I am a man of frail, faint faith — ὀλιγόπιστος, oligopistos, as Jesus frequently calls his disciples in Matthew’s Gospel — and spending a Lent in reflection on death has not engendered an efflorescence of unwavering confidence in me. In hymn, Death no longer can appall, but once the hymn is over I’m as appalled as ever.
What I lack in faith, though, God provides in a generous abundance of the lives around me. Last night, Margaret and I felt the radiance of the reverent faith of the servers at St. Luke’s; they enacted the church’s believing through their unornamented observance of the ceremonies of the Easter Vigil. A moment-and-a-half’s reverent kneeling, a careful step, a creed in motion.
And several weeks ago, when Lent was new, Seabury gathered around the altar for a Friday midday mass, and someone had brought Elizabeth, a year-old child, along. Elizabeth was dressed in marvelous, brilliantly colorful clothing; and at the beginning of a season I had committed to spend in reflection on death, I was moved to tears by the glorious human gesture of dressing up our ephemeral, vulnerable mortality with all the bold grandeur that craft can muster. I will soon die, Elizabeth will soon die, but for these few days we can defy corruption with love, can defy gray ash with vibrant color, by God we can live!
My feeble faith doesn’t matter that much, in the end. A faith deeper and stronger, fuller and wiser, truer and more durable catches me up and bears me beyond the bounds of what my hobbled imagination can posit, to Truth that I cannot comprehend. Unlimited by the horizons of my judgment, faith surrounds and inhabits me, and John’s reverence, Elizabeth’s luminous attire, my weak faith, these provide a staging-ground for God’s invincible grace. Here I kneel; I can do no other.