‘It was a brief moment of unity in time.’
Hitchhiking from Bucharest, I was dropped off outside a very old and run-down Romanian Orthodox church, in the country’s far west. Its unkempt grounds hosted a large tree which would provide shade from the midday sun, and a chance for a nap.
But no sooner had I laid down in the overgrown grass when I began to feel cold. Suspecting a sudden change of weather, I opened my eyes only to see an old, frail woman, clad completely in black, peering down at me, her diminutive frame blocking the sun’s warmth. I quietly said ‘hello’ and, not wanting to alarm her, slowly got to my feet.
A short silence followed, after which I pointed to the church, signalling my appreciation, especially of its faded frescoes and their depictions of Jesus’ healing message. This delighted her so much that she cupped my face in her hands, pulled it down to her level, and kissed me tenderly on the forehead. With such a benediction came a smile full of grandmotherly love. She then patted my cheeks gently before slowly walking off.
It was a brief moment of unity in time, yet one of eternity. Though few words were spoken we really had no need of them, having come to, as Isaac Penington had it, a ‘knowledge of things beyond what words can utter’.
There are those today who believe, to quote the philosopher Don Cupitt, that ‘only within and by means of language [are] the world and humanity constituted as formed and intelligible realities.’ But what passed between my Romanian friend and I conformed to Penington’s wisdom. The love we shared was not incidental; all such moments are apocalyptic (unveiling) and prophetic. By that I mean that they are all concerned with discovery and nurture, at least for those who want to dwell happily in that which is Pure.
Our meeting that day was a testament to the reality that ‘meaning’ can, and often does, go further and deeper than any form of language. Indeed, the woman’s simple gesture taught me that love and its peace, justice and compassion – its joyousness – can be spread anywhere from the silence of our hearts. I learned then that everybody can incarnate the meaning of those ancient, silent frescoes – the harmonising sovereignty of Spirit-Consciousness, the Way of Love, the kingdom of God. It is a Love to be shared with as many people as possible during our lifetimes.
‘Now love begets love, its own nature and image,’ said George Fox, ‘and when mercy and trust do meet, what joy there is!’
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