Historical setting: 590 C.E. The church in the woods
The sun suddenly seems to be sinking over the hills to the west, though I know full well the sun doesn’t suddenly do anything. The movements of the sun and the earth and the stars are always so predictably paced that they measure time itself. But the day did slip away from me. I was caught up in a conversation with the holy. It wasn’t Mater Doe who was listening, she can’t even hear me when I speak aloud. No, there, in that place, where so many for so long have come with prayers is a warm spirit present and I had in my heart an eternal thanksgiving. I needed to have that stillness to recall so many good things of life beyond the petty milieu of human judgment.
It’s an odd paradox that the secular church is named for the saint who was known as the slayer of sacred Pagan trees. If St. Martin sees this church named for him, is he raging and roaring through the heavens at all this mixing of Pagan goddesses gathered here under his name; or are the stories of his wrath against other gods mere legend?
I know there are Christians in these times who apply the superstitions of old Pagan ways to the Christian saints so that they would look for signs and omen sent by Martin to curse the Pagan use of his name here.
There is something in Christianity that keeps the ancient human root wanting a god that can be controlled by human behavior. Christian hunters still want to make a favorable plea to a statue or a heap of pinecones or whatever in order to send the beasts hurling themselves at their arrows. I get that. We who are human always seem to be wishful and wanting to buy good fortune. We pay dues to a god and expect a good return. It is about human control as sure as any monastic rule for order is about human control.
And the need to sort one righteous god from the mix of Pagan possibility is clearly stated in Commandment Number I [Exodus 20:3] brought down by Moses from the smoking mountain. So the story of God’s people is a very long saga that wanders on and on listening always for that still small voice. The stories in the holy books are a journey made of many infinitesimal human glimpses of a God, way larger than any one person’s imagination.
(Continues Tuesday, January 24)