The Meaning of Darkness and the Example of Goodness in the Life of Saint Thomas More
Live and walk in the light of Sir Thomas and he will never fail you.
Both my polemic essay on the Death Sentence of 16th December 2014 and my Confess/Recant essay of 10th December 2014, written within seven days of each other, allude to this darkness.
The Prince of Darkness himself is named twice in the course of these two essays. Why? In the case of the More/Confess/Recant essay he is mentioned to define the possible capitulation of Sir Thomas More, had Thomas put the King before God and the Pope. (The Holy Father is God’s own Representative on Earth.) In the death sentence polemic essay I write of the lifeless lifer regime being surrounded by the darkness in our prisons as epitomised by the Prince of Darkness. I have also written of “the opponents of the light” in paragraph 6) of my Catholic Church essay (23rd June 2013). The “enemies of Christ” are the enemies of the light and their prince is this Prince of Darkness, without doubt.
If we do not go with Saint Thomas More we are in the dark. He is the witness to the light like St John the Baptist. What would Sir Thomas More say now about the current lifer regime for our sentenced murderers in our centres of long term detention?
If my argument is correct in my 16th December 2014 polemic essay on the death sentence, Sir Thomas More would recognise the terrible endless and pointless darkness of the lifer regime we presently impose. He was in the dark of the dungeons of the Tower awaiting his own execution. If we believe in More’s example we should accept he chose the light of Heaven rather than the darkness of apostasy in his acceptance of his beheading on Tower Green. He wished to save his soul not his body.
He believed in Christ not the darkness as behoved a man of his character and religion. His light was to serve God before man. To put man before God was to plunge in to the abyss of blackness for Saint Thomas More. The first commandment is to love God with all your heart and soul, and it rightly comes before the second commandment to love your neighbour in the Jewish Testament adopted by Jesus Christ in his teaching, and his Roman Catholic Church on Earth ever since. We are being asked to love our neighbour – may we say with a clear conscience we love these lifers in the terms we impose upon them. There can be no retrospective laws but the answer is simple we should turn the tables for Christ and provide these newly condemned men and women with a way out of this oppression and brutality: my policy is well known.
More abhorred the darkness and yearned for the light. He was convicted of the capital offence of refusing to take the oath of Supremacy elevating the King above the Papacy in the eyes of man. Despite his prior high station in life as the Lord High Chancellor of England by the appointment of Henry VIII, he was prepared to enter the underground prison cell where there was no light in the Tower of London. To him what mattered most was his duty to God, not his own private comfort, temporal power and office and personal freedom to walk away. More is an example of a layman of God caught in the vice in the sense of the carpenter’s tool as set by King Henry VIII. This vice gripping Sir Thomas More (not immoral) was unusual as Henry was still himself a believer in God when he signed More’s death warrant. Henry was determined and sincere in his own way or he could not have sent Sir Thomas More to Tower Green where his great friend and companion was put to death on his orders.
The King could not bring himself to spare his long standing and trusted privy counsellor, so pivotal to Roman Catholicism in England had More’s stand become, and thus against Henry as Head of the Church of England. More did all he could to avoid conflict with his earthly ruler. Yet his Catholicism lead him to raise the standard in his own soul for Christ and Henry saw this very clearly to his deep discomfort and inhibition. The result was such discontent in Henry which caused him to overstate his case and demand the oath of Supremacy from the ultimate Man for all Seasons in Henry’s life: More himself. The king was too demanding and More knew he was being driven to the Tower. He was not prepared to take the easy way out and please his King.
Did More have any real choice? Of course he did. He could have pursued a Godly life and still have sworn to the Act of Supremacy as many did. What drove him on to Tower Green and the severing of his head by the executioner’s blow? We have to penetrate the mind and soul of one of the most gifted Judges, thinkers, and committed Christians to walk our land of England. His talent for rhetoric, writing, argument, speech and definition are legendary.
Above all else his ultimate quality in relations between men, namely tact, was quite outstanding. If you cannot make friends and influence people you are nowhere. More not only never failed on that count, he exemplified those words to their utmost. More was driven by God the Father of us all, His Son and the Holy Spirit – in a nutshell the Holy Trinity indivisible yet three Persons. He attained that height and what is more made his camp on this summit of his life. Henry knew More would never relinquish his camp on Earth and that his former Chancellor was destined for Heaven Herself’s high praise and honour, as one of the great Saints of all time. Henry would have wept tears of the greatest bitterness at the passing of his beloved Thomas to that unseen Holy World and to the shining light within.
As I have written More and Henry could have altered the direction of Christendom between them massively for the better. The darkness in the dungeon did not frighten Sir Thomas More. Henry could not take it and his barbarous treatment of his friend, Thomas, showed his intellectual bankruptcy. The test for us now is do we believe in More’s example or do we weaken into Henry’s misery? We have had so much promise in our lives. Yet do we pursue the light in all its forms or do we break that promise and sink into the swamp of darkness. More’s route is extremely testing but we all agree on his rectitude.
Where we differ is in the moral message from his life story. I say it lies in:
“Keep in the light and walk in the light”
in the here and now. That means shun all the darkness and dark thoughts in our lives. Do not be afraid of the prince of darkness – he has no hold over you – he is full of emptiness and idle promises. He takes the Name of God in vain. Have More’s sacrifice in your heart and soul and whatever the challenge you will overcome it. Be audacious and bold and the answer will be clear as I have argued in my short essays distributed since 1st June 2013. More has taught me and I will not go back on his word nor mine. As I have written so long as I live I will never forsake my case, and when I die I will take it to the Highest Palais de Justice in Heaven – God willing and Him permitting.