Never would’ve guessed I’d ever write something with that title. But last night, two seemingly ‘inconvergable’ ideas converged.
Last night, I finished praying the Divine Mercy Novena, the last reflection and prayer of which are striking:
“My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’”
And the prayer for that day reads: “Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame.”
This prayer happened to have the oddest significance for me. I had just returned home from viewing Shaun of the Dead (I had been meaning to see this film since I watched Hot Fuzz, a nearly perfect film by the same writer/director).
I am not much for zombie movies (in fact, this may well have been my first), but I will say I enjoyed myself, despite the gore and hideous walking corpses, images to which, until the completion of my novena, I would have had a difficult time ascribing any sort of spiritual value.
But lo and behold, the disturbing image of the Zombie may actually be a profound, even spiritually edifying image (via negativa, of course).
I believe it is in his book A Landscape with Dragons where Michael O’Brien recounts the story of his young daughter asking him: Why would God create the dinosaurs, only to have them go extinct before men showed up on the scene? O’Brien, stumped, didn’t have to wait long until the mind of a child provided a brilliant answer, something to the effect of the following: perhaps by giving us a picture of outer ferocity and danger, God wanted to give us a sense of the very real, but unseen, spiritual danger around us.
In a similar way, I have come to see my experience of Shaun of the Dead as contributing greatly to my own spiritual imagination, especially when placed in the context of the Divine Mercy Novena.
The Undead Zombie is a repulsive image, evil worn on the sleeve, if you will. It is frightening, abhorrent, vile, nightmarish. It is an evil that approaches with a sense of slow apathy and numb, disinterested malice. It circles you, reaches for you, envelopes you, devours you, and then you are lost, sucked into the abyss of horror.
“Like corpses” is how St. Faustina’s prayer describes tepid, lukewarm souls. How many of us, while realizing that lukewarm faith is regarded poorly, feel the same revulsion toward it that we might toward the Zombie chasing us down in the street? And yet, “like corpses” — or perhaps, like the walking Undead — are those souls who are neither hot nor cold.
Its a striking thought: the lukewarm soul is like the grotesque zombie, slightly similar to man, but dead and rotting. God save us from becoming spiritual zombies. Go help us learn to flee such horror.