A coda to my discussion of vertices and horizons [scroll down] comes courtesy of Father Schall. Something in the air at Georgetown, I suppose:
The polity itself is not a subject, not a substance, not a person, but a relation of order among beings each of whom personally transcends the city's own order. The polity does not and cannot "see God" face to face or in any other way. What "sees," or at least can see, are the individual citizens who bear the reality of the polities of this world. In this sense, the polity is ordered to what is beyond itself without itself thereby becoming unnecessary to the human purposes of the mortals who compose it. The polity cannot survive without at least some who are devoted to things higher than the polity. The place of the mystic in the public order is but an aspect of the place of the philosopher. The politician can rid the polity of such a threat if the contemplative life is perceived as undermining the actual existing polity. This is what the state-sanctioned deaths of Socrates and Christ were about. This dire consequence means that the politician stands at the crossroads between mysticism and human things. The politician can be absorbed in himself, in false gods, in making the polity itself to be God. In each of these cases, he betrays both his own vocation and the city he is to serve.
But even in the virtuous politician, politics points beyond itself. We can hope to render the politician benevolent to the mystic or philosopher without making him (the politician) to be himself a mystic or a philosopher. But with the advent of the teaching that the purpose of authority is to serve and not to be served and that the love of neighbor is a direct consequence of the love of God, we can and do find politicians who reveal a kind of mystical service to those they serve and support. Mysticism is not merely the participation in the outreaches of the Godhead as it can be known by men, but also in that relation the Godhead has to each of the members of the polity whose dignity indicates the kind of service sometimes required, a service that is both designed to care for the needy and provide order for those who are to take care of themselves. The purpose of government is not itself to care for everyone but to provide an order in which everyone can care for himself.