Tag Archive - Truth

More Gold Than Gold…

I know that it was myth that converted C.S. Lewis. I know that he was reluctant. Resistant in the extreme. He speaks to it in Surprised by Joy. But not like this.

I know that George MacDonald was a hero to him. So much so that he cast him as a dispenser of wisdom in The Great Divorce. In fact he said of him,

I have never concealed the fact that I regarded George MacDonald as my master; indeed, I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.

I was not surprised that he had written the introduction to Phantastes. I was surprised that I was so distracted by it. That I couldn’t stop reading it. Over and over.

He treats of myth and its power of enchantment. Its ability to seep into the deepest, most essential parts of us. Truth, marvelously cloaked in phantasy.

For your edification, for your education, for your provocation,  I offer an appetizer…an enticement…a seduction.

Of myth in general…

It produces works which give us (at the first meeting) as much delight and (on prolonged acquaintance) as much wisdom and strength as the works of the greatest poets. It is in some ways more akin to music than to poetry or at least to most poetry. It goes beyond the expression of things we have already felt. It arouses in us sensations we have never had before, never anticipated having, as though we had broken out of our normal mode of consciousness and possessed joys not promised to our birth….

Of his first encounter with Phantastes

It must be 30 years ago that I bought, almost unwillingly…the Everyman edition of Phantastes. A few hours later I knew that I had crossed a great frontier….aware that if this new world was strange, it was also homely and humble; that if this was a dream, it was a dream in which one at least felt strangely vigilant; that the whole book had about it a sort of cool morning innocence, and also, quite unmistakably, a certain quality of Death, good Death. What it actually did to me was to convert, even to baptise (that was where the Death came in) my imagination. It did nothing to my intellect nor (at that time) to my conscience. Their turn came far later….

The quality that had enchanted me in his imaginative works turned out to be the quality of the real universe, the divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic reality in which we all live….I see there was no deception. The deception is all the other way round–in that prosaic moralism which confines goodness to the region of Law and Duty, which never lets us feel in our face the sweet air blowing from ‘the land of righteousness’, never reveals that elusive Form which if once seen must inevitably be desired with all but sensuous desire–the thing (in Sappho’s phrase) ‘more gold than gold.’

*P.S. I have read already two of MacDonald’s works. Lilith is one of the most pivotal books of my life. I have read it multiple times. Her story is my story in more ways than I can explain. She helped me to go places I couldn’t get to by myself. The Wise Woman is troubling and provocative and redemptive. And I can tell you that, 4 chapters in, Phantastes is truly captivating.

**All bolds in the post mine.

Before They Leave…

My baby is going to school next year. My fourteen year old. We have come to the end of home-schooling. Which means, I am mostly done choosing the books he reads.

I’m panicking a little.

Because he shared much of his childhood with teenaged siblings, he and I had fewer long lazy days on the porch pouring through wonderful literature. I realize there are still a few books that we have not read that he simply must know…for the wisdom within, for the whimsy, the magic…for the common language it gives us as a family. So I am playing catch up. He has been a good sport as I drag books along on road trips. As we snatch lazy summer afternoons for a little explore. It has been sweet to see him fall in love with the same characters his brother and sister loved so well. And it has been sweet to hear the excitement in the brother’s voice when he gets to hear the story again.

Certainly we have read books over the years that were specific to a given child and his/her interests. But there are a few books I would have all of them experience before they leave home. I thought I would share some of those with you. I implore you to share yours with me. For the grandbabies, you know. 🙂

In no particular order:

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter Each child had favorites, but we read them all. Over and over. For simple eloquence, for the delicious watercolors, for sprinkling every wild rabbit, squirrel, and duck with tiny grains of magic, this one is a must.

The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh “Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best — ” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

And there you have it. A cuddly contemplative with the most delightful turns of phrase, friendly adventures, and loyal pals.

