Sunday, 13 January 2008

Into the Depths

"Theology is like a map. Merely thinking and learning about this is less real and less exciting than encountering the reality the map conveys. The map must be used to get somewhere (theology is practical), and where it takes us is to Christ -
not a moral teacher, but the Son of God".

Paraphrased from Mere Christianity by C S Lewis.

Carrying on from my last entry here, I seek to provoke thoughts about the realities of our world via a piece of fiction I've written...


"I am body and soul - so speaks the child. And why should one not speak as Children?"

The road from the temple gate to this outer part of the city was hard at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. Night had fallen, bringing with it those who most profit from the darkness. It was not wise to be out here, alone, but there had been no choice.

Careful to avoid the streets where he would have been recognized and turning where trouble resided, the old scholar hurried back from the appointed place. It had been half a lifetime since he had been to this forsaken quarter, but the events of the past few days had prompted his actions.

Bustling along, his breath ragged, he wished his agitated thoughts could become as still as the night air. Life had been far more straightforward before the reports had begun. And then -and then...
He stopped, willing his racing heart and pensive reflections to ease.
He was a teacher. He understood the way things were; the mechanics of the observable. He had come expecting to meet a kindred soul, had come with all the right questions - the ones that mattered, and had left with so many more.

A gentle breeze brushed his flushed cheeks, furrowed brow and grey beard.
He tried once more to gather his shaken reflections, to remember the crux of the conversation of not an hour before. Words and images played in an almost cruel manner on the outskirts of his thoughts. He struggled, like one stranded in the midst of a thick forest, desperate for direction. Audibly exhaling , his reflections became focused, the matter of the evening beginning to take form, exorcising his solitude.
Birth, death, wind, spirit, evil, truth, darkness, light. The cacophony of concepts englobed his attention and rewarded his weary toil.

Is this what had so unsettled him? Mere words from another man.
He had encountered many who thought themselves enlightened, had skilfully debated the best of his own. In all of this, he had never encountered such a display of wisdom, of insight. It reached far above and beyond the learning of any he had studied or previously engaged.

He trembled.

His thoughts were broken by a group of 'pilgrims' making their way to part of the district. He scurried into an adjoining, darker alley to avoid them , resting upon a squat wall until they had passed.
Moments expired and the silence returned.
Words assembled and spoke to his mind, carrying with them the strength and thunder of boiling Sinai;

"The Wind blows where it wills, and you cannot tell where it has come from or where it is going".

His anxious gaze focused upon some particles of sand, caught up in the breeze and dancing in the erratic moonlight. Was he little more than such dust? What truly distinguished him, transformed him, into something more than this floating assortment of empty fragments?

"And He formed man of the dust, and breathed into him the breath of life".

The wind bound him. Not the slight breeze upon his cheeks, but the breath which had caressed with care and strength amidst the formless void of creation's dawn. Birth..wind..darkness..light. He looked down at his trembling hands, aghast at both the wonder and the terror of his own form.

"Teacher, learn. All is futility under the sun". And yet, and yet...
"And Yet", he whispered, almost too afraid to say the words he had known since childhood.
"And yet in my flesh, shall I see God!".

The stranger's voice came back with depth and clarity, chastening and challenging him;
"Are you a teacher and you do not understand this? I have spoken to you of common things, and yet you do not understand. How would you believe if I spoke to you of the heavenly?"

The Heavenly. The words were true. One greater than the Prophets had been promised. He had seen, had heard him. The wind was working, dancing within the old scholar's waking soul.
Faith, it is said, is at its best when it leads to understanding. He Smiled.
The wind had once more worked upon the dust.
'Flesh is life because of Spirit. Eternal birth comes only from above'.

The air was cold, the night still, but a new life, as strong as any ocean wave, had begun to arise amidst the sage's old bones; life which raises the soul and redeems dying flesh.

The first rays of dawn fractured the black as he returned to the temple.
He gazed for a moment upon the glow, knowing that the light which had nurtured the earth before the first sunrise had risen once more, never to set amidst Adam's wind-touched sons.

For further reading, see John 3:1-21.

There is, I believe, what Lewis referred to, a 'still point' in history, and it was the life and death of this person - a life and death which defines our reality.
There are essentially two ways we can look upon and relate to life, but only one can finally be correct...

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