By Maria Wiering
There is something about Armageddon that fascinates even the least religious among us, as the silver screen has long attested. The hype is reaching a crescendo this year with the countdown to the end of the Mayan calendar – Dec. 21 – which supposedly marks the end of time.
The History Channel, keeping with its reluctance to run actual programming about the past, capitalized on the hype in 2009 and 2010 with the series “Life After People,” which explored how the civilized world would fare in “the moments after people disappear” and each day, week, month and year after.
(Spoiler: It goes to pot.)
The National Geographic channel has taken its own spin this year with “Doomsday Preppers,” highlighting the survivalist subculture that is seriously ready for economic, natural or otherwise apocalyptic catastrophes and have the military-issue gear to prove it. The second season launched Nov. 13.
According to a quiz on the show’s website, I would survive only one to two weeks in the event of, well, whatever it is these “preppers” are prepping for.
I had to resist some temptation to cheat. I’ll admit, a wood-burning fireplace is not a wood stove, although my husband is pretty innovative and I think we could eat like kings from an open fire. (Single ladies; look for a former Boy Scout!)
However, I was docked major points for not having a nearby “bug-out” shelter – you know, the kind of place you go and lay low while the world burns, apparently a “must-have” on every survivalist couple’s wedding registry.
While those who are so inclined hoard water and ammo should they live to see the aftermath of a late December doomsday, Catholics are also called to turn their thoughts to things eschatological – namely, the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.
It’s not pre-Columbian mythology that compels us, but rather Advent. In the midst of all the candle-lighting, violet liturgical vestments and O Antiphons, the Sunday Gospels read like an end-of-days manifesto, with Jesus talking of signs in the sky, the earth in “dismay” and people dying of fright, indications that “redemption is at hand.”
It also reads as a wake-up call.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap,” Jesus told his disciples, as recounted in the Gospel according to Luke.
“For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
This rallies all of us to be “doomsday preppers,” but not by stockpiling MREs and hazmat suits. Better resources might be prayer and fasting.
Ultimately, it is also a reminder that the end times will eventually come for each of us, via the Second Coming or the inevitability of death, and while we are waiting now for Christ in the manger, we are also waiting for him to return in glory.
Advent, appropriately, begins the church’s liturgical year. Like a spiritual New Year’s Day, it is a time to renew resolutions to strive for holiness, store treasure in heaven and aim for sainthood, so that, if we were told it indeed was our last day on earth, we wouldn’t need to change a thing about how we go about our daily lives.
Copyright (c) Dec. 11, 2012 CatholicReview.org