Humpty Dumpty’s Wedding

Connecting with people you’d like to have known is a nice hobby, and I can claim to be just three handshakes from Abraham Lincoln and, remarkably, only five documented handshakes from George Washington, which is rare since as president he preferred to bow.  Recently at the opera during an intermission of “Turandot,” I put several grateful people three handshakes from Puccini.  Alas, a manager of a sporting goods store near Grand Central Terminal was unmoved when I told him that he was now four handshakes from Felix Mendelssohn.  Just two handshakes from the Alice of Wonderland, I spent many hours in the rooms she knew when her father was dean of the college where I studied and where Charles Dodgson wrote the stories for her under his pen name Lewis Carroll.  Alice Liddell, later Mrs. Reginald Hargreaves, died in 1934 at the age of 82, two years after she visited New York to receive an honorary degree from Columbia University.  It was the centenary of the birth of Carroll and so the degree was something of an oblique tribute to him who was also a distinguished mathematician and invented the “Dodgson condensation” which  is a method of computing the determinants of square matrices. His book on that subject was never made into a film.

While in New York, Alice met Peter Pan, that is, Peter Llewelyn Davies on whom J. M. Barrie based his book.  Queen Elizabeth II has spoken fondly of Barrie reading his stories to her and her sister when they were the young princesses of the Duke of York.  As I figure it, the honor of her extended gloved hand a few years ago set me three handshakes from Peter Pan, the same degree of separation, or rather connection, one has through the Alice line. In real life, Alice’s was not without disenchantments.  Her husband, a well-known cricketer, never recovered from the shock of losing two of their sons in World War I and, in reduced circumstances, Alice had to sell some of her books. As for Peter Pan, he threw himself under a train in London in 1960.

Lest I seem to be wandering, I should make a point and it is this:  one of Alice’s favorite characters in the stories was Humpty Dumpty whose logic served as something of a political satire through the pen of Dodgson, a logician as well as a mathematician and theologian.  He did not invent the name Humpty Dumpty, for that probably was what they called a cannon used in the 1648 siege of Colchester during the English Civil War, and it later became the anthropomorphic egg of nursery rhymes.  All the King’s horses and all the King’s men unable to put the cannon together again after the Roundheads had knocked it off a defense wall, were those of Charles I. That sounds likely to me at any rate.  But Alice’s author made Humpty Dumpty immortal in Through the Looking Glass. Humpty Dumpty boasted: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”   “The question is, said Alice, whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is, said Humpty Dumpty, which is to be master—that’s all.”

That is the question, and one on which the future of our civilization must hang its hat.  When the State tries to establish an imperium over nature itself, it vandalizes all sane instinct and abdicates its duty to promote the tranquility of order by tranquilizing it.  The carnage both physical and moral issuing from  the disastrous legalization of the destruction of unborn children proves that.  Now its dismal postlude sounds in shrill attempts to “redefine” marriage.” So far, eleven countries have done it, along with nine of our own states and our nation’s capital.  In Paris, close to a million public demonstrators have opposed the attempt of France’s Socialist president to play Master of the Universe, or at least Master of its Universal Laws.  It should be obvious to all except the dense and the willfully ignorant, that the next step will be to attack the Church through civil penalties for refusing to accept the authority of the State to invert the natural order of which the State is only a steward.

 

Pope Benedict XVI gave all this priority in his address to the Roman Curia on December 21, 2012, widely ignored by the major American media which seem jealous of their cohabitation with the present government. He established some sort of precedent by quoting a rabbinical voice not from first century Galilee, that of the Chief Rabbi of France,  Gilles Bernheim of la Victoire synagogue in Paris, and husband of a psychoanalyst.

[I]f there is no pre-ordained duality of man and women in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation.  Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him.  Rabbi Bernheim  shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of right, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.  When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being.

As the State did not invent marriage, neither did the Church.  But Christ transformed marriage as he did baptism, building upon its nature by investing it with supernatural graces to represent the indissoluble love of the Bridegroom for his Bride the Church.  The natural fecundity of the marriage bond is mocked by substituting for it a  disorder intrinsically infecund.  Our Lord’s miracle at a wedding, the first of the seven Johannine miracles,  brings to a potency  in the spiritual order the seven acts of creation in the physical order.  Trying to redefine marriage by human fiat is to pretend that man is creator and not procreator. This old and regressive conceit began with the first lie in Eden: “You will be like God.”  At the wedding in Cana, Christ’s mother said, “Whatever my son says to do, do it.”  We are free not to do what he says. We are free even to play Humpty Dumpty with nature, only asking which is to be master of words instead of acknowledging the Word as Master.  But when the social order has a great fall in consequence, all the politicians will not be able to put it back together again.

Fr. George W. Rutler

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Fr. George W. Rutler is pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. He is the author of many books including Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943 (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press) and Hints of Heaven (Sophia Institute Press). His latest books are He Spoke To Us (Ignatius, 2016); The Stories of Hymns (EWTN Publishing, 2017); and Calm in Chaos (Ignatius, 2018).

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