On the 30th and 31st days of the month at Evensong, the 1662 Psalter sets before us the last four Psalms, including Psalm 148. In this last reference to dragons in the Psalms, the tone seems to change:
Praise the Lord upon earth:
ye dragons and all deeps.
The dragons crushed underfoot in the Paschal Mystery are now called upon to join in the cosmic eucharist.
How is this possible? As Augustine inquires, "What? Think we that the dragons form choirs, and praise God?" His answer is that, no, the dragons do not form a choir:
Far from it. But do ye, when you consider the dragons, regard the Maker of the dragon, the Creator of the dragon: then, when you admire the dragons, and say,
Great is the Lord who made these,then the dragons praise God by your voices.
This may seem like Augustine blunting the vision of cosmic redemption, recoiling from the offence of apokatastasis. Recall, however, that for Augustine these dragons are "pride diabolical". And yet we praise God for them.
We praise God for these mythic representations of destructive sin and evil?
To do so powerfully reminds us that the dragons are creatures, not dark gods. They are the created order, disordered, perverted, disfigured and disoriented - but they are creatures.
As Thomas reminds us,
Augustine says (Contra Julian. i, 9): "There is no possible source of evil except good" ... It must be said that every evil in some way has a cause. For evil is the absence of the good ...
But evil has no formal cause, rather is it a privation of form; likewise, neither has it a final cause, but rather is it a privation of order to the proper end; since not only the end has the nature of good, but also the useful, which is ordered to the end. Evil, however, has a cause by way of an agent, not directly, but accidentally ...
Hence it is true that evil in no way has any but an accidental cause; and thus is good the cause of evil (Summa I.49.i)
"For evil is the absence of good." From that absence, dragons emerge - wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. These are our loves and desires disordered and disfigured by the absence of the good.
Now, as the monthly praying of the Psalter closes at Evensong on the 30th and/or 31st day of the month, we call on the dragons to praise the Triune God who is their Creator and Redeemer. For they are not dark gods, but the absence of the good. Now we urge them - our disordered and disfigured loves and desires - to heed the call of the Good, the call to turn towards the Holy Trinity and there to know fulfilment in the communion of Love, Beauty and Truth, there to encounter the painful beauty of transfiguration.
Here, in Balthasar's words, is "the obligation to hope for all" ... even dragons.
(From a blog of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, the illustration is from a 14th century Gradual - a dragon shaped as the initial 'G' from words from the Midnight Mass of Christmas: "Grates nunc omnes reddamus domino deo…")