Easter Sneak Peak–Soon to be published by UnCollected Press: And the Fires We Talked About

And The Fires We Talked About Cover ArtEaster Sunday Afternoon

HE WAS STOOPED OVER AND ABOUT five-foot-five on a freeway entrance on I-5 northbound, with two good-sized paper grocery bags. Bundled up as he was, you could not discern by a scraggly grey-streaked beard; could have easily been fifty or older, but, stocking-capped, it was hard to tell.

“Oh thanks, oh thanks,”He said.

“I need a seven-mile ride!” He said.

Clear blue sky met us both and the twenty-year-old Ford picked up to freeway speed, and he was settling in with his bags at his feet. There were four, quart bottles of Rainer Ale.

“Warming up eh?” He said.

“Well yes, and its Easter,” I say, and I told him I’d just been to church, told him the Pastor preached the Road to Emmaus, and…

“Luke 24!” He said.

“They were walking with Jesus!” He said.

“Didn’t know it was Him!” He said.

I thought of stumbling over some point this Pastor had made, then I stopped. He knew scripture; I listened.

“Didn’t know, until they broke bread with him, Ha!” He said, slapping his knee.

“Got me a bridge up here I like!” He said, almost growling.

“Stays nice and dry, I can have a little fire, and nobody sees the smoke.”  He said.

“I stopped being able to live inside about fifteen years ago,” He said.

“Don’t know why, I can’t live inside. I do pretty good. I worry in the winter that my feet will freeze.”  He said.

“I do pretty good though, see my way around, find places like this bridge,” He said.

“Haven’t been rolled in two years,” He said.

“I can’t live inside.”  He said.

“Wrap my feet with paper on winter nights.” He said.

“I’m afraid in the winter my feet might freeze,” He repeated.

“My feet froze seven years ago, lost one toe.” He said.

“But it’s getting warm now.”  He said.

“I do pretty good.” He said.

When we arrived at the bridge, I got off onto the freeway shoulder with my Ford, and we talked for a while. My heart burned. I remembered I’d just bought a box of oranges. I got out and retrieved a dozen to a plastic bag from the trunk, I’d just done laundry and there were wool socks on top of the laundry basket, I put those in with the oranges and I found a twenty and gave him that too.

“He is risen!” I said.

“He is risen indeed!” He said, then vanished down under a roadbed bridge home.

 

 

 


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And the Fires We Talked About–Copyright © 2020 by James Ross Kelly

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The light would scatter and travel in all directions through the darkness–Thomas Merton

JCFRMSHIn the cool darkness of the spring night the priest and his ministers gather outside the door of the empty Church. The “new fire,” struck from flint, is enkindled and blessed. From this new fire the Paschal Candle will be lit. The marvelous Exsultet will then be sung, proclaiming the full meaning of the Easter mystery. Flame will be taken from the great candle, and multiplied throughout the building in all the different hanging lamps, and on the altar candles. As Mass is being prepared, “prophecies” will be chanted from various books of the Old Testament, showing how the types and figures hidden in the obscurity of the Old Law, have been brought to light in the glory of the resurrection. Each prophecy kindles a mystical light in the listening Church. This is a feast of light, a feast of life, celebrating not merely a past event but the present existential reality of the redemptive fact by which Christ communicates His life to us and unites us to Himself in one spirit.

Animate and inanimate creation join with the Church in her feast. Not only men are present to solemnize the mystery, but angelic spirits join with them in the liturgical celebration. The texts that are chanted, the prayers and blessings, are the richest in the liturgical year. They are a compendium of theology—theology not merely studied, not merely meditated, but lived. Through the medium of the liturgy, the Word Himself, uncreated Truth, enters into our spirits and becomes our theology. The first voice that speaks in the silent night is the cold flint. Out of the flint springs fire. The fire, making no sound, is the most eloquent preacher on this night that calls for no other sermon than liturgical action and mystery. That spark should spring from cold rock, reminds us that the strength, the life of God, is always deeply buried in the substance

The light that leaps out of darkness, the fire that comes from stone, symbolizes Christ’s conquest of death. He, Who is the source of all life, could never remain in death, could not see corruption. Death is not a reality, but the absence of a reality. And in Him there is nothing unreal. The fire that springs from the stone speaks, then, of His reality springing from the alienated coldness of our dead hearts, of our souls that have forgotten themselves, that have been exiled from themselves and from their God—and have lost their way in death. But there is nothing lost that God cannot find again. Nothing dead that cannot live again in the presence of His Spirit. No heart so dark, so hopeless, that it cannot be enlightened and brought back to itself, warmed back to the life of charity.  

In the old days, on Easter night, the Russian peasants used to carry the blest fire home from Church. The light would scatter and travel in all directions through the darkness, and the desolation of the night would be pierced and dispelled as lamps came on in the windows of the farmhouses one by one. Even so the glory of God sleeps everywhere, ready to blaze out unexpectedly in created things. Even so His peace and His order lie hidden in the world, even the world of today, ready to reestablish themselves in His way, in His own good time: but never without the instrumentality of free options made by free men.

Merton, Thomas (1999-11-29). The New Man (Kindle Locations 2190-2215). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.