The Chronicles of Narnia Magic, Honor, Courage, Grace, Loyalty, Love…all wrapped up in the most marvelous stories. If there had been fifty, we would have joyfully read them all.

The Phantom Tollbooth We just re-read this one on the way to the beach, all of us laughing out loud. Terribly clever, hysterical at times, yet subtly profound.

A Wrinkle in Time I should admit that I have an inordinate fascination with Madeleine L’Engle, her fiction and non-fiction, but truthfully this is one of my son’s favorite books ever. If your brain has gotten dusty; if you live within rigid confines of thinking; this book will blow the dust off and expand your view. And take you on the adventure of a lifetime.

My Side of the Mountain I read this story of a little boy who lives in the Adirondack Mountains for a year, by himself, providing his own shelter, food, and clothing by his cunning and hard work, and I watch my children’s eyes. I know they want to run away and do the same thing. I might want it a bit myself. I commend to you the entire trilogy.

Julie of the Wolves Another book (and series) by the same author, Jean Craighead George. Survival, again. Choices. And an intimate acquaintance with the natural world and with a way of life that is too quickly vanishing from our earth. Fascinating.

Rascal Small town America. A little boy collects a whole menagerie of animals, including one clever, mischievous and much beloved raccoon. A story about love…and about letting go.

Homer Price An automatic doughnut making machine run amok. Pet skunks who foil bank robberies.  A gigantic ball of string that leads to a marriage. Just a sampling of the good clean fun in this charmingly quirky book. (by Robert McCloskey, author of two more of our favorites, Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings)

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths Brilliantly illustrated by Caldecott winners, Edgar and Ingri D’Aulaire, this gorgeous book provides a remarkably thorough introduction to the great legends of Ancient Greece.

The Wheel on the School A Dutch fishing village. School children who dare to dream audacious dreams. Learning that sometimes the way to find something is to look everywhere it could not possibly be. A crusade that galvanizes a community. And storks.

The House of Sixty Fathers Set in China during World War II, this is a world of Sampans, rice paddies, houseboats, hunger, fear, and kindness without bounds. (Meindert Dejong, author of this and  The Wheel on the School, is one of those authors we love so, we have checked out everything he wrote from the library. They are all wonderful.)

Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus Rosemary Sutcliff’s enchanting re-tellings of The Iliad and The Odyssey. I bought the gorgeous hardcovers with Alan Lee’s stunning illustrations for each of my children so that they can share them with their own children some day.

Where the Sidewalk Ends
If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer,
A wisher, a liar,
A hoper, a prayer,
A magic bean buyer.
If You’re a pretender,
Come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in! Come in!

No child should grow up without the whimsical wordplay of Shel Silverstein.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiller Art, a mystery, Michelangelo, and two brave kids running away from home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What could be better?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Fanciful and fun, to be sure. But also deep and difficult. A book to wrestle with. Together.

This is, of course, only a smattering of the books we have read over the years. If you would like to see a few more favorites, click the Bookshelf tab above. Not all the books in any category show up at any one time, but if you click the category title, it will take you to my LibraryThing page where you can see the rest if you like.

The Teflon Woman

It’s not her real name, you understand. Just a little pet name I’ve given her. Though The Great Divorce is filled with memorable characters, she is my favorite. Perhaps because she is so unlike me. Perhaps because I so long to be her.

I have spent most of my adult life asking people to tell me I’m ok. I have gone to great lengths to make this happen. I have volunteered, worked hard, given and given, trying to prove myself. I have also compromised my integrity, made disastrous decisions, and become someone I loathe. I gather up my self-worth in a little bundle and hand it to others and allow them to do with it as they will.

This is a crippling, desperate way to live.

This week I have seen family members and friends living out the agonizing results of doing this in their own lives. My heart breaks for them. My dream for them and for me is to be free of this bondage. Hence, I find myself thinking again about Sarah Smith.

