Theme in The Man Who Was Thursday: Work versus Rest

October 15, 2003

Originally written as a reaction paper for an undergraduate elective on English Catholic literature, this piece is a rewrite of, or perhaps addition to, Sunday’s conversation with the six philosophers in the final chapter of G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday.

For the second time, that all-important question was asked of Sunday: “Who and what are you?” The Secretary voiced it, but everyone waited for the full explanation.

Sunday, seated in the middle of the six philosophers, answered. “Before I called you from behind the darkness, you were nothing. You, Thursday, could not save yourself, yet you struggled to save the world. You, Friday, had talent but not direction. You, Saturday, were as naive as you were honorable. But I called you forth. All of you yearned to join the fight, but I gave you the purpose, the strategy, the power.”

Syme was willing to accept this, but he stood in protest at something else. “Why that ridiculous chase? Why those crazy messages?” Syme’s was the frustration of a man whose mission had been interrupted by some triviality.

“Because you cannot be proud,” Sunday replied simply. “I called each of you to greatness. The moment along the Thames when my angel spoke to you, Thursday, was the turning point of your life. You always knew your lofty vocation, but my angel confirmed it and I prepared you for it. Remember what I said to you from behind the darkness when you declared your unfitness: that you were willing was enough. My call makes you worthy, not your reply.

“The work which I give you is really My work. You were not sent to defend the Russian Tsar and the French President, nor government and the cause of civilization. You were sent to defend Me. My enemy is not flesh and blood, but the prince of the power of the air. You have sought to defend Me, but, really, I must defend you. I am the sword of crusaders, the courage of martyrs, the wisdom of doctors, the staff of pastors, the Word of preachers, the faith of confessors, the heart of saints. You have entered the fight, but I have provided the victory.”

The Secretary stood next, clearly confused. “So there was no anarchist council? No plot against civilized Europe?” Even as he pronounced his questions, he knew the answers. Now he shared Syme’s frustration. “Then why this charade?”

“This is the mystery of your placement on both the philosophical police force and the supreme anarchist council: that you understand the futility of your work. After my call, you did very much for Me. You, Monday, chased the forces of evil across the French countryside. You, Wednesday, paid the debt of honor even in the face of doom. But you also work against Me, and this impedes the work you do for Me. In the hour without hope, I could have given you the martyr’s crown. But I gave you worse: you shared My agony in the garden. You knew to which battle you were summoned, but you were caught between hope and fear.

“I have already won the battle. The hour of My death was the darkest hour in the history of Creation. In heaven, the angels wailed; in limbo, the fathers cried; in hell, the devils capitulated. My Resurrection was My victory.

“Since Pentecost, I continue to raise the greatest army in human history, because I Myself am its leader. It is the communion of saints, the Church, My own Body. I will summon it to the Battle of Life and Death, but then I will surrender it to the power of hell. There will be no battle. You followed Me to Calvary. You laid down your life so that I might raise it again. I am not Sunday, but the eighth day. Enter into My rest.”