On the night of the election, November 8, I went to bed thinking of Golgotha. I saw the rough grain of wood — a machine for dying.
After an evening of screens, I had walked away from the television and the computer, turned off the phone, and looked elsewhere. It is the Ignatian way, of course, to imagine the flesh and blood of holy things, but that night it took no recollection, no “composition of place”– I was present at a death.
I was not alone in feeling this way. Atheist friends spoke in metaphors of abandonment — I could sense what they meant. Consolation is never cheap, so our experiences converged to a degree.
A couple of weeks later, I found myself praying about the morning of the resurrection. I do believe in a life beyond this one — an omniscient God loses nothing — but in that prayer the sense of departure was profound. The resurrection left me gazing down a road that someone else had travelled. Hope and grief were not separable.
I fear being melodramatic in my choice of examples, but in this very occasional blog a recurrent theme has been adoration — a condition that requires few words and largely escapes our powers to describe it. It is an act of reverence linked to memory, to the senses, and to desire.
Our consciousness does not really work without forms or signification. In adoration, the forms tend to be simplified. I have had prayers in which I did no more than consider the grain of wood at the bottom of the cross — draw my hand across it.
The phrase “I prayed” or “I prayed about…” seems inadequate to me. I have often thought of saying “we” prayed, as it is a state of communion, but the resulting sentences sound a little precious. Even the active verb “pray” is a problem. I am not doing something — I am brought into a presence. It is a desired condition but not a determined act.
For example, I can be conscious of adoration as I go about my work — a sense of focus and intimacy beneath or in the midst of practical jobs. I find that from time to time, something inexplicable just asserts itself. I can be out walking or sizing up produce in a supermarket or prating at my students and joy occurs.
One of the harder paradoxes is that adoration occurs wherever it wants to — it sets itself up in messy lives. I have had some disasters in my own life. I can only imagine that adoration is a perpetually renewed beginning.
Now and again I meet a prayerful person who has spent such a long time near to goodness, that they are changed. They become luminously kind. It is as if acts of generosity, or indeed justice, begin in a sense of light and return to it. Or it may be the other way round that an act of justice is always larger than we intend — when we choose it, we are given an opening to adoration. If I am right, the question needs no resolution: what we do and what we adore should be the same. For me, it remains a very distant ambition.