Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Serving a hidden flame

"Saints, like revolutionaries, walk headlong into the cool, dry wind, are always serving a hidden flame, are terrifying because of what they do not need."
--from Stephen Dunn's poem, "Saints."

Terrifying because of what they do not need! Our culture not only suggests, but insists that we need so many things, many more than we ever knew. What did the saints know that we refuse to listen to?


Blogger Castanea_d said...

A homely example from R. E. Lee, whom I mentioned at staff meeting:

During the War, admirers would sometimes send him delectable goodies, such as a jar of raspberry preserves, or a Virginia country ham. He would immediately write a thank-you note, quietly forward the goodies to the camp hospital, and continue to eat the same fare as the lowliest privates in his army.

He did not need any of those things, though at the right times (i.e., before and after the War) he enjoyed them just as much as anyone else.

You know my weakness for chocolate and other sweets; I do not think that I would be so strong as was Mr. Lee, but I take note of his example and hope to do better.

I think that what the saints know that the rest of us glimpse only "through a glass" is that when we cling to our gracious Lord, nothing else matters. That is enough to terrify anyone.

Because of the saints, it is not merely theoretical; they demonstrate in large and small ways precisely how it can be done, and what may result from such a manner of life. That, likewise, is enough to terrify anyone.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Trees of the Field said...

I think it's more that the saints refuse to listen to what we gladly hear. To paraphrase Henri Nouwen's comment about icons: it makes a difference what we choose to hear. The saints are so focused on the sound of the Spirit in that cool, dry wind that they hear little else.

@Castanea: The saintliness of R.E. Lee would have been more widely recognized had he been on the winning side. (And the American chestnut photo from the Great Smoky Mountains has always been one of my favorites!)

11:43 AM  

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