Sarah is in love. IN love. Love of the Father has so saturated her that she knows exactly who she is. She does not need the accolades of others. Nor, does she fear their criticism. Both slip off her, unable to penetrate. (Teflon!) She is free to be, and to love out of abundance, not need. She characterizes it to her husband in this way,

“What we called love…was mostly the craving to be loved. In the main, I loved you for my own sake; because I needed you.”

Her husband is horrified by the thought that she does not need him. She goes on to explain,

“What needs could I have now that I have all? I am full now, not empty. I am in Love Himself, not lonely. Strong, not weak. You shall be the same. Come and see. We shall have no need for each other now; we can begin to love truly.”

Tragically, her husband will reject the love his wife offers him. He needs to be necessary. She will mourn for him, but can no longer be manipulated by him. She is free.

I close with one last passage about this remarkable woman. In my book it is marked up with notes all around it. I have spent a lot of time here. My prayer for you, for me, for those we love, is that we will come to be this. That we will walk in freedom.

“The Happy Trinity is her home: nothing can trouble her joy.
She is the bird that evades every net: the wild deer that leaps every pitfall.
Like the mother bird to its chickens or a shield to the armed knight: so is the Lord to her mind, in His unchanging lucidity.
Bogies will not scare her in the dark: bullets will not frighten her in the day.
Falsehoods tricked out as truths assail her in vain: she sees through the lie as if it were glass.
The invisible germ will not harm her: nor yet the glittering sunstroke.
A thousand fail to solve the problem, ten thousand choose the wrong turning: but she passes safely through.
He details immortal gods to attend her: upon every road where she must travel.
They take her hand at hard places: she will not stub her toes in the dark.
She may walk among lions and rattlesnakes: among dinosaurs and nurseries of lionettes.
He fills her brim full with immensity of life: he leads her to see the world’s desire.”

May it be so.

Pray in Me

When I wanted my children to listen to me…really listen to me…I would cup their little faces in my hands and gently turn them toward mine. When our eyes locked, I would begin. Sometimes morning prayers feel like that. Like God has taken my face in His hands and turned it towards His. So that I may see Him. Really see Him. So that I may hear. So that He can tell me who I am. The gaze lingers long after the sound of the words has faded…

Pray in me.

And yet, echoes of the words reverberate in my mind throughout the day. I find myself in a situation that is over my head. Floundering. Lost. And the words bubble up in me. Like breathing.

Pray in me.

And when I would like to fix the impossible. When I feel utterly helpless. When I do not know what to pray, I borrow the words from the morning. I appeal to One who speaks on my behalf with “groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

Pray in me.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to thee, our God, glory to thee.

O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who art in all places and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. (Thrice)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for thy Name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy. (Thrice)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

~The Trisagion Prayers of the Orthodox Church


Lord, give me the strength to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely on Your Holy will. Reveal Your will to me every hour of the day. Bless my dealings with all people. Teach me to treat all people who come to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unexpected events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me the physical strength to bear the labors of this day. Direct my will. Teach me to pray. Pray in me.

~Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow

*Photograph by Joel Smith

Salutation

Salutation

O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.

~Ezra Pound

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me

Home is not just a place; it’s a knowing in the soul, a vague premonition of a far-off country that we know exists but haven’t seen yet. Home is where we start and, whether we like it or not, our life is a race against time to come to terms with what it was or wasn’t.

Here begins one of the most riveting stories I have read in a long time. In fact, I read it twice. Ian Morgan Cron is a marvelous storyteller. He could weave the most mundane happening into an engaging narrative. But as it turns out, his life has been anything but mundane.

It seems too fantastic to be real. Movie stars, heads of state, life among the social elite and privileged, mysterious silences and questions that were not permitted, and the terrifying uncertainty of life with an alcoholic father. Cron whisked me into this world so unlike my own, and I found myself identifying with his longings, his hurts and needs, and his fugitive moments of transcendence.

Wounds formed early in our tender hearts by fathers who are absent to us send out tendrils that wrap themselves around everything that follows in life. Nothing is untainted. Unspoiled. Most of us can relate at some level. Questions about our worth. Am I loved? Do I deserve to be loved?

A boy needs a father to show him how to be in the world. He needs to be given swagger, taught how to read a map so that he can recognize the roads that lead to life and the paths that lead to death, how to know what love requires, and where to find steel in the heart when life makes demands on us that are greater than we think we can endure.

Ian’s life is laced with luminous moments. Eucharist. A sacred encounter with a young fawn in the wild. Even a university professor whose reveries over certain pieces of literature are “better than church.”

I never told anyone how fascinated I was by the Eucharist…the harmonic frequency that rings at the center of the heart of God made something vibrate in mine while all this was going on…He placed the Host on my tongue…and I fell into God.

He says that with his First Communion a tether was tied around his waist. Although he would test it sorely, it would never let him be completely lost. After years of being angry at a God who he had once loved purely, but who had done nothing to mitigate the tragic circumstances of his life, he finds himself back at the communion table again. And a lifetime of radiant moments are woven together into a glorious crescendo that leaves me sobbing.

I didn’t want to parse God–I wanted to be swept up in His glory. I didn’t want to understand the Holy One; I wanted to be consumed in his oceanic love.

The road from here will not be easy. So many broken places need healing. Cron is vulnerable and honest about just how much this costs.

My favorite chapter in the whole book is the next to last where he talks about his children. I have had the joy of meeting Cailey, Maddie, and Aidan, and they are wonderful. I have seen their father ruffle their hair and hug them long. I have seen the easy laughter and camaraderie between Anne, Ian, and their children. I had no idea how miraculous that was.

How can I give something to a son that I myself never received? I want my son to know how to be in the world; how to love himself; how not to settle for too little; how to walk with God with humility, compassion, and an inclusive heart; how to never hide his true self because he’s afraid.

In one magical story we see this coming into being. We learn the difference between falling and jumping. And we see the astonishing sweep of redemption…just how far it can go. I must confess, this chapter had me laughing hysterically. Just wait til you read it. You’ll see. 🙂 But as Ian poured his heart for his son onto the page and I saw a whole family who is FOR one another, I was undone. The beauty of what God has wrought is astonishing. Astonishing!

You probably already know Ian from his novel, Chasing Francis: a Pilgrim’s Tale. Official release date for Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir…of Sorts is June 7th. But you can get it now from Amazon. I cannot recommend it highly enough. An engaging story. Artful articulation. A miracle of healing and restoration.

Only He Who Sees…

Truth, so far, in my book;–the truth which draws
Through all things upwards; that a twofold world
Must go to a perfect cosmos.  Natural things
And spiritual
,–who separates those two
In art, in morals, or the social drift,
Tears up the bond of nature and brings death,
Paints futile pictures, writes unreal verse,
Leads vulgar days, deals ignorantly with men,
Is wrong, in short, at all points.  We divide
This apple of life, and cut it through the pips,–
The perfect round which fitted Venus’ hand
Has perished utterly as if we ate
Both halves.  Without the spiritual, observe,
The natural’s impossible;–no form,
No motion!  Without sensuous, spiritual
Is inappreciable;–no beauty or power!

And in this twofold sphere the twofold man
(And still the artist is intensely a man)
Holds firmly by the natural, to reach
The spiritual beyond it,–fixes still
The type with mortal vision, to pierce through,
With eyes immortal
, to the antetype
Some call the ideal,–better called the real,
And certain to be called so presently,
When things shall have their names.  Look long enough
On any peasant’s face here, coarse and lined.
You’ll catch Antinous somewhere in that clay,
As perfect-featured as he yearns at Rome
From marble pale with beauty; then persist,
And, if your apprehension’s competent,
You’ll find some fairer angel at his back,
As much exceeding him, as he the boor,
And pushing him with empyreal disdain
For ever out of sight.  Ay, Carrington
Is glad of such a creed! an artist must,
Who paints a tree, a leaf, a common stone
With just his hand, and finds it suddenly
A-piece with and conterminous to his soul.
Why else do these things move him, leaf or stone?
The bird’s not moved, that pecks at a spring-shoot;
Nor yet the horse, before a quarry, a-graze:
But man, the two-fold creature, apprehends
The two-fold manner, in and outwardly,
And nothing in the world comes single to him.
A mere itself,–cup, column, or candlestick,
All patterns of what shall be in the Mount;
The whole temporal show related royally,
And build up to eterne significance
Through the open arms of God.  ‘There’s nothing great
Nor small,’ has said a poet of our day,
(Whose voice will ring beyond the curfew of eve
And not be thrown out by the matin’s bell)
And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing’s small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And,–glancing on my own thin, veined wrist,–
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct.  Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes
,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sonnet 86 from “Aurora Leigh”

Stone Soup

Provisions were so scarce in the little village following the war that everyone horded what meager supply he had. When one day a tired, haggard soldier wandered into town, he was advised to move on.

“We have nothing to share with you here.”

“Oh, that’s quite alright,” he answered. “I was just about to make stone soup to share with you.”

And with that, he removed a smooth stone from a velvet bag. He dropped it into a large pot which he filled with water and set over a fire. As the soup began to heat, he carefully tasted the broth and made signs of great satisfaction. The curious villagers gathered round him.

“You know what is even better than stone soup?” he asked. “Stone soup with cabbage. Now that’s a real treat.”

An old man stepped out of the circle and returned in a few moments with a cabbage from his carefully guarded stores.

“Now that we have the cabbage, I do wish there was a bit of salt pork. Salt pork does a great deal to flavor the broth.”

The butcher suddenly remembered that he had a scrap of salt pork in his shop. Soon, to this was added carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs. When all was done, the soldier ladled the warm, fragrant soup into bowls and everyone ate his fill.

I loved this story as a child. It seemed to me a most wonderful trick to play on the unsuspecting villagers. The “magic” stone held no magic at all.

Or did it?

An intriguing convergence of events today made me think of the story.

Mike shared with me the curious account of how W* built a deck. He and a friend, equally unskilled in the carpentry arts, made a show of beginning. Perplexed. Confused. A neighbor, seeing their difficulty, brought his considerable expertise to the project. Before long, several carpenters had gathered to contribute to what turned out to be a splendid construction.

Stone soup.

He shared this while I was reading Steven Pressfield’s new book, Do The Work. I was in the middle of the section titled Start Before You’re Ready. Provocative. Disturbing. Convicting. Inviting? Terrifying. Starting is ALWAYS the hardest part for me. Perhaps not only for me.

“Babies are born in blood and chaos; stars and galaxies come into being amid the release of massive primordial cataclysms.” ~SP

There is a terror in not being able to see where you are going. But I know, from experience that once I can get past the first few words, the path begins to illumine itself. Just like the invisible bridge that conveys Indiana Jones across a chasm in The Last Crusade. Just like the path that opens for the Israelites along the bottom of the Jordan River AFTER the priests plop their toes into the water. Those bloody, chaotic, frantic, terrifying first steps unleash something bigger than you or me.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way…”

~W. H Murray

Stone soup.

Thank you, Steven Pressfield, for again giving me a much needed kick in the pants!

Dear reader, if you have ever had a dream, of any sort, I beg you to read BOTH Steven Pressfield’s the WAR of ART and Do the Work. The latter is available as a free Kindle download through May 20th. Simply click the title.

What dream terrifies you so much that you know you MUST follow it? What are you waiting for?

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
~Goethe

*Though my friend, W, will read this story with great good humor, I elect to preserve his anonymity. 🙂

His Blood Be On Us and On Our Children

 

Lights are low as we gather. Tonight we read twelve passages from the gospels that treat of the voluntary death of the Saviour. We begin with John’s account of the final moments Jesus shared with His disciples. Pouring himself into them one last time. Preparing them for what was coming. The tender prayer. For them. For us.

We read of the betrayal. The arrest. The sham trial. The denial. Of Pilate’s cowardice as he washes his hands, magically absolving him of all responsibility. But the people own their choice. “His blood be on us and on our children!” Until this moment, I have never considered the irony in their words. They mean, of course, that they are not afraid of the consequences of their actions. They cannot know yet that this man’s blood will be life to them, and their children, should they choose to accept it.

After the reading of the fifth gospel, the lights are extinguished altogether, all but the candles flickering before the icons. An ominous portent. The priest comes from behind the iconastasis dragging the cross. In one motion, we all sink to the ground. Faces to the floor. And from beneath his dark burden, he sings…

Today He is suspended on a Tree who suspended the earth over the waters.
A crown of thorns was placed on the King of Angels.
He who wore a false purple robe, covered the heavens with clouds.
He was smitten who, in the Jordan, delivered Adam.
The Groom of the Church was fastened with nails, and the Son of the Virgin was pierced with a spear.
Thy sufferings we adore, O Christ.
Makes us to behold Thy glorious Resurrection.

In the dark stillness of this moment, I hear it. The pounding of the hammer. I feel each blow like a kick to the stomach. His blood be on me. I did this.

We read of the agonizing hours on the cross. The mocking. The ultimatums. The vinegar. The aloneness. The mother. The darkness. The veil. “It…is…finished.” The spear. Blood and Water. For the saving of the nations. His blood be on us.

*In Orthodox worship we “anticipate the day”. Therefore, last night’s service commemorated the Passion of Christ. This afternoon His body will be removed from the cross and laid upon a funeral bier covered in flowers. Tonight we gather to sing lamentations for the Beloved. It is important to linger here. To allow ourselves to sink into the grief of this moment. Only those who have tasted death fully appreciate the power of Resurrection.

His blood be on us and on our children!

Oil of Gladness

Last night I hit the wall.

All distance athletes have a healthy fear of “the wall”. For marathoners it usually comes around mile 18-20. An inscrutable boundary. Despite all the miles under your feet, you suddenly are convinced you can go no further. In 5 marathons, I have never hit the wall. Oh sure, I’ve hit my lactate threshold, where I feel like I have the flu: aches, chills, nausea. I’ve even had to let go of time goals and change strategy. But the dreaded DNF (did not finish) has never seemed an option. Last night it seemed like an option.

I sat in the parking lot at church and sobbed. Physically and emotionally spent. I had talked myself out of even coming more than once. But I knew this was the place where hope was. So I dragged myself out of the car, slogged through the rain, and stepped inside. I stopped to kiss the icon of the Bridegroom and held on to it for a moment. For dear life.

Just as the chanters and the priests began singing the service, a fierce, wild storm commenced out of doors. Ferocious claps of thunder made my body vibrate. Slashes of lightening hurled themselves at the windows. Something deep inside me exulted in this. Almost as if the turmoil inside me had been unleashed upon the elements.

And they sang on. The service of Holy Unction. Anointing. Seven Epistle passages. Seven from the Gospels. About those who were sick being made well. About those who were lost being found. About those who had been restored being sent out into the world to carry life, like bread, to others. One epistle in particular lasered itself to that profoundly weary place in me…

Brethren, we do not want you to be ignorant of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead; he delivered us from so deadly a peril, and he will deliver us; on him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers.  ~II Corinthians 1:8-11

When all seven candles had been lit and all seven passages read, the priest held the Gospel book over each of our heads and blessed us. Then we came forward to be anointed with oil.

The blessing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; for the healing of the soul and body of the servant of God (your name here) always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

I kissed the Bridegroom again as I left. And again I lingered, this time with gratitude. Then I went out into the rain with the oil on my forehead and hands. Bandaged. Fed. Ready to run on…

We haven’t far to go, best beloveds. Keep running!

 

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