Geoff Wood Reflection for April 27, 2014

“Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them ‘Peace be with you.”

            It’s consoling to know that no matter how firmly we lock our doors, Jesus can still break in upon our privacy, bringing with him the radiance of a divine world we’ve long forgotten.  Of course, as Wordsworth put it, There was a time when meadow, grove and stream, / The earth, and every common sight, / To me did seem / Appareled in celestial light.  But driven by some radical anxiety, similar to that of the disciples in today’s Gospel, we learned to see only the ominous instead of the wonderful in our environment.  We learned to think survival, to lock our doors, shutter our windows – to dwell within a world of business gray.

Yet Christ can still intrude upon us as he did upon those mournful disciples in the upper room, as he did with the poet Anne Porter, who tells of a wartime Sunday morning walk in 1940’s Manhattan with the littlest of her sons.  First Avenue was empty and gray.  No one was up.  The bridges over the East River stood silent like great webs of stillness.  Returning home past locked-up shops, she paused to notice one window heaped with old lamps, guitars, radios, dusty furs – And there among them a pawned christening dress / White as a waterfall.

That’s how Christ and the real world he represents can break in upon us – so that suddenly we realize how much we have let death constrict our minds and, if only for a brief moment, find ourselves longing to share in Christ’s victory over death, to explore with him once more the brilliant, eternal NOW that lies beyond our muted senses.

Marcel Proust in his masterpiece In Search Of Lost Time writes often of such moments when, for instance, the mere taste of a French pastry dipped in tea would lift his hero, Marcel, out of the boredom of his Parisian social life to taste again the sacramental quality of his childhood village of Combray – where the discovery of a simple hawthorn bush used to flood him with affection and the names of the village streets (Rue Saint-Jacques, Rue Sainte-Hildegarde, Rue du Saint-Esprit) made him feel he dwelt in nothing less than a suburb of God’s celestial Jerusalem.

And then there was the village church of St. Hilaire, whose sculptured facade and stained glass interior made it seem like a gateway into depths light years beyond the shops around it.  And its spire!

From wherever young Marcel viewed the local landscape, that spire always looked as if it were the very Finger of God tenderly touching the earth.  Indeed, so profoundly did he remember it that, later in life, were he to find himself in a strange quarter of Paris and to ask directions of a passerby to an intended destination and were the passerby to point out a distant spire as the place to turn, Marcel would stand motionless, oblivious of his original purpose, remembering the spire of his childhood.  Only after a seemingly interminable moment would the passerby see him then begin to walk a bit unsteadily, turn the appropriate corner – but as Marcel himself comments, The goal I now sought was in my heart.

Moments of epiphany!  Moments when Christ and the fullness of life he  represents intrude upon our shuttered world!  Stay alert!  Their frequency may be only dependent upon how often you would like them to happen.


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