Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing by Sören Kierkegaard
Sören Kierkegaard is one of the towering Christian existential thinkers of the mid-nineteenth century. While his literary style was experimental, his writings call for Christian morality; a defense of faith and religion. Among his many books are Training in Christianity, Sickness Unto Death, and Fear and Trembling. This book was first published by Harper in 1938. It was translated from the Danish and contains an introductory essay by Douglas V. Steere. Prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Willie Brock.
Chapter 8: The Price of Willing Our Thing: Commitment, Loyalty, Readiness to Suffer All
B. If a Man Shall Will the Good in Truth, Then he Must be Willing to do all for the Good or be Willing to Suffer All for the Good.
My listener, before going further, if it seems right to you, we shall look at the course our talk has taken up to this point. For the talk, too, has its laborious development, and it is only when this is completed in the necessary slowness that we may come to an understanding with each other about what the talk presupposes. Only at that point can the talk, being then secure, make use of the agreeable speed that is properly the very life of Conversation. Thus, purity of heart is to will one thing, but to will one thing could not mean to will the world’s pleasure and what belongs to it, even if a person only named one thing as his choice, since this one thing was one only by a deception. Nor could willing one thing mean willing it in the vain sense of mere bigness which only to a man in a state of giddiness appears to be one. FOR IN TRUTH TO WILL ONE THING, A MAN MUST WILL THE GOOD. This was the first, the possibility of being able to will one thing. But in order GENUINELY TO WILL ONE THING, A MAN MUST IN TRUTH WILL THE GOOD. On the other hand, as for each act of willing the Good which does not will it in truth, it must be declared to be double-mindedness. Then there was a type of double-mindedness that in a more powerful and active sort of inner coherence seemed to will the Good, but deceptively willed something else. It willed the Good for the sake of reward, out of fear of punishment, or as a form of self-assertion. But there was another kind of double-mindedness born of weakness, that is commonest of all among men, that versatile double-mindedness that wills the Good in a kind of sincerity, but only wills it "to a certain degree."
Now the talk may continue. If, then, a man in truth wills the Good, then HE MUST BE WILLING TO DO ALL FOR IT or HE MUST BE WILLING TO SUFFER ALL FOR IT. Once more we understand that this classification divides mankind, or rather reminds us of a division that exists in reality: a division into the active ones and the sufferers, so that when the talk is about willing to do all, we may think about the suffering which this act may entail without calling such a man a sufferer, since he actually is an active person. But by the sufferers, we think of those to whom life itself seems to have assigned the speechless, and if you will, the useless sufferings, useless because the sufferings are not benefiting others, are helping nothing at all, but rather are a burden both to others and to the sufferers themselves.
I. If a man shall will the good in truth, then he must be willing to do all for the Good.
Let us first consider: the willingness to do all for the Good. All -- yet will not this talk easily exceed all bounds, if all is named? Will it not become an impossibility to master all the differences included under the term "all" and as a result will the talk not become vague, since the Good can demand the most different things of different people? It can sometimes demand that a man leave his esteemed calling and put on lowliness, that he give away all his possessions to the poor, that he shall not even dare to bury his father.(Compare Luke 9:59.) Again it can demand of others that they shall assume the power and the dignity that are offered them, that they shall take over the working power of wealth, that they shall bury the father, and that perhaps a large part of their lives shall be consecrated to faithfulness which is to be faithful over the little to this extent, that their own life has no claims of its own, but rather is faithful to the memory of a departed one. Now let us not multiply confusion and distraction in a host of individual details. For these also remind us of the struggle of pettiness for preference, where one person thinks that by doing one thing he is doing more for the Good than another who does something else. For if both in relation to the demand do all, then they do equally much. And if neither of them does all, then they do equally little. Instead of multiplying details, let us simplify this all into its essential unity and likeness by saying that to will to do all is: in the commitment to will to be and to remain loyal to the Good. Because the commitment is just the committing of all, just as it is also that which is essentially one thing. In this way no tempting occasion for the mistaken quarrel of pettiness about preference need arise. Then, too, the talk can be briefer, for it is unnecessary to enumerate variety’s many names and yet be in keeping with strict accuracy, since this essential brevity answers to that rich brevity which is present in life, in the act of commitment to will to be and to remain loyal to the Good. No one believes that this is a long-drawn-out affair. On the contrary, from the standpoint of eternity, if I dare say so, it is this abbreviating of all of life’s fractions (for eternity’s length is the true abbreviation) that frees life of all its difficulties, and it is through deciding to will to be and to remain loyal to the Good that so much time is gained. For that which absorbs men s time when they complain about the lack of time is irresoluteness, distraction, half thoughts, half resolutions, indecisiveness, great moments -- great moments. It was because of these that we said: to be and to remain loyal to, so that the commitment should not be confused with the extravagance of an expansive moment. The person, who in decisiveness wills to be and to remain loyal to the Good, can find time for all possible things. No, he cannot do that. Hut neither does he need to do that, for he wills only one thing, and just on that account he will not have to do all possible things, and so he finds ample time for the Good.
