[Rector]

Intoning reality

 

Somehow she looked quite different. She now wore the social paint of party-going, still beautiful, but not the same; not as real. She was certainly the life of the party, to be sure, but not substantial. I felt strange, as though I no longer knew her, and maybe I didn't.

We were celebrating the conclusion of another season of amateur theater, with amateur underline, of course. At rehearsals, some weeks before, she had broken down and cried. Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" touches on the movement of time and our menial grip on it. All passes before us, a moment before oblivion. Images without substance. So she cried, touched by the sense of drifting time. Great big tears flowing down her cheeks, streaming out. We felt no embarrassment, only envy. Oh! to feel like that, to know the truth. You see, in theater you must feel your part, and she was feeling it. You must know why you are saying the words. Not so much what you are saying, but what they are saying and why. She was beautiful then. Maybe it was her most beautiful moment; that time when she would be no more beautiful. A moment she could only leave, rather than come to.

There are times when the theater of life intones reality. It's not common, but it does occur. I used to lay back in my sailing-dingy as I worked my way up the Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney, Australia, and I would look up at the sheer sandstone cliffs above. Stained, clinging, jutting, intrusions into the tranquility that was mine. They intoned something beyond me, something greater than the moment I then possessed. They shouted my smallness. I had climbed them, defeated them. Yet their substance remained, while mine was barely on loan. Even in the human touch I have felt that something more - I touch her not, but touch my God.

We tramp the boards of life, strutting our little piece. Every now and then we sense something beyond the menial - a wisp of eternity. I remember Malcolm Muggeridge saying this once. He actually felt himself floating out of life and into the presence of God. A wavering in time, if you like. At that time he was an old bloke waiting to move on, and sometimes he felt he was, moving on that is. So around us there is deafening noise, but once or twice in a lifetime you can hear a pin drop, for "God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms."