Today I walked into the Church of Our Lady and St. Benedict in the village of Ampleforth. On entering the church, I dipped my hand into the holy water font. It is a particularly beautiful one: about a foot tall, sitting on a pedestal, an angel kneeling down, holding out a large half shell in which is kept the holy water. I did it out of habit, only half thinking about it.
But my hand hit dry marble. The illusion created by the accumulated dirt and algae had tricked me.
… Oh. Right.
A friend of mine said recently that the emptiness felt on entering a church on Good Friday with the sanctuary lamp out strikes him to the very core. I felt the same, or similar, at the holy water font, when what should have been there, wasn't. What a remarkable sign of Jesus buried in the tomb.
Then I went in and prayed.
When I came out, I looked at the statue. (Without the water, it could hardly be called a font.) It struck me that this angel knelt there dutifully throughout the year, hold up the water that stands as a reminder of their Baptism to all who pass by. It is a joyful and wonderful task. But today, she also has a duty. She's there to trick me. I am so used to dipping my hand in that shell, and the shell itself looks very much like it actually has water in it. She kneels there inviting habit to take control so that…
…so that I might unwittingly find an empty shell, a dryness that pines like the desert for water, a desolation. She's there to put me ill at ease, uncomfortable. She's there to remind me of the incredible Mystery of Christ buried in the tomb. She did her job, and now the power of Easter will be even stronger to me, for that lack will be undone tonight!
|Easter Candle at Ampleforth|