this is a severe mercy

Niland, California, Dec 2013

for Crystal Jones--gardener, good friend, guide, grace.


"...the impressive sun shines on us all. Perhaps that is the one thing I wish to tell you ... I believe there are visions that come to us in memory, in retrospect. That's the pulpit speaking, but it's telling the truth." 
-Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

"...when I am suspended between what feels like real, imaginative rapture and being absolutely lost, that I experience something akin to faith..."
-Christian Wiman


Thomas required a union of physical bodies to annihilate his doubt. Adjacent bodies on two planes intersected as proof that divine love and human flesh had intersected, had been consecrated. Only by flesh and blood and scar tissue does one return to faith, or find the faith that sustains and saturates every common thing with the weight of telos.

On the road to Emmaus, Cleopas was angry with grief, burnt with disappointment. Flattened earth. Where was redemption? Where was the light? How darkness reigned and we let it because we loved the night. But—Cleopas saw—there He was, unsundered, unassuming. His presence begot faith, bread begot belief. “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening,” and He did, for a communion, for a million communions to follow, to remember the grief and then the surprising hope that redeemed and fulfilled all that came before. He stayed.

Communion is the blood bank that restores the body. We return again, and there are moments in which we finally notice the stigmata in the hands that break our bread; we are surprised we had not wept until now. No longer are we fortresses (no we were never fortresses); no longer are we ordinary, soulless creatures shaking dust off our hands. Now possessing in common a wealth—first the love, then the knowledge of knowing, and then the confidence of being known. Are not our hearts burning within us?

If you stand just far enough—if you’re looking for patterns, for the uncanny—you  begin to discover a constellation of moments that were not merely random specks in space. A constellation woven together by a severe mercy. Trust that, and it will thrust you into faith, as if you, and you will have, touched flesh and blood and the pale ridged mountains of your diaphanous, scarred skin. Stay long, love long, look closely, know you are beloved. Thank your good God, again and again.


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