Wednesday, November 4, 2015

ignis fatuus

Those—dying then,
knew where they went—
They went to God’s Right Hand—
That hand is amputated now
And God cannot be found—

The abdication of Believe
makes the Behavior small—
Better an ignis fatuus
Than no illume at all —
               -Emily Dickinson

My faith is an ignis fatuus. Not the delusional Fool’s Fire of social media which so many chase only to find themselves straying, lost and lonely, through vast cyberland swamps. Yet it is indeed a strange effulgence which caught my eye long ago and leads me to wander from the broad, firm pathway of convention. My will-o’-the-wisp calls me deeper and deeper into the narrow darkness of unknowing, into the darkness of unreached lands. Following the luminescence only to see it evaporate before my eyes, I look away and there it is glimmering a little farther into the nebulous, into that ancient mystery.

Shall I continue to follow this ‘Corpo Santo’? How can I turn back?

I may be a fool for chasing this fire, but I am not alone. I find comfort and strength to continue in the great cloud of witnesses who precede me in pursuit of the Elusive. The ancient writer of Hebrews confirms our “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” The ancients are commended for their faith but to the world it is nothing more than chasing after St. Elmo’s Fire. Yet, our primal witness, after defeating death, hell, and the grave, declared, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.”

Moving on to more contemporary witnesses, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from a Nazi prison, “The real danger consist in wandering without belief, in endless deliberation without action, and in not wanting to dare to do anything.” I like how Morris West framed his faith, “I have accepted long ago that a confession of faith is a confession of not knowing… Prove it, I cannot. Deserve it, I do not. If my trust is proved a folly, then so be it.”

So, I foolishly follow the light that “shines in the darkness yet the darkness did not overcome it.” I live my life as “a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him.”

Credo ut intelligam – I believe in order that I may understand.
               -St. Anselm 1033-1109

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