Tuesday, February 03, 2009

the present substance of what is yet to come

One thing that I've noticed in excellent fiction but especially in life is that the little, hidden things sometimes turn out to be the most significant. They were there all the time, but reveal their crucial nature in the final scenes. Gandalf talks about that a bit in Lord of the Rings -- that the little hobbits in their Shire have some qualities, homely and small as they are, that affect the course of kingdoms. Chesterton talks about it too -- how in Judea in the Roman Empire, while so many important wars and political things were taking place, a little child was born in a stable.

I think of the Pope's Spe Salvi:

(God)has already communicated to us the “substance” of things to come, and thus the expectation of God acquires a new certainty.....

It is the expectation of things to come from the perspective of a present that is already given.

Somewhere in my closet I have a picture of Aidan a few months after his transplant. He was maybe nine months old but hardly even using his hands yet because he was still so weak. This dragon on the left was a favorite toy of his and we would watch him struggle mightily with the recalcitrant creature. Sometimes the dragon would overwhelm him and land on his face in spite of his best efforts. At other times, he would prevail, his small unaccustomed hands in a grapple hold around the serpent's throat, pushing it away.

We thought then that his struggles were a sort of icon, especially since his middle name is Michael and in light of his "battle scars" all over his body from all the surgeries, all the marks of what he had gone through. His struggles with the stuffed dragon were charming and amusing, but they were also awe-inspiring for those very reasons.

Chesterton said of that event in the cave in Bethlehem:

the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle.
This wounded child of ours who was willing to heroically engage in battle to subdue a soft toy was greater than the machines that supported his life, greater than his physical body: indispensable, invaluable, eternal, whatever sickness or injury befell him.

There are so many hidden struggles going on, so many victories already won but yet to show their ramifications; so many things that seem slight and trivial but are not; so many puzzling sorrows; someday they will be made clear. So many things that I only see from the knotted side right now will eventually show themselves in their true colors and patterns. The story's loose ends will come together.


lissla lissar said...

"We do not understand because we are small creatures. You and I. All of us. Very small. To hide in His arms, that is the best thing we ever do."
-Father Elijah, Michael O'Brien

The smallness comment also reminds me (rabbit trailing) of St. Therese, and of Julian of Norwich's vision of creation. "I saw a little thing, no bigger than a hazelnut..."

Chari said...

what a sweet Aidan memory, :)