Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Sermon to the Snakes

"What is the whole of our existence," said Father Damien, practicing his sermon from the new pulpit, "but the sound of an appalling love?"

The snakes slid quietly among the feet of the empty pews.

"What is the question we spend our entire lives asking? Our question is this: Are we loved? I don't mean by one another. Are we loved by the one who made us? Constantly, we look for evidence. In the gifts we are given--children, good weather, money, a happy marriage perhaps--we find assurance. In contrast, our pains, illnesses, the deaths of those we love, our poverty, our innocent misfortunes--those we take as signs that God has somehow turned away. But, my friends, what exactly is love here? How to define it? Does God's love work in our lives? Or is God's love, perhaps, something very different from what we think we know?

"Divine love may be so large it cannot see us.

"Or it may be so infinitely tiny that it works on a level where it directs us like an unknown substance buried in our blood.

"Or it may be transparent, an invisible screen, a filter through which we see and hear all that is created.

"Oh my friends..."

The snakes lifted their bullet-smooth heads, flickered their tongues to catch the vibrations of the sounds the being made somewhere before them.

"I am like you," said Father Damien to the snakes, "curious and small." He dropped his arms. "Like you, I poise alertly and open my senses to try to read the air, the clouds, the sun's slant, the little movements of the animals, all in the hope I will learn the secret of whether I am loved."

The snakes coiled and recoiled, curved over and underneath themselves.

"If I am loved," Father Damien went on, "it is a merciless and exacting love against which I have no defense. If I am not loved, then I am being pitilessly manipulated by a force I cannot withstand, either, and so it is all the same. I must do what I must do. Go in peace."

He lifted his hand, blessed the snakes, and then lay down full length in a pew and slept there for the rest of the afternoon.

Louise Erdrich
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
(c) 2001
2002 paperpack, HarperPerennial, pp. 226-227


+JN1034 said...

Wonderful, inspiring post on the blessed nature of all creation. This may interest you: The Holy Snakes of the Virgin Mary in Greece and the remarkable video of the snakes entering a church with the local community to honour the Mother of God, as the snakes do each year in August for the Feastday of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Be sure you view video 2, and maybe peek at the others on YouTube.

Jane, have a blessed, safe, and healthy New Year. May the Holy Trinity continue to bless you with grace and mercy.

Jane R said...

Thank you so much, and thank you for the visit! I am grateful for your presence in the blogosphere.

I look forward to following your links and watching the videos.

May the most blessed and glorious Trinity give you also grace upon grace.

Fran said...

Jane, thank you for this compelling post!

Magdalene6127 said...

Holy sh*t. What a passage. I have never read this, but it goes on the list now.

And the word verification is:


Mm hmm.

Anonymous said...

Delicious. Lady Jane, you clearly have a nose for stuff like this.

And may I say it's nice to see you and +Maya posting regularly lately.

Best wishes for a fulfilling New Year (and skill at artfully dodging whatever's on its way to hitting the fan…)

- Francis sirfrATearthlinkETC

Anonymous said...

Who is +JN1034? He or she seems to inspire great awe.

Ken said...

Snakes. No mythology about The Fall. The things themselves, a part of the Creation. I feel like Thomas putting his fingers into The Christ's wounds. What an unbearably beautiful thing to see.

オテモヤン said...


Doorman-Priest said...

I liked that a lot.

aa said...