Get Real

"Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those who have no imagination?" (from the epilogue scene of St. Joan by G.B. Shaw)

More and more persons who celebrate Easter are taking time to experience the Stations of the Cross--a tradition some scholars believe was started by the first Christians in the years after Jesus' death--that is largely associated with the Roman Catholic,Orthodox Christian, and Episcopalian traditions. It is a good thing for all who believe in the power of love to recall that such power is realized only by actually living it.

It is a walking devotion with 14 stops, or stations, at which the pilgrim or journey maker pauses to recall a phase of Jesus' dying as recalled in the Bible or from tradition. From his condemnation to death, carrying his cross, falling, meeting his mother, meeting the women of Jerusalem, being stripped and nailed, dying, and being taken down and being entombed, the stations are inescapably about physical experience. This is as it should be. Too often Jesus is plastic-wrapped onto a Styrofoam tray like every other blood sacrifice in the grocery store and sold like a commodity. We hose off the blood and crud and find ourselves with a socially acceptable ornament.

We need those stations to recall, as Jesus scholar Marcus Borg has pointed out over and over again, that Jesus the political rebel, the teacher, the human being of integrity, the lover of souls, saw his life in the Spirit to its logical earthly conclusion. Jesus taught all who could see or hear or recognize the Truth that life in the Spirit is governed by the rule of love. Nothing else matters. It was in a way simply a matter of perspective, and this meant that Jesus was simply a threat to all the domination systems that imprisoned all people into thinking they were insignificant--not that they were magnificent in heart and spirit. He died out of love for and commitment to the Truth. His death was gruesome.

With this in mind, Margery Williams's The Velveteen Rabbit remains the only book with a bunny on it worth buying for any child of any age as we approach Easter. This book captures the mystery of the Spirit as it moves through physical reality. Few adults get through this story without crying. Children often seem less moved, perhaps because they are closer to the Source of the great love than we are. Perhaps we can be optimistic and say the world of complete and selfless love is not strange to all children yet. Perhaps those who weep do so because they long for that love.

Williams's story is set in an Edwardian nursery. A rabbit the quality of a carnival prize occupies a lowly place among the state-of-the-art and formerly state-of-the-art toys and gizmos of the Boy's room. Quite by happenstance, he becomes the Boy's bedtime cuddle buddy and then his companion in all things. Often he is neglected, left outdoors, trampled, forgotten.

