Sunday, 16 August 2015


"FOLLY." Such was the label attached to some of the structures wealthy Victorians had built in the gardens! Others, perhaps you and I, might be inclined to describe them as FOOLISHNESS? Why? Because of the craziness in their design. Many of us would be hard put to name any useful purpose they might serve. Judge for yourselves the illustration before you.

With others the magnificence of the planned building far exceeded the fatness of the owner’s wallet. His extravagant ambitions remained unfulfilled. His building ever remained unfinished, a permanent monument to his useless folly… a constant reminder of his foolishness. He must have gloried in his eccentricity…it never occurred to him to have it reduced to rubble…simply to salvage his own self-respect.

But such extravagancies were the comparatively harmless foibles of people who had more money than sense. But not so, the Tower of Babel of the Book of Genesis...a description of the ‘BEGINNING OF THINGS’ …THE BEGINNING OF ARCHITECTURAL MADNESS. That was the supreme archetypal, architectural folly, and it wasn’t harmless!

So what was this Tower of Babel all about? The pagan belief that their gods dwelt on high places –on the top of mountains or in the clouds –symbols of their lofty status. Why did they build their tower? So that they could stand tall – at the same level as their gods …or even higher! So what did the people do? On the flat plains of Mesopotamia they got together to build a high tower, reaching up to the realm of the gods. This is thought to have been a ziggurat –a stepped pyramid –a man-made flight of steps to heaven. That was the way to put themselves on level terms with the gods!

But in His wisdom the good Lord decided these arrogant foolish people had got above themselves. They needed cutting down to size. So He knocked down their tower, and with it their futile attempt to make themselves equal to God Himself. This was the very same sin as Adam and Eve committed…vain-glory, pride, foolish ambition to compete with God…sheer folly!

And what about today? What Folly does our modern age build? Are we like the ancients, who built the Tower of Babel? I suggest today’s folly does not lie in trying to reach God by our own efforts; nor does it consist in trying equal God. No! Our folly is much more radical. We have deified ourselves. Our power of reason reigns supreme! Just think of the wonderful technology it has produced. We have dignified ourselves into being the obvious, ultimate, arbiters of what is right or wrong –answerable to no one but ourselves.

But no way can this over-reaching ourselves draw us one inch closer to God. If I really want to reach the heights I must forget the folly of building a high tower or an inter-galactic rocket.

We would do better to study what Jacob has to teach us. Instead of building a tower to reach the heavens by his own effort he rested his weary head on a stone and went to sleep. As he did so he dreamt of God lowering a ladder between heaven and earth.

God, not Jacob, would –could alone -bridge the gulf between heaven and earth. Down that ladder the Son of God, Jesus, would descend to man and live among us. Up the ladder of the cross He would draw us up to share His own divine life and happiness.

What a relief -reaching God doesn’t depend on my feeble, futile efforts. No! I must rely on the infinite power of His love to draw me to Himself. He is my hope; He is my security. All He asks of me is that I should grasp His hand and allow Him to draw me up into His loving embrace.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,"
(Ephesians 2. 8).

Isidore O.P.

1 comment:

  1. This sculpture in a garden looks also pagan, indeed! It `s a bit scary...