Thursday, March 5, 2015

we act very boldly

For if what was going to fade was glorious, how much more will what endures be glorious.--2 Corinthians 3:11

Today was an unexpectedly hot day in the middle of a rainy season, and the sun was sparkling across the bay. The houses of Thessaloniki were packed in tightly next to one another, and the city hummed with the constant drumbeat of thousands of heartbeats.

In a little room with a small window looking out over onto the pure blue water, a man was writing. His face was set in that almost-frown of a person concentrating very hard. But, occasionally, his face would brighten, as if the words he was producing radiated some sort of new life as they poured out of him. Once, every hour or so, he stopped, sat back on his small stool, and laughed.

Or, he would pause, stare out at the water, rippling peacefully, untouched by winter storms, and just watch the waves roll against the rocks. He would watch the sun sparkle on the blue ridges of the bay, and waited. Waited for the words to come while the smells of the street wafted up through his window. Stuck in a reverie, he listened to the shouts of the children playing underneath his window sill, and the chatter of fruit-sellers and housewives bartering with one another over an overripe pomegranate or two.

Sometimes, tears would well up into his eyes. He would listen to the sounds of people walking outside in the light of the warm afternoon, and he just wanted to burst. How could anything he wrote: flimsy little strokes of black and white on a useless scroll ever reach them? How could anything he say; simple words, just sounds strung together into thoughts ever penetrate their hearing? How could he, stowed away in this dark little room, ever generate the light that could reach these men and women.

The man selling rotten fruit at the stand on the corner: would Paul ever be able to assure him that he was an inheritor of an eternal weight of glory? The boys playing on the street: how would they ever come to understand that they were living in a new world? He wanted to leap up onto his windowsill and shout down to them that the sun was different today; that the air they were breathing was full of Resurrection; that their lives could attain a new freedom never before dreamed of; that they were asleep, and now they could wake up. He wished that he could write something that would shake their hearts to the core, knock them off their horse and shake the scales from their eyes.

How do you capture a journey so dramatic as metanoia in speech? How do you transform the movements of hearts and wills into words? How would he capture the transformation of the world in just a few short letters? How could he manage to preserve the fresh feeling of new life inundating the world? All he had to memorialize this moment, this essential point in history, were his words. Words that, Paul knew, would grow stale with repetition; words that would become hackneyed; words which would grow cliched. What words could he use that would be eternally fresh? Words that would, for centuries to come, reach out the window, and smote the heart of the reader, reminding her: this is a new world. You are living something new: a new story, a new life. You are new. He didn't know if he could succeed, but he had never felt more alive than these moments: moments in which the very impossibility of his task made his heart race.

So that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
--2 Corinthians 5:5

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