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WAY OF SACRIFICE
THOUGH too much has
already been written about the royal business which has for
so long, and for the most part,
so unworthily filled the Press, we believe that there is an aspect
of the denouement which should be underlined because it carries with it a message of vast importance to modern man. We have little doubt that when the renunciation was declared the vast majority of people, even among those who had seen it all in terms of the love novelette, experienced the sense of being faced with something fine. For the moment, at any rate, their moral sense was elevated and they felt the better for it. Why was this? We believe that what moved people in this way was simply the example of sacrifice as contrasted with the acceptance of the easier way on the part of a highly placed person for whom love and admiration were universally felt. Nor was this particular sacrifice something almost instinctive and conditioned, as many sacrifices are, nor a giving-up of one good for another that could be calculated to be more advantageous. It was, if we may so put it, a cold-blooded, deliberate sacrifice accepted in the light of conscience and reason. It was a deliberate renunciation of the easier way for the harder way. Because of this the value of that high example, affecting suddenly the whole world, must have been remarkable, and it must have done immense good.
ITS special importance, we believe, lies in its contrast with a basic evil of our times the evil of the refusal of the harder way, of the sacrifice, of the disregard of self, except when these are natural or social instincts.
The easy way, the way of pleasure, the way of emotional self-fulfilment, the way of consciously pursuing the things that will bring comfort, power, reputation—these have become for almost all of us the norm of our living. Yet when we are given art example of the opposite, even of a sacrifice that may seem to some undertaken for the wrong motives, our hearts leap up and we feel the better for it. One of the reasons why men recoil from religion to-day, and particularly from the Catholic religion which demands specific and hard sacrifices, is precisely their habitual recoil from the harder way. They may rationalise this fear of sacrifice in terms of disbelief in the reasons for demanding such sacrifice, but that is not the whole story. On the whole, the way of the world to-day in mid-twentieth century is one of refusal of the harder way and one of illusory selfjustification for this refusal. Yet modern man cannot withhold his admiration for the great examples of sacrifice. Yet, strangely enough, to-day it is not religion alone which demands sacrifices and places sacrifice at the heart of good and fruitful living. The same is the teaching of many of the best pyschologists. We need not accept their theories as having factual value, yet we cannot but
be impressed by the point they make.
OR example, one such psy
chological explanation is simply that man has an unconscious desire to be re-absorbed in the natural source of his being. He unconsciously longs to revert to the un-trouble of the past, of the womb, just as he often more consciously finds it difficult to tear himself away from the security of the family. In other words, the comforts and selfsatisfactions instinctively sought by unregenerate man are really a constant desire for a tranquillity, a satiety, a peace; whose fulfilment is really self-annihilation or death. Hence as with a person fighting oppressive sleep, real life is truly a constant call to fight and overcome this longing and thus to achieve fruitful living by doing the thing he does not want to do, by overcoming himself, by preferring the hard way, the difficult thing—in a word, by self-sacrifice.
Such a psychological analysis suggests' the terrible idea that our civilisation by refusing the hard way is literally choosing death—and indeed the similarity between decadence and death is
obvious. * *
AS we know, in Christianity sacrifice is at the heart of achievement. The supreme Sacrifice was the conscious choice of embracing death so that death should not be the victor, but be itself vanquished by the Resurrection. The fullest sacrifice was embraced that the fullest achieverrtent of life itself might be accomplished. The Divine example has not only sealed the infinite value of sacrifice, but given to the world the pattern of spiritual achievement. And this spiritual achievement demands the spirit of sacrifice, of the hard way, of the overcoming of decadence and death by rising up with effort and purpose against them in every facet of human life. The conclusion is inescapable. A world trained always to choose the easier, the selfish, the party, the class, the nationalist way is a world doomed to the decadence and death for which its unconscious strives. Only if we can be moved by the high example of sacrifice to realise that in sacrifice alone is fruitful achievement can we, as a civilisation, five again.