August 22, 2003

So Few

Bill of Summa Minutiae has a good Newman quote on the importance of the few:

As the physical universe is sustained and carried on in dependence on certain centres of power and laws of operation, so the course of the social and political world...Dogma runs along the line of Athanasius, Augustine, Thomas. The conversion of the heathen is ascribed, after the Apostles, to champions of the truth so few, that we may almost count them, such as Martin, Patrick, Augustine, Boniface.

A few years back, two co-workers and I received a visit from a corporate vice-president (of course, vice presidents in corporate America are as common as fake boobs in Hollywood). This rare visit was intended to inspire the troops (we call it the "Normandy speech" now, although "we" mostly don't work there anymore since one left for another job and the other, Ham of Bone, is happily writing screenplays off his severance).

"Never has so much depended on so few," he memorably said, while urging us to "storm the beaches". The feeling that much was riding on us felt true at the time.

But ultimately it didn't. And even though in corporate America everyone is replaceable, it isn't like that in the spiritual life. Certainly the penultimate example of this is Christ, who, by resisting the temptations of the devil and taunts of men to "come down from that cross", made possible our salvation. Moses interceeded on behalf of the Israelites to save them. And the Blessed Mother, in her free-will "yes" to God, made it possible that everyone thereafter might share of the fruit of her womb, just as everyone after Eve shared in her sin's misfortune.

Of them it could be truly said - "never had so much depended on so few".

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