Winter dawn pinks even this dirty air, here where the currents of the world stall between mountain ranges. We awaken inhaling fumes and dust, the calls of crows, breath and prayers from around the globe.
A child in church, I knelt with the congregation, leaned into the wails of women around me pleading for the son lost to Chicago, for Hiroshimo’s victims, the girl with the iron lung. They would begin on a pitch around middle C and slowly rise with arched phrases into a high tremolo toward the amen, as though reaching to heaven.
Now the sun tears the gray veil, and doves repeat their soft, low moaning, for heaven is nearer than we think—in the undersides of leaves and in their shine, warmth on my shoulder, scent of bread. Even in that sick, black night when a man stood in the center of the lane, his arms out, pleading for the headlights to come in, as we stood beside him, now in a silent heap, his boots flung off, as we breathed “mercy,” as we breathed “help.”
Since time flies one way like an arrow, the sugar can’t be stirred out of your oatmeal and no matter how long the murderer sobs on the median strip—sorry!—he can’t reverse his swerve, cannot rescind his drink
before the crash. Like him, was Jesus heartsick to find history’s not a zipper running both ways? He who loved eternity—its roominess, its reversibility—as he grew up, did he have to learn he never could unsay a thing
he’d said? And yet today, like all Good Fridays, He hangs on the cross again. On altars he hangs. On necklaces. His death is like an x that rides the wheels of time to come again in ritual, that miniature eternity, that spring
re-sprung. Dear God, there in your big eternity, remember that your hands and feet can never be unscarred again. Hear these words spoken by a body that suffers, by a tongue that will stiffen soon and be gone.
Have mercy on us who love time. May this prayer be a tire that rolls over every inch of the way to find You. May it be a bell which can never be unrung.
A pair of British imports explores faith of different kinds. Millions, directed by Danny Boyle from a script by Frank Cottrell Boyce, is by far the slicker of the two. It is chock-full of glitzy visual effects, something to be expected from the man who directed the kinetic drug film Trainspotting.
Did the blessed mother note the measure of the moon? Ancient church tradition says they came on the same day— that Gabriel’s whispered “hail” shared Golgotha’s dark noon, that her pain embraced perfection and who are we to say?
It was exquisite sorrow to have her melody become counterpoint to her son’s words arduously spoken that afternoon of agony; below she stood mute, numb, to watch his body slowly punctured, torn and broken.
How did she ponder and how could her heart sustain a moment of astonishment, an anniversary gloss, now—forlorn as vinegar; bitter balm for pain. But she would hold to his wine, hard-won from torture, loss,
his new wine of forgiveness, now soaking into sod; trusting it could endow her to forgive even her God.
Hell wants him, heaven won’t take him, earth needs him.” So proclaims the poster for Constantine. It sounds like an ad for a previous Keanu Reeves movie, the ridiculous Devil’s Advocate. Yet some of the same publicists who promoted Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ are promoting Constantine—and for similar reasons.
And I am one of your many amanuenses writing letters recommending you, then I am free to know you as I do and write you as I will, searching out your ways as I find you and longing to trust who it is I find.
But you are who I say you are and not, who they wrote you were and often are, who I wish you were and I hear Wish again.
So that I, exhausted, resign myself to Eckhart’s ecstatic, My me is God, and I am both glad and sad, for I turn around and there you are and it remains true that I see so little of me in you.
Still, no one is searching for me the way you are, even as I play my childish hide-and-seek with you, until you grow weary of my game and like a father with better things to do, go back to writing the ever evolving You.
Religion is often on display in professional athletics, with the exception of the National Hockey League. The few hockey players who are open about their faith buck a tradition of reticence or downright distrustfulness toward religion. Unlike professional football or basketball, many NHL players come from Canada or Europe, where the culture is much more secular and religious faith is closely guarded. There is also the suspicion in hockey that a person of faith might be too soft a player. Some hockey clubs make chapel services available, but far fewer than in professional basketball (Boston Globe, April 5).