10 February 2009

She said you can't serve two masters, I said I serve three

Pure, Pulaski, VA

--Flannery O'Connor, from "Why Do the Heathen Rage?"

Often she came behind him and found some strange underlined passage in a book he had left lying somewhere and she would puzzle over it for days. One passage she found in a book he had left lying on the upstairs-bathroom floor stayed with her ominously.

Love should be full of anger, it began, and she thought, well mine is. She was furious all the time. It went on, Since you have already spurned my request, perhaps you will listen to admonishment. What business have you in your father's house, O you effeminate soldier? Where are your ramparts and trenches, where is the winter spent at the front lines? Listen! the battle trumpet blares from heaven and see how our General marches fully armed, coming amid the clouds to conquer the whole world. Out of the mouth of our King emerges a double-edged sword that cuts down everything in the way. Arising finally from your nap, do you come to the battlefield! Abandon the shade and seek the sun.

She turned back in the book to see what she was reading. It was a letter from St. Jerome to Heliodorus, scolding him for having abandoned the desert. A footnote said that Heliodorus was one of the famous group that had centered around Jerome at Aquileia in 370. He had accompanied Jerome to the Near East with the intention of cultivating a hermetic life. They had seperated when Heliodorus continued on to Jerusalem. Eventually he returned to Italy, and in later years he became a distinguished churchman as the bishop of Altinum.

This was the kind of thing he read--something that made no sense for now. Then it came to her, with an unpleasant little jolt, that the General with the sword in his mouth, marching to do violence, was Jesus.

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