Holy Spirit: do not descend as a dove. Better to return as a millipede hidden beneath decaying bark than anything that can soar. Ponder the incarnational worth of Pneumodesmus Newmani, the oldest known form of life on land, linking air breathing with the surname of the Scottish bus driver and amateur paleontologist who chiseled its fossil from harbor rocks north of Stonehaven, observing through his field lens small openings in its exoskeleton used for inspiration, meaning it moved its many legs on dry ground, not seabed. Or consider this descendent of Pneumo, younger by four hundred million years, curled for self-preservation on my palm, a hard button of red legs whorled inward, circled by dark armor plate, both of us breathing air while we wait for a sign that it is safe to resume whatever it was we were scurrying to do prior to this disruption of our forward flow to make a theological point: Of what use are metaphors of flight for things with feet?
His fascination with light begins in a lantern held by a shepherd, over a little family against inky velvet. Then light shifts; Christ becomes core. When he preaches rays fall like song on some earnest, captivated faces, some distracted by other conversations, and a dog facing the wrong way.
From his raised hand light spills like waterfall over Lazarus and lifts him, pale and twisted into that luminous aura. Even on the cross, the thin etched lines leave an ivory bowl around him, gather from dimness the only dawn.
The limp corpse with extended ribs still radiates. Its slide starts at a peasant face, guided into arms that catch the contagious light, leaking onto the stocky official, plumply supervising procedures. Visual poems carved on copperplate: I stood rinsed in that light.
The protagonist of The Visitor is Walter Vale, an academic who has retired from life after his wife’s death. A political economist at a small Connecticut college, Walter (played by Richard Jenkins) is no longer engaged with his students. He’s taken a reduced teaching load ostensibly to complete a book, but he’s not writing one.
Rome is over. Not just the republic, but the TV show. Despite solid ratings and Golden Globe nominations, the popular cable series ended last year. HBO, the BBC and the Italian RAI had teamed up to offer two seasons of ten episodes each about ancient Rome. Now the series is available on DVD.
Here’s your Ash Wednesday story. A mother carries her tiny daughter With her as she gets ashed and the Girl, curious and wriggly, squirms Into the path of the priest’s thumb Just as the finger is about to arrive On the mother’s forehead, and the Ashes go right in the kid’s left eye. She starts to cry, and there’s a split Second as the priest and the mother Gawk, and then they both burst out Laughing. The kid is too little to be Offended, and the line moves along, But this stays with me; not the ashy Eye as much as the instant when all Could have been pain and awkward But instead it led to mutual giggling. We are born of dust and star-scatter And unto this we shall return, this is The Law, but meantime, by God, we Can laugh our asses off. What a gift, You know? Let us snicker while we Can, brothers and sisters. Let us use That which makes dark things quail.
Between 1990 and 2010, Iowa lost over 500 churches. The numbers reflect migration from rural to urban areas and the fewer number of people who identify with a faith community. The decline in churches is having a direct effect on the social fabric of the state. According to research at Iowa State University, nine out of ten rural people said they rely less on their neighbors than they once did. Surviving churches have gone back to older patterns to find leadership, engaging itinerant pastors or lay leaders. Some are surviving through cooperation with other denominations or with ethnic Christian groups (Pacific Standard, January 20).