Change in plan
TGLW I will be writing a series of short fiction pieces over Lent based on the eight Beatitudes. As I post each I will also be posting a revised version of the attending post from last year’s Discipline of the Beatitudes.series:
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“Blessed, the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “
“You are always so hard on yourself.” The priest sitting next to me on the pew in a small ruin of a chapel in an oak meadow, the air still. Sun late to our backs..
“More than others? You think?” I ask, eyes fixed on the monstrance at the centre of the altar before us.
“But it seems, Father, I need to. I don’t mean to be . . . don’t try. Just say things and then people tell me this.”
“Well doesn’t this tell you something? We can learn a good deal from other’s observations of our idiosyncrasies.”
“I try but. . .”
“I don’t know, it feels worse when people point it out. Like a secret I am confessing in the open. I don’t know how to be different.” The Host seems to be glowing behind the glass. No. Must be the sun.
“Well the Lord didn’t call us to such heaviness child. It cannot be Lent every day now can it?”
“Well it is Lent now, no Father?”
“Well yes it is, my head is still all ashes. He rubs is dome. A fine dust drifts in the light before my eyes. ” But you are like this at the Summer Solstice too lad. There must be time for the Joy of the Lord.”
“I don’t feel joyless, just . . .” The sun goes behind a cloud I am chilled in the evening air, but the Host is clearly glowing now warming me inside.
“Well I know it will sound prideful sinful, but I think most people are frivolous.”
“Yes John, that does sound a bit self loving.”
“So which is it Father?” The glow is entrancing as it grows.
“Which what boy?”
“Do I hate, or love myself too much?”
What is this place? Who is this priest?
He stands flustered. “Now you do speak in riddles young man. It is like being Socrates’ confessor.”
“Forgive me Father for I have sinned.”
Turning toward me making the sign of the cross, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him, of his great mercy forgive thee thine offences: And by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
“But I have not made my full confession Father.”
“Your confession is always the same. Just enough to keep you mortal, but not enough to damn your soul. You don’t care nearly enough. It’s time to move on.”
The priest turns walking toward the Norther field.
“But what is my penance?” My eyes remain fixed on the now radiant Host in the monstrance.
His voice is distant now to my left, shouting, “Go through the small door.”
‘Door?’ the Host is nearly too brilliant to look at but I cannot remove my stare. Terrible joy runs over me from the splendid light. A strength of yearning in my breast; I wonder if I am going to meet the Lord. My emotions rise in fevered bliss. I want more than I can possibly hold. This is more than I am worth.
The monstrance rises off the altar and I rise off the bench opposite. ascending up as the frequency of the emanation increases. We are above the trees. I dare not look away Terrified I reach out in our rise, the ecstasy is nearly splitting my heart through my chest.
As I touch the base the light extinguishes and we both fall. Bracing in the sinking nausea, I reach out to break Its fall before we hit. The impact is sudden and sobering, but eased by the thick moss covering the space between the altar and pews. Quickly standing I carry the monstrance to place it back on the altar looking it over for damage my chest pounding deep and hard.
On the altar I look at the heart; the glass is cracked and the Host is gone.
“Forgive me Father. I am a sinner. I did not mean to reach.”
‘Liar, you reached. You meant to. Who else? Now look what you’ve done.’
Frantically searching in the moss where we landed; dread covering my soul I cross myself and beat my chest.
“My fault, my own fault, my own grievous fault.”
The wind gusts suddenly. Looking to the altar to make sure It is safe everything is lifted up and carried off by the now rushing wind; monstrance, candles, altar covering, and my cassock all blown to the South high in the air over the oaks. The church is bare save the simple wooden altar. The wind increases angry, raging into a tempest.
I am naked.
“Forgive me Lord. I am sorry. Save me.”
‘You do not deserve it for what you’ve done. The Host! You lost it; The glass broken.‘
“I didn’t mean too.”
“I was afraid. It was too much.”
Laying prostrate, naked in the moss before the bare altar pleading distracted.
“What will become of me now?”
A light banging from the altar through the wind. There is a small door in the centre panel swinging against its latch in the gale.
Clenk. Clenk. Clenk-clenk.
Groping forward over the moss. Is this the door; my penance?
“Must be.” Opening the latch I enter.
‘Are you sure?‘
“No.” Closing the door behind.
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Cover image: Ruins of Holyrood Chapel, Louis Daguerre c. 1824