an image diary

"And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be? ... You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream! If that there King was to wake you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle!"

"Hush! You'll be waking him, I'm afraid, if you make so much noise."

"Well it's no use your talking about waking him when you're only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you're not real."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

. . .


We became nondenominational. In a family whose living members have always been nonpracticing Catholics. My mother plucked my brother and me from our river picnic Sundays and Easter-only (and sometimes funeral) church pews to immerse us into the daily intensity of Pastor "Brother Bill" Thompson's Grace Church Ministries. I was nine when my father discovered what was happening, fourteen when my parents divorced and I broke free.


Nondenominational, nameless, without an organizational authority or theological designation or doctrinal affiliation, necessarily. Nondenominational autonomy is a freedom extended to anyone who wanders in the door, so that at least formally speaking, conversion isn't an issue. If you're already any kind of Christian, even the non-believing kind, you can hang around the potlucks and river baptisms, send your kids to play with the other kids at Sunday school, visit the occasional tent revival and Bible study, sit at the back of prayer meetings, and never have to see yourself mark a formal conversion in ritual, on paper, in name, or in sacramental ceremony.

You don't even have to understand any of those things, and it might be better for you if you don't.

Part of what characterizes nondenominational church teaching (the ones I "belonged" to, anyway) is that the mark of your salvation cannot be marked. It is invisible, insensible, to all but God. The only clue you have to its presence is your own faith, or lack of it, which is a thing so interior and so fully spiritual, no outward sign or work can be made of it, by you, authentically. Spirit has a way of manifesting itself spontaneously and transiently, as it wills, so that religious formalities and symbols are useless. In those years I met plenty of prophets and healers and tongues-speakers, but I never once saw a crucifix, and I encountered the occasional cross or fish only when a visiting group handed out bumper-stickers or t-shirts. Even then, we were warned to remember: no good can come of the making or keeping of "graven" images. The temptations away from faith through image are perilous and deep, and not for the newly born.


from The Annunciation Notebook, "Letters to JM":
"Catholics speak of the rosary as a 'simple' prayer, which is baffling to those who have never prayed the rosary. Compared to the Liturgy of the Hours, I suppose the rosary can be understood as simple prayer, but I think that comparison entails some knowledge of the Divine Office and of the rosary’s derivation and traditional importance. Without understanding the rosary as a devotional prayer for the laity—which itself assumes an understanding of the prayer lives of clergy and religious—and without committing to the essential memory work its recitation requires (familiarity with certain Gospel 'mysteries,' the prayers and their order), the rosary is daunting.

So. I’m not clear on what it means to 'pray' the rosary. As a kid I was taught to understand a good prayer as having a single breath and intention: 'Lord, I’m confessing I’m going to have a great day.' This, I was told, is prayer boiled down to its plainest, most powerful form. It expresses full confidence in God’s goodness, trust in the power of confession, and absolute faith that God has heard me and will answer. No other prayer is necessary, and the prayer itself cannot be repeated or reiterated, for once it is expressed, it is self-sustaining.

Only doubt in God and reliance on ritual would compel the supplicant to confess again what she’s already confessed she believes to be true, and that doubt, small as it might be, opens the door to temptation, both yours and God’s, which might very well give God reason enough to turn your prayer on its head. I doubt this version of prayer is theologically sound--it seemed suspect to me even as a kid--but in comparison, at least in terms of single-minded purposefulness, the rosary is a tangle."

"and what is the use of a book...without pictures or conversations?"

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