The commitment of willing to be and to remain loyal to the Good is truth’s brief way of expressing: to be willing to do all. And in this expression there is apparent that leveling insight that recognizes no distinction proportionate to that actual difference of life or of human circumstances: to be an active person or to be a sufferer, because the sufferer too, can be committed to the Good. This is of importance to the thought and to the talk, so that discord shall neither exist nor be kindled; so that the talk shall not incite the active person who is able to accomplish much in the outer world to compare himself in a conceited way with the sufferer; nor provoke the heavily laden sufferer who apparently spends his time in useless suffering, despairingly to compare his uselessness, his pain, his not merely superfluous, but for others even burdensome existence, with the great accomplishments of the active ones. Alas, often enough such an unfortunate person, in addition to his heavy, innocent suffering must bear the severe judgment of the arrogant, the busy, and the stupid, who are indeed able to irritate and hurt him, but who can never understand him.
So now let us talk of doing all, and speak of the men who, in this or that way, are assigned to the external world as to a stage. It makes no difference at all, God be praised, how great or how small the task may be. In relation to the highest of all this simply does not matter when it comes to being willing to do all. Oh, how great is the mercy of the Eternal toward us! All the ruinous quarreling and comparison which swells up and injures, which sighs and envies, the Eternal does not recognize. Its claim rests equally on each, the greatest who has ever lived, and the most insignificant. Yes, the sun’s rays do not shine with more equality on the peasant’s hut and the ruler’s palace, than the equality with which the Eternal looks down upon the highest and the lowest. Yet not equally, for if the most exalted is not willing to do all, then eternity gazes in wrath upon him. And, even though the rich man by human ingenuity should at last succeed in being able to trick the sun into shining more invitingly upon his palace than over the poor man’s hut, man will never be able to trick the Good and eternity in this fashion. The demand upon each is exactly the same: to be willing to do all. If this be fulfilled then the Good bestows its blessing equally upon each one who makes and remains loyal to his commitment.
