The divine smile

A meditation on Psalm 22 and Matthew 27:45-46

It was dim in the chapel. Some light came through the stained glass window depicting one or another well known story. It smelled musty, though the walls where mostly dry. The heavy oak door was open allowing in the smells of summer, some sunlight and a little bit of hay that had drifted in with the breeze. Looking through the door out of the chapel, long green grass was growing around the gravestones of the cemetery. Cows and a bull contentedly chewed their cud to pass the time. During a week day it was a perfect place to contemplate alone or in silence with company. But that day, even though it was not Sunday, it wasn’t quiet. Before the altar, on the two shallow steps there was a broken man.

His clothes where dirty and stunk of body, blood and spilled drink, though he was not drunk. Big drops of that unwanted, unmanly saline liquid fell from his chin. He wept and wept and could not stop weeping. His heart felt like melting wax within his chest. Half lying, half kneeling on the cold stone, with his hair matted against his face, eyes swollen, ruddy, he muttered and cried a forgotten prayer. Then loudly he shouted “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

He had not slept the night before so it was tiredness that finally brought his cries to silence. First it moved from wails to sobs, then to a whimper, then to nothing. His head had come to rest on a bible, which lay open below his face. The pages marked with colours of all kind. Meticulous notes where scribbled in the margins. The writing was that of a man used to using a pen. This ones fingers where soft and unused for rough work so the book could have been his.

His sleep was not peaceful. He did not move but for some shudders. His muscles contracted quickly as if he was defending himself, or falling and then landing painfully. He awoke not long after. A warm, moist sensation moved across his face. As he opened his eyes he saw the big soft tongue of a donkey lick his tears and move his hair out of his face. It stooped closer, nudged his head off the book with the soft warm nose and slowly exhaled with a quiet whinny we mostly associate with horses. “I haven’t forsaken you, silly.” And with that the donkey turned away from the man on the floor, and slowly trotted out the door. On the altar lay a meal and behind it sat a friend.

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3 Responses to The divine smile

  1. Phil C says:

    I like this very much. I like that it says very little about the man’s situation. If anything, I want even less clarity – his “eli eli”, and the thought that accompanies the donkey – “I haven’t forsaken you, silly” – are clearly there to convey a message. But that message is warm and positive, and left me feeling glad.

  2. Heidi says:

    Good. It reminds me of a couple different countryside churches we visited when went to your parents’ house.

  3. Lauri Moyle says:

    Thanks Guys.

    Heidi, last week we where at my parents house and went to a church near their house for sunday service. We read the Matthew passage… And during the serivce I “saw” a man laying in the floor crying and some animal licking him. I could not let go of the image. Was thinking of a donkey, cow, hourse and others… But ended up choosing a Donkey… At Christmas a Gypsie who goes to this church regularly brought his Donkey to the church nativity. What a funny animal A Donkey is! He ate some of the decorations… He feasted with us.

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