity.  They have conveniently forgotten the One who has allowed them to exercise such power.

It wasn't always like this.  For thousands of years, their job was far simpler and they were more like Victorian clerks.  It was all ledgers and ink wells.  Scrupulous records would be kept.  There was an inevitability about the job.  The books always balanced. Actually that isn't entirely true.  The books had not balanced on three occasions.  They conveniently like to forget about Enoch, Moses and Elijah whom they had never welcomed to their realm.  Accounting oversights or gentle reminders that ultimately they had no real power over death.....?  The gods don't like to think about such things.  They had their empire to run.  Mistakes can be erased from the memory and there was much to be busy about making sure their guests were comfortable.

When a man called Abraham checked-in they knew they were dealing with somebody a bit different.  He was almost unbearably polite and gracious and yet all he would do was wait.  He treated their empire like a waiting room.  Waiting for something better.  But what could be better than what they had to offer? Other souls gravitated round Abraham.  The mandarins were unhappy about this but they would not be out-polited by a mere man so they let him be and many grateful souls found their way to his bosom.

It all really went wrong for them when one of their guests disappeared.  It was unheard of that a man whose body had begun to putrefy on earth could go awol from their realm.  But that is what happened to Lazarus.  He wasn't an oversight in the ledger.  His name was there, clearly written by one of the most experienced and well respected of the mandarins, but he had gone.  Something had to be done.  The laws of death had to be obeyed.  He must die again.  They had contacts on earth, it could be arranged.  Then news came through that they might do even better.  The Author of this great travesty Himself might be theirs for the taking.  Yes, forget Lazarus, they thought, the Man responsible for this outrage can balance the books instead.  So every force united to bring about His death.  The singular moment of unity.  A Cosmos shattering upheaval from which there was no return.

When He arrived, it wasn't as they expected.  The tasteful, strong and somewhat lavish doors to their realm lay in splinters.  Clerks were running about in a frenzy, the ledgers were in tatters on the floor.  The machinery of their empire was crumbling.  The Man was preaching to the dead. They listened and many followed Him back out again. The clerks were powerless, though they were pleased that some chose to remain behind and not follow this Brigand.

The gates of the underworld were shattered. The mandarins were a laughing stock. The gods on earth were mocking them about having a glass revolving door fitted. It was all too much, but hurt pride is a great motivator.  Fom now on, they would concentrate on those who freely chose to check-in with them, they would entertain them royally.  No more Abrahams to deal with.  They would have guests over whom they had complete control.  There would be realms for the dead over which they had no jurisdiction.... but they couldn't care less about that.  They had a job to do and they would do it to perfection.

So when That Mere Woman also did not obey the laws of death and went straight to Heaven, the event passed by our mandarins with hardly a second thought. It was the gods of the world who were smarting this time. The implications of the Creator's eternal love for her will always be beyond the comprehension of the gods of the underworld. And whilst souls on earth stubbornly fail to grasp the significance of His love for each of us, these mandarins will have work to do.  Work is always better than thinking.

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