You have triumphed over death your enemy; destroy in us the power of death that we may live only for you, victorious and immortal king.
Want to hear a story? Two stories, actually.
About ten years ago I lived by myself in a little apartment in the south. I had moved there to attend graduate school; but shortly after I began the program I left it. I took a job as a stable hand at an equestrian park.
I liked the job. I liked arriving in the early morning quiet, and seeing the mists over the pasture and the trees surrounding the stables hung with Spanish moss. I liked how the huge animals stepped so quietly back and forth in their stalls.
Even so, it was a dark and low time. I found it very hard to get through the hours of the day.
One day, I could not bring myself to go to work. I felt frantic in my mind, thinking I could not bear to go down the long tree-lined drive to the stables again. I could not, could not do it.
Around that time a TV show was on the air, called Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. Contestants in the game could choose to call a friend for help, one of several options called “lifelines.” I needed a lifeline – I called my brother Joe.
“Maria,” he said, “you need to get up and go to work.”
On the strength of his words, I did. I went to work that day and in the days that followed, and continued on the slow, but steady climb out of the pit.
Flashback now to six years ago. After a long hiatus from doing much of anything art-related, I took a three day oil painting class. After the class was over I had just an underpainting – kind of like the skeleton of a painting – so I had a long way to go before I would be finished.
I had such trouble getting myself to paint. It was a great interior battle each day, trying to force myself to go to the easel and start. One day, I had no excuse not to paint. My work was done, the house was clean, my time was free. I could not, could not do it.
I lay still, frozen. A little demon called Failure was standing on my chest, and sneering in my face.
Michael sat down beside me.
“Maria,” he said, “you need to get up and paint.”
On the strength of his words, I did. I kept at it, and at length – it took a long time – I finished that painting, and have been trying to keep doing something art-related ever since.
In these two stories, are you hearing what I’m hearing? Last week as I was thinking over these things, it hit me between the eyes.
Little girl, get up.
One of my favorite poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins is “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.” The last few lines of the poem read,
– for Christ plays in ten thousand places
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
Destroy in us the power of death. Christ works miracles through the words and limbs and eyes and voices of the members of his body. He is lovely and triumphant in those who show mercy, who stretch out a hand to help others stricken by the power of death.