From All Saints until Veterans Day, I’m posting a blog series on soldier saints at Centurions Guild. “Ten Saints, Ten Days” explores ten lives, their context, and their relevance to soldiers today. In the Bible, the number ten signifies completion and wholeness—something many soldiers today do not feel. The moral complexity of their service is too often brushed away with a quick “thank you” or an upgrade to first class. But soldiers’ experiences, their testimonies, are part and parcel to the integrity of the church—especially in this time of war.
A theologically credible account of war requires the voice of soldiers, the actual bodies that participate in it.
He’d seen it all. Swathes of nothingness spun into stars, the slapping of the first fin onto land, and now these creatures, by far the cleverest and the saddest—though listing it that way felt faulty, as if all happenings unfurled inch by inch instead of blooming in one cacophony, the apple crumpling just outside the city walls.
And it wasn’t even an apple, or fig, or pomegranate glinting with infernal seeds, though he’d accommodate their legends, accept provisional truths, the same way they worked with the earth un-sphered and stilled in leaf-thin sketch. To overlook imprecision in the premises, concede to the limits of both flesh and paper, was what it meant to translate, as to love. Which struck him as strange pottery: roll everything that’s been into a coil and score it with each day; cram self into cage of clay and bone; daub their closed eyes in slip and wait for it to flake off to new sight. It seemed to take what they called a lifetime.
But they didn’t have that, not right here, beside the village known as House-of-Misery whose people rent their clothes. Before he even spoke Mary’s tears were falling warm onto his feet, carving clear trails through the coat of dust.
If you had been here. He stood enveloped in the sound of all their moans, entangled in her locks of dampening hair. If you had been here. All grief’s audacity pitched in her splintering voice, she raised her head to look at him, and in her water-darkened eyes he who’d seen all things felt this: pain’s veil dividing now from everything that is not-now. And he began to weep.