One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
– Job 1:6
It’s an intriguing book. Chesterton’s mastery of language presents itself throughout the book; but his characters’ lack of depth and the plot’s ludicrousness made it a trying read. Lucky it was thin enough to endure. Because the end of the book was quite brilliant. It is the kind of book that does not really live up to its hype until you finish reading it, because the ending throws a new light on the entire story. And this is Chesterton’s forte: rediscovering the normal, re-enchanting the ordinary, romanticizing the orthodox. His is the province of joy.
There are two ideas in particular that I found really interesting.
(1) ‘No agonies can be too great to buy the right to say to this accuser, “We also have suffered.”’
Does Chesterton purport to answer the perennial mystery – ‘why do we suffer’? What an interesting justification he has.
We suffer – or rather, we are allowed to suffer – so that we can earn the right to rebuke Satan’s great lie: that we are merely being safe, unexciting, and cowardly when we choose to obey the law. That’s why Chesterton writes: “There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”
I’m not sure if I agree with this, or if it’s theologically correct. But it’s a brilliant psychological solution.
(2) For these disguises did not disguise, but reveal.
The commonest idea of authenticity is the removal of masks. We go through life wearing masks of false identities. So to understand who we really are, we have to remove them to reveal our true face behind the masks.
In the book’s ending though, Chesterton’s six characters don on garments that accentuate their identity, rather than conceal it. Which begs the question – is it possible for the Truth of a thing to be better expressed by veiling that Thing, rather than by exposing it?
Christopher West’s declaration comes to mind here: “The Church does not veil what is shameful; She veils what is holy.”
P.S. The scripture verse is the last scene of the book.