Reflections on Faith on All-Soul’s Day

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I have two icons of St. Mary holding baby Jesus that are in the cabinet next to where I am sitting here in the living room. The icons are both gifts from our priest, Father Ian Elliott Davies at St. Thomas the Apostle, Hollywood. In both, Mary is looking right at me, as if she is watching me here typing, and in each she holds her baby close, her check pressed against the softness of Jesus’s cheek. I am reminded of my beloved Sarah with her baby Nico and how she might easily hold him in this very same way; or, of me, at another time in my life, as I cradled my own three baby daughters. How sweet that feeling!

Father Davies has told me that icons are unique because we are not meant only to gaze at them, but to also recognize that the sainted person who is depicted is looking back at us. And that is exactly how these two icons feel to me: as if Mary is sitting not far away, looking gently in my direction as she comforts her child. And that proximity of soft repose and solace reaches me and helps me to breathe deeper and with more calmness. One could argue that this is all superstition and voodoo and if I hold to these beliefs, I am no different from someone who believes that a witch’s spell can bring good luck or one’s moon being in retrograde is the cause of any current personal woes. And my answer would be, “touché.”

Nothing sounds any stranger than the ritual of Holy Communion in the Christian religion which revisits the Last Supper, where Jesus offers up bread and wine to his apostles. From Rite One in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer the priest says, “Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Followed by, “Drink ye all of this; for this is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins. Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.” I could hardly cast aspersions on other people’s beliefs if I am going to embrace these. Particularly if I also believe in “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.” I mean this is pretty odd stuff if you look at it from a logical mind. Body, blood, angels, not to mention the biggies: Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God, the Father. And I’m not even going to bring up the Dark Side, which is also a part of this belief system. Oh my.

So, of course, this begs the question: how can I believe in these things? Why have I allowed these “myths” to infiltrate my logical mind and take me over? Why am I not smart enough to recognize how utterly preposterous this all is and do the right thing: believe in nothing that is not verifiable by what can be seen and experienced in this world?

And I would say, “I can understand your point. However, I happen to believe in ‘things seen and unseen.’” Love, for example, is not something one can see, but I know absolutely that it exists; just as faith and hope are concepts that only exist in the mind, but which can only be “seen” through action. I would also contend that because my faith requires such a “leap,” I believe it is incumbent on me to respect other people’s beliefs and/or non-beliefs. While I think that speaking of one’s faith can be a positive thing, I do not believe that demanding others to discard their time-honored traditions is within my purview, even if that tradition consists of believing in Nothing.

So, yes, I am personally comforted by Mother Mary’s presence.

As John Lennon and Paul McCartney so eloquently wrote:

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

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