Wednesday, April 16, 2014

anthropomorphic clouds of glory

Drawing by Ray, 3rd Grade
We were assigned to teach the Triduum to our Third Grade class.
Best Friend decided our activity would be to assign them small sections of the Exultet and then have them draw a picture to go along with it, an illustration to go with the story.
Ray is a kid who has endless energy (It's not uncommon for him to execute one hundred squats before class. And then, panting, joins the prayer circle, crying out: "Why is it so hot in here?!" OhI don't know, Ray, maybe it's because you just did more aerobic exercise in five minutes than I will do in a month? Just a theory.), and is constantly willing to weigh in with his encyclopedic knowledge of Catholicism. Although his grasp on the Trinity is still a little shaky: 
"We have TWO GODS in ONE!" 
No, Ray. Not quite. Also, don't forget the Holy Spirit. 
"Which one's that?"
Sigh.

So Ray was assigned that beautiful gem of the Exultet where it sings of the things of heaven being wed to those of earth.
He stared at the words. 
"I don't get it."
Do you need help reading the words, Ray?
"I don't get it!"
Okay, Ray, they're saying tonight is the night that heaven and earth are like they're married, they're united, the two are now one, they're together.
Ray shakes his head and laments: "I still don't get it."
Okay, imagine there's a big, big canyon between heaven and earth, and there's no bridge across it, so no one can get across, and then when Jesus died, he formed the bridge. So now, there's no gap between heaven and earth. They're connected now.

Divisions. Chasms. Gorges.
These are images that I suppose I never really understood in my third grade mind.
At that time, I had never hurt someone, and felt an expanse of hurt and distance grow between us. When I was nine, I had not yet burned any bridges or severed any connections. I may have cut the umbilical cord, but I was still caught up in apron strings.
The idea of a vast, untraversable expanse between myself and someone I loved was pretty incomprehensible.
Pops lived pretty far from us, but I had vague memories of airplane rides through the clouds drinking orange juice to visit the magical world of Texas. Which, I recalled, was warm and had a rather nice petting zoo.
The idea of a distance that could not be crossed by a orange-juice dispensing aeroplane was out of the question.
The idea of a hurt that wedged itself between two entities, causing festering, and pain and sorrow on either side was not a concept I could easily grasp.
Sure, my older sister and I had gotten in a fight over who got to have the piano first to practice, but that could be fixed by a late-night giggle session and a game of Don't Touch the Floor.
The commandment to forgive our brother seventy-times seven times comes naturally to the world of a third-grader. It is the rhythm of life by which a child lives each day.

And then Ray drew the picture above.
A third grader's view of the cosmos, one which, I think, rivals Dante's.
You have, in his first little scenario, the dainty stick-figure Earth and Heaven, both so forlorn at being separated, have a divide between them whose bridge is broken.
The devils in hell rejoice at the fact, as the poor humans fall from the broken bridge into the fiery pit.
Then, as the bridge is repaired (thanks, Christ), the devils, now trapped in hell, fume, and Heaven and Earth exult.

And I don't think I could say anything more profound about that than this Crayola colored pencil drawing already has.

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