By Malcolm Muggeridge.
Some eight decades ago I came into the world, full of cries and wind and hiccups; now I prepare to leave it, also full of cries and wind and hiccups. Whence I came I cannot know, least of all in the light of contemporary myths like Darwinian evolution, Freudian psychology, situational ethics, Marxist prophecy, and so on—surely the most absurd ever. Whither I go, if anywhere, I can only surmise helped thereto by the testimony of true visionaries like the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Blake, Dostoyevsky, and, of course, above all Jesus Christ.
By inspired works of art like Chartres Cathedral and the Missa Solemnis, by the dedicated lives of saints and mystics; above all, by the Incarnation and all its consequences, in history, in what we still call Western Civilisation, now toppling into its final collapse, in providing infallible signposts in the quest for God.
The hardest thing of all to explain is that death’s nearness in some mysterious way makes what is being left behind—I mean our earth itself, its shapes and smells and colours and creatures, all that one has known and loved and lived with—the more entrancing; as the end of a bright June day somehow encapsulates all the beauty of the daylight hours now drawing to a close; or as the last notes of a Beethoven symphony manage to convey the splendour of the whole piece.
Checking out of St. Theresa of Avila’s second-class hotel, as the revolving doors take one into the street outside, one casts a backward look at the old place, overcome with affection for it, almost to the point of tears.
So, like a prisoner awaiting his release, like a schoolboy when the end of term is near, like a migrant bird ready to fly south, like a patient in hospital anxiously scanning the doctor’s face to see whether a discharge may be expected, I long to be gone. Extricating myself from the flesh I have too long inhabited, hearing the key turn in the lock of Time so that the great doors of Eternity swing open, disengaging my tired mind from its interminable conundrums and my tired ego from its wearisome insistencies. Such is the prospect of death.
I am eighty-four years old, an octogenarian who has done much that he ought not to have done and left undone much that he ought to have done, and lived fourteen years longer than the three score years and ten which, the Bible tells, will be but labour and sorrow, they pass away so soon. For me, intimations of immortality, deafness, failing eyesight, loss of memory, the afflictions of old age, release me from preoccupation with worldly fantasy and free me to meditate on spiritual reality, to recall Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s remark that Christendom is over but not Christ.
And so I live, just for each day, knowing my life will soon be over, and that I, like Michelangelo at the end of his life “. . . have loved my friends and family. I have loved God and all His creation. I have loved life and now I love death as its natural termination. . .”1, knowing that although Christendom may be over—Christ lives!
—- from Seeing Through the Eye. Malcolm Muggeridge on Faith. Ignatius Press.
Malcolm Muggeridge (24 March 1903 – 14 November 1990) was one of Great Britain’s most well-known journalists and television personalities, having interviewed practically every major public figure of his time. He shocked the world with his conversion to Christianity later in life. “St. Mugg”, as he was affectionately known, was clear in his new-found faith: “It is the truth that has died, not God,” and “Jesus was God or he was nothing.” These wonderful selections of Muggeridge’s writings and speeches cover a wide variety of spiritual themes, revealing his profound faith, great wit, and lively writing style. Topics include “Jesus: The Man Who Lives”, “Is There a God?”, “The Prospect of Death”, “Do We Need Religion?”, “Peace and Power”, and many more.