My father always said when someone dies the body is just a suit of old cloths the spirit doesn’t want anymore. But there we were, half killing ourselves to find a grave, and as cautious as we could be about where we put our feet. We worked a good while at putting things to rights.
…I wanted my father to see it, but I knew I’d have to startle him out of his prayer, and I wanted to do it the best way, so I took his hand and kissed it. And then I said, “Look at the moon.” …My father said, “I would never have thought this place could be beautiful. I’m glad to know that.”
From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.
I’m trying to tell you things I might never have told you if I had brought you up myself, father and son, in the usual companionable way. When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what really matters. There are so many things you would never think to tell anyone. And I believe they may be the things that mean the most to you, and that even your own child would have to know in order to know you well at all.
From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (102).
He was giving me the picture of a man snarled in a tangle, helpless to get free.
I knew that he didn’t have the strength to get free. His life was driven by a kind of flywheel. He had submitted to it and accepted it. It was turning fast. To slow down or stop it and come to a place that was moving with the motion only of time and loss and slow grief was more, that day, than he could imagine.
I knew too that it was more than he could bear. He was in a way given over to machines, but he is not a machine himself. Right then, he could not bear the thought of coming back to stand even for a few hours by his dead father in the emptiness he once filled. He said he would come as soon as he could.
…And then there was the funeral. The sixth of May. Eleven o’clock in the morning. Not twenty minutes beforehand, Mattie came. He was standing by the coffin, flustered and shaken, everybody looking at him, before unrecognized him and could believe it was him. He had flown to Cincinnati, rented a car, dashed down the interstate, and made it barely in time. And he had to hurry back one breath after the preacher said the final amen. I had to think of all that it had cost, of all the engines that had run, just to give one man a few minutes of ordinary grief at his dad’s funeral, but I was completely glad to see him.”
From Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (164-165).
It is obvious that Jesus, during the supper, was completely preoccupied with the Father. When, at an early age, he had dedicated his life to “the things of my Father,” that dedication became the foundation of everything he did. This zeal for God was now about to consume him, and the flame of it became more intense as the hour drew near: Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come that he should depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the extreme. (John 13:1) Jesus, knowing “that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God” (John 13:3), could not stop speaking of the Father. This word is heard from his lips twenty-one times in John 14, ten times in John 15, twelve times in John 16, and, always in direct address, six times in John 17.
From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.
There is the idea of God in the very notion that there were gods before the gods. There is an idea of greater simplicity in all the allusions to that more ancient order. The suggestion is supported by the process of propagation we see in historic times. Gods and demigods and heroes breed like herrings before our very eyes, and suggest of themselves that the family may have had one founder; mythology grows more and more complicated, and the very complication suggests that at the beginning it was more simple.
…Even on the external evidence, of the sort called scientific, there is therefore a very good case for the suggestion that man began with monotheism before it developed or degenerated into polytheism. But I am concerned rather with an internal than an external truth; and, as I have already said, the internal truth is almost indescribable. We have to speak of something of which it is the whole point that people did not speak of it; we have not merely to translate from a strange tongue or speech, but from a strange silence. I suspect an immense implication behind all polytheism and paganism. I suspect we have only a hint of it here and there in these savage creeds or Greek origins. It is not exactly what we mean by the presence of God; in a sense it might more truly be called the absence of God. But absence does not mean nonexistence; and a man drinking the toast of absent friends does not mean that from his life all friendship is absent. It is a void but it is not a negation; it is something as positive as an empty chair.
…But there is in a very real sense the presence of the absence of God. We feel it in the unfathomable sadness of pagan poetry; for I doubt if there was ever in all the marvellous manhood of antiquity a man who was happy as St. Francis was happy. We feel it in the legend of a Golden Age and again in the vague implication that the gods themselves are ultimately related to something else, even when that Unknown God has faded into a Fate. Above all we feel it in those immortal moments when the pagan literature seems to return to a more innocent antiquity and speak with a more direct voice, so that no word is worthy of it except our own monotheistic monosyllable. We cannot say anything but ‘God’ in a sentence like that of Socrates bidding farewell to his judges: ‘I go to die and you remain to live; and God alone knows which of us goes the better way.’ We can use no other word even for the best moments of Marcus Aurelius: ‘Can they say dear city of Cecrops, and canst thou not say dear city of God?’ We can use no other word in that mighty line in which Virgil spoke to all who suffer with the veritable cry of a Christian before Christ: ‘O you that have borne things more terrible, to this also God shall give an end.’
…For them what was truly divine was very distant, so distant that they dismissed it more and more from their minds. It had less and less to do with the mere mythology of which I shall write later. Yet even in this there was a sort of tacit admission of its intangible purity, when we consider what most of the mythology is like. As the Jews would not degrade it by images, so the Greeks did not degrade it even by imaginations. When the gods were more and more remembered only by pranks and profligacies, it was relatively a movement of reverence. It was an act of piety to forget God.
…There is such a thing as the momentary power to remember that we forget. And the most ignorant of humanity know by the very look of earth that they have forgotten heaven. But it remains true that even for these men there were moments, like the memories of childhood, when they heard themselves talking with a simpler language; there were moments when the Roman, like Virgil in the line already quoted, cut his way with a sword-stroke of song out of the tangle of the mythologies; the motley mob of gods and goddesses sank suddenly out of sight and the Sky-Father was alone in the sky.
From The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton.
From G. K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man:
We can say that the family is the unit of the state; that it is the cell that makes up the formation. Round the family do indeed gather the sanctities that separate men from ants and bees. Decency is the curtain of that tent; liberty is the wall of that city; property is but the family farm; honour is but the family flag.
If we are not of those who begin by invoking a divine Trinity, we must none the less invoke a human Trinity; and see that triangle repeated everywhere in the pattern of the world. For the highest event in history, to which all history looks forward and leads up, is only something that is at once the reversal and the renewal of that triangle. …The old Trinity was of father and mother and child and is called the human family. The new is of child and mother and father and has the name of the Holy Family. It is in no way altered except in being entirely reversed; just as the world which is transformed was not in the least different, except in being turned.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (Chapter 4, “The Ethics of Elfland”):
Tradition means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. …Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.