Suppose that we should now in earthly and temporal fashion recommend the commitment. Suppose we should say, "It does not matter whether you leap into it or creep into it. You may as well risk it first as last. For although you may very well succeed for a time in dancing on roses, nevertheless the difficult time of trouble will come, and so it is always well to be prepared." Oh, let us never wish to sell what is holy, or more properly, let us never forget that in this sense eternity is not for sale, that it regards itself as too good to be sold where it might be bought by a bargainer -- a brazen one. Yes, for the same reason that a temple-robber is the most contemptible of criminals, so it is with this highly painted clever one who cunningly wills the highest thing of all without willing it in truth. The temple-robber may even succeed in plundering the sacred treasures, and may actually get them into his possession since these treasures are something external. But that clever one never succeeds in stealing the commitment or in stealing himself into the commitment. The ever-active righteousness that eternally dispenses justice is so vigilant that every criminal not only does not become dangerous to the Eternal, but in the sense of imperfection does not even actually come into existence, since it becomes a self-accusation. In relation to the Eternal, the criminal’s worst act is much as if the temple-robber instead of stealing the sacred vessels went to the high temple officials and said, "I wish to steal the sacred vessels." So with the matter of stealing the commitment, it does not succeed, but instead the guilty one announces himself to the Eternal and says, "I wish to steal the commitment." For in eternity there is no sensory illusion, and so neither is there what in a moral sense is the same thing, any actual possession -- of stolen goods. Let us not, then, deceptively and uselessly recommend the coming to a decision. If someone wishes to sneak through life, let him do it. The truth might still take occasion to seize him so that he would will the decision for the sake of the Good. But let us not make him believe that by an artifice he could cunningly carry the commitment with him on his stealthy way through life.
The decision is, to be willing to do all for the Good; it is not cleverly to wish to have the advantage of the Good. Alas, there is in every man a power, a dangerous and at the same time a great power. This power is cleverness. Cleverness strives continually against the commitment. It fights for its life and its honor, for if the decision wins, then cleverness is as if put to death -- degraded, to become a despised servant whose talk is attentively listened to, but whose advice one does not stoop to follow.
Now in the inner world man uses cleverness an a ruinous way, in order to keep himself from coming to a decision. In countless ways cleverness can be so misused; but in order once again not to multiply that which is not important and thereby to divert attention from the really important, we will again simply designate this misuse by a definite expression: to seek to evade. To forsake one’s post, to desert in battle is always disgraceful, but cleverness has invented an ingenious device that apparently prevents flight: it is evasion. By the help of evasion, namely, one does not come into danger, and neither does he lose his honor by running away in danger -- on the contrary one does not come into danger -- that is one advantage. And one wins great honor as being especially clever -- that is a second advantage. Only eternity, the Good, and so also the Holy Scriptures, are of another opinion about this matter of evasions and about the much-honored clever ones. For they are referred to when it speaks of, "those that draw back into perdition" (Hebrews 10:39). How strange that a man can, therefore, avoid a danger, and when he believes himself secure and saved (which one indeed should believe after he has escaped danger), just at that point he has sunk into perdition.
A clever one speaks in this way, "Afterwards it is too late. If I have already ventured too far out and been crushed, who will help me then? Then I should be a cripple for all the rest of my life, an object of mockery and a by-word among men. Who will help me then?" Who will help him then? Who other than the power in which he trusted in venturing so far out? Yet surely not as one who is stronger helps a weakling, but rather as when the unprofitable servant23 does everything in order to do his lord’s will. But now with the help of evasions the clever one talks as if the Good itself was no power, or as if its power counted for nothing, so therefore, that it could be the clever one, who (if he chose to risk it) by doing all, would help out the Good. If this is so, then it is true enough that no one exists who can help him -- in case he actually should venture out -- and that which a clever ingenious imagination invents in order to be able to forget the troublesome background of evasion above the terrifying foreground, actually comes to pass. Evasion thus accomplishes nothing.
And even if the terrible thing now happens the confident venturer is injured. Even an earthly government is I accustomed to care for its faithful servants who risk danger in loyalty to the state, then shall not God and the Good also care for their faithful servants, if only they are sincere!
And even if the terrible thing happens that when the sincere person had risked all, that it was then that the government said to him, "My friend, I cannot use you." Oh, how clear it is that the smallest crumb of grace in the service of the Good is infinitely more blessed than to be the mightiest of all outside that service. Verily, verily, it is indeed true, it is with trembling true, in relation to the ungodly, but it is also by grace happily true for the sincere, that God is not tricked by a man? Even if the sincere one comes to grief, perhaps it was just this that the government needed. Has it not often happened that the well is first covered only after the child has fallen in, while before this the most reasonable arguments and warnings had been of no avail? Now if the sincere one is willing to be the child who falls in, has his venture been wholly in vain?
Another says, "I have not the strength to risk all." Again evasion, an evasion by the aid of the word "all." For the Good is quite capable of reckoning and computing its demand in relation to the strength that this man has. And what is more, if he will venture in all sincerity, then he will certainly receive strength enough in the act of decision. But the clever one desires by the help of evasions to have strength in advance. He wishes to misuse it like the soldier who, in order to be sure of being distinguished in battle, demands his distinction in advance. And yet this picture is untrue, for it is doubtful how far the battle gives strength. But it is certain, that the confidence, wherewith he has ventured, does give superhuman strength. Yet it is also certain (oh, wonderful accuracy!) that the one who does not have trust does not receive this strength. Look, the great battleship first gets its orders when it is far out at sea, the little sloop knows all in advance. And in a spiritual sense, a person is only really out at sea who is willing w do all, irrespective of whether he is the highest or the least. The little sloop is the clever person, no matter whether he be the highest or the least.
One says, "The bit that I can do is not worth while." The clever one is polite, he understates, he says, "Do excuse me." He acts as if the Good were a distinguished man, and as if willing the Good were a distinguished act. But it is a misconception. No, here it is an evasion. The Good is not distinguished. It demands neither more nor less than all, whether that is a mere bit or not is neither here nor there. The widow’s mite was all that she owned. Before God it was as great a sum as all of the world’s gold in a single heap, and if one who owned all the gold in the world gave it all, he would give no more. Yes, when that public collection of money was made, it was possible that the collectors both kindly and politely might have said to the widow, "No, Mother, you keep your mite." But the Good -- how shall we express it? Its goodness is so great, that it recognizes no difference.
One man says, "I am not justified in doing that because of my wife and children." Alas, even the civil government looks after, yes . . . yet this is out of place here. But I wonder if he, as man and father, really could do anything better for wife and children than to impress upon them this trust in Providence. Here, then, it is not as in civil life that the person who risks dares hope that the state will look after his wife and children. No, spiritually understood, he has by his venture cared for them in the best possible way, for by this he has shown them that he at least has faith in Providence. Here, then, it is not as in civil life that the person who undertakes to risk can do it by caring for wife and children. For spiritually understood, the fearful one shows that he has no concern for the true welfare of wife and children.
One may say, "Experience teaches that it is best to divide one’s energies in order that one can win by the one, when he loses by another. I owe it to myself, and to my future, not to place all upon a single thing." Yes, God grant that he will not restrict his pains to his future, for that is too little; but may this alone be set before his eyes, and ever called to his mind; that his future is -- an eternity.
Yet how could one ever finish talking about all the evasions? Who would undertake this fruitless work, this battle with the air! And even if someone should, even if he succeeded in enumerating them all and for an instant succeeded in holding them together so that they could not, like true runaways, slip away and assume another role while remaining in essence the same, still one evasion would always remain behind even if none ought to be there, even if by repeated inspection a commendable cleverness should be unable to discover that a single ground had been overlooked and hence that a single evasion was still possible.
So the double-minded person, seduced by cleverness, yielded to the evasions. "But this brought him nothing." Oh, let us not deceive youth, let us not sit and bargain in the outer court of the holy, nor formulate a profane introduction to the holy, as if one should in truth will the Good in order to prosper in the world. Readily grant that the clever one amounts to something, even to something great in the world. There is, however, a power that is called memory. It should be dear to all the good ones as well as to all lovers. Yes, it may even be so dear to lovers that they almost prefer this whisper of memory to the sight of each other, as when they say, "Do you remember that time, and do you remember that time?"
Now memory also visits the double-minded person. Then it says to him, "Do you remember that time? . . . You as well as I knew well enough what was there required of you, but you shrank back (to your own destruction), do you remember that! It was by this that you won a great deal of your property (to your own destruction). Do you remember that! Do you recall that time? . . . You knew as well as I what you should venture, you knew what danger it involved, do you remember, you shrank back (to your own destruction), do you remember? . . . Yet it served you well, for the badge of honor on your breast calls you back to a memory of how you shrank back to your own destruction!
"Do you remember that time . . . you knew well enough by yourself and by my solitary voice in your heart, what you should choose, but you shrank back (to your own destruction), do you remember that? It was that time when the popular favor and the exultation of the masses hailed you as the righteous one, do you remember that?" Yes, it indeed becomes your concern to remember the popular exultation and favor, for in eternity such things are not recognized. But in eternity it is not forgotten that you shrank back! For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul.(Compare Mark What shall it profit him, if he shall gain the time order and all it possesses, if he breaks with the Eternal? What shall it profit him if he comes through the world under full sail aided by the favorable winds of popular exultation and admiration, if he runs aground upon eternity? What shall it profit the sick man to imagine himself, as all men do, to be well, if the physician says he is sick!
Outwardly, too, cleverness is used in a ruinous way, in the matter of the decision, that is to say, it is outwardly misused. And we are indeed speaking of the active ones, and of being willing to do all for the Good. Here cleverness may be misused in a multitude of ways. But, once more, let us not increase the distracting element. Let us, rather, simplify that which is significant, and call all these different kinds of misuse by a single name: deception. The clever one knows just how the Good must be altered a tiny particle in order to win the world’s good will. He knows how much should be added to it and how much should be subtracted. He knows just what ingratiating thing should be whispered in men’s ears, what should be entrusted to their hands, and how the hand should be pressed, how it should be swung away from truth’s decision, how the turning should be done, and how he himself in suppleness should shift and turn --"in order that he can accomplish all the more for the Good." But the secret of deception, to which in one way or another all the expressions can be traced back, is this: that certainly it is not men that stand in need of the Good, but that it is the Good that stands in need of men. On that account it is men who must be won. For the Good is a poor beggar that is in desperate need, instead of its being men who are in need of the Good, and so much in need of it that it is the one thing necessary to them, that it must be bought at any price, that absolutely all must be given up and sold in order to buy it, but that also, the one who owns it owns all. Yet It happens that all are naturally fooled by the deception. Someone makes an attempt to fool the Good, which in all eternity inevitably fails, for that it seems to succeed for a fortnight or a lifetime is only a jest. The clever one, on the other hand, wins great distinction in the world -- and he, too, is fooled. The crowd delights itself with the flattering sweets of imagination -- and is fooled! This was deception’s secret, that it is the Good that stands in need of men. The clever one’s secret is, that he cannot be wholly content with the Good’s poor reward, but must cast about to earn a little extra by eluding the Good a little.
Seduced by cleverness, the double-minded person yielded, "but he accomplished nothing in this world." No, let us not give a false impression; he accomplished much. A large number of friends of the Good, or of good friends rallied admiringly around him. Of course, they believed by this to attach themselves once more to the Good, but that certainly must be a deception, for the clever one himself went outside the Good. Many joined together, for they had the idea that the Good is something extraordinary, and all honor be to them and all honor be to this true idea. But they also had the idea that the Good is something so exceptionally great that many must join together in order to buy it. Yet this conception is not worthy of honor, even if it be deceptively called humility. It is an insult to the Good, which in its infinite goodness does not refuse the most insignificant, but allows him also to bid and to buy -- if he is willing to do all and so in truth to honor the Good. On the other hand, the Good rejects all stupid honor and distinction, where its greatness would be compared with an estate which the "individual" has not money enough to buy so that it is necessary to take up a collection. With the help of the masses the clever one now erected an enormous building. True enough, it was only a frame building (there were many others like it), but it looked well as long as it stood. But memory, memory that in the highest and most sober sense purifies even the coarser expressions is what in plain everyday language is called a "dunner." Now and then memory even pays a visit to the popular idol. Upon these occasions, memory murmurs softly to him, "Can you remember the deceptive turn you gave the thing, by which you won the blind masses, and by which you were able to build the tower so high?" But the popular one says, "Only keep quiet, never let anyone get to know it." "Very well," memory answers. "You know that I am no petty bickerer who is in desperation over what is owed him. Let it rest. No one shall get to know it, as long as you live, perhaps not even when you are dead and forgotten. But eternally, eternally it will continue to be remembered." Oh, what did it net the unprofitable servant, if his Master went away, if his Master traveled so far away that he should never more see him in this life, what good was this to him, if the Master that traveled away was memory with which he must be together throughout eternity! What help is it indeed to the condemned one, if the day of punishment is put off throughout his whole life; how does this help him, if indeed the judgment that was passed on him is the judgment of eternity and shall be carried out in eternity!
The clever one, therefore, accomplishes much. Let us for once think through this thought: to accomplish something in the world. One hears so much of both impatient and misleading talk about this. To be sure, it is well that all should wish to do something. It is indeed earnestness to desire it, but should it not also be earnestness to understand in oneself and in life precisely what is meant by saying that one man accomplishes such an exceptional amount, or that another man seems to accomplish nothing at all. Suppose the temporal order is not understood as it pictures itself, but rather as the recognizable fact that it is in reality. Suppose the temporal order was a homogeneous transparent medium of the Eternal. Then every eternal volition in a man, and every volition of the Eternal would straightway become perceptible in the temporal order, if the same kind of powers of comprehension be assumed in the temporal order: so that when the man who wills does get on in the temporal order, and is accounted to be something in the eyes of the many, the eternal volition in a man would be plainly evident, just as the quantity of a cry is obvious by the quantity of the sound in a room, just as when a stone is cast into the water its size is evident by the size of the circle it makes. If matters stood like this between the temporal order and the Eternal, so that they answer each other as the echo answers to the sound, then that which is accomplished would be a trustworthy rendering of the eternal volition in a man. By what a man had accomplished, one could immediately see how much will toward the Eternal there was in him. But in that case it could never have come to pass in the temporal order (in order to mention the highest and the most horrible, but also what is the key that explains all) that God’s son, as He was revealed in human form, was crucified -- repudiated by the temporal order. For He truly willed the Eternal in the eternal sense, and yet in the temporal order He became distinguished by being repudiated, and so accomplishing but little. As it had happened to God’s son, so it went with the Apostles, just as they themselves had expected, and so it has gone with so many witnesses of the Good and the true in whom this eternal will has burned fiercely.
It is obvious, then, that the temporal order cannot be the transparent medium of the Eternal. In its given reality the temporal order is in conflict with the Eternal. This makes the determination to accomplish something less plain. The more active the Eternal is toward the witness, the stronger is the cleavage. The more the striver, instead of willing the Eternal, is linked with temporal existence, the more he accomplishes in the sense of the temporal existence. So it is in many ways or in all possible ways in the temporal order. When a peculiar thinker, who just by his peculiarity is more tied up with the Eternal and less with time’s moment, addresses his speech to men, he is rarely understood or listened to. When, on the other hand, a voluble follower comes to his aid in order that the peculiar one can become -- misunderstood: then it succeeds, then there are many who instantly understand it. The thinker becomes a kind of superfluous element in life, the follower an effective man who accomplishes such an extraordinary amount in the temporal order. Only upon a rare occasion does it ever happen that the Eternal and the temporal’s accomplishments conform after a fashion to each other -- by accident. For let us not insult God and the God-Man by assuming that what happened to Him there was an accident, that His life expressed something accidental, perhaps something that had He lived at another time, among another people, would not have happened to Him. If, then, there is to be significance in the talk about accomplishing, a distinction must be made between the momentary and the eternal view of the thing. These are two opposed views which each man has to choose between in regard to his own striving and in regard to each contemporary striving. For to judge by the outcome (whereby an attempt is made to unite a judgment of temporal existence and of eternity into a judgment that comes after the event is past) is not humanly possible in the instant that a man himself acts, nor is it possible in the instant when others act.
By the help of a sense deception, a living generation often believes itself able to pass judgment on a past generation, because it misunderstood the Good. And it is even guilty of committing the same offense against a contemporary. And yet it is just in regard to his contemporary that a man should know whether he has the view of the moment, or the view of the Eternal. At some later date, it is no art to decorate the graves of the noble and to say, "If they had only lived now," now -- just as we are starting in to do the same thing against a contemporary. For the difficulty and the test of what dwells in the one who judges is precisely -- the contemporary. The view of the moment is the opinion which in an earthly and busy sense decides whether a man accomplishes anything or not. And in this sense, nothing in the world has ever been so completely lost as was Christianity at the time that Christ was crucified. And in the understanding of the moment, never in the world has anyone accomplished so little by the sacrifice of a consecrated life as did Jesus Christ. And yet in this same instant, eternally understood, He had accomplished all. For He did not foolishly judge by the result that was not yet there, or more rightly (for here is the conflict and battleground of the two interpretations of what is meant by "accomplishing") the result was indeed there. Question His contemporaries, if you ever meet them. Do they not say of the crucified one, "The fool, he would help others and he cannot help himself, but now the outcome also shows, so that everyone may see what he was."(Matthew 27:41-44.)Was it not said by His contemporaries, especially where the clever led the conversation, "The fool, he who had it in his power to become king if he cared to make use of his opportunity, if he had only half my cleverness, he would have been king. In the beginning I really believed that it was ingenuity, that he let these people express themselves in this fashion without wishing to give himself up to them. I believed it was a trick in order to inflame them still more. But now the result shows clearly enough what I more recently have myself been quite clear about, that he is a shallow, blind visionary!" Was it not said by many intelligent men and women, "The result shows that he has been hunting after phantasies; he should have married. In this way he would now have been a distinguished teacher in Israel."
And yet, eternally understood, the crucified one had in the same moment accomplished all! But the view of the moment and the view of eternity over the same matter have never stood in such atrocious opposition. It can never be repeated. This could happen only to Him. Yet eternally understood, He had in the same moment accomplished all, and on that account said, with eternity’s wisdom, "It is finished."
For it is not after the passage of eighteen hundred years that He will now again appear, and referring to the outcome, say, "It is finished." In contrast to this, He would still not say that. Perhaps it would require many centuries before He would be able to say that in regard to temporal existence. Yet what He is still unable to say after the passage of eighteen triumphant centuries, He said in His own age, eighteen centuries ago, in the very moment when all was lost. Eternally understood, He said, "It is finished." "It is finished." He said that just when the mass of the people, and the priests, and the Roman soldiers, Herod and Pilate, and the idle ones on the street, the crowd in the gateway, and the newspaper reporters (if there were any such at that time) in short, when all the powers of the moment, however different their sentiments might have been, were agreed upon this view of the matter: that all was lost, hopelessly lost. "It is finished," He said, nailed to the cross as He was, at the very time when His Mother stood there -- as if nailed to the cross, when His disciples’ eyes were as if nailed to the cross by horror at this sight. Hence Motherhood and faithfulness submitted to the moment’s view of the matter, that all was lost. Oh, then let us by this most horrible thing, which once took place (and that it happened only once is not to the world’s credit, but rather that the crucified one is eternally and essentially different from every other man) let us learn wisdom in the lesser relationships. Let us never deceive youth by foolish talk about the matter of accomplishing. Let us never make them busy in the service of the moment, instead of in patience willing something eternal. Let us not make them quick to judge what they perhaps do not understand, instead of willing something eternal and being content with little for themselves! Let us rightly consider that a generation is not on that account superior because it understands that a previous generation acted wrongly, if in the present moment they themselves do not understand how to discriminate between the momentary and the eternal aspect of the thing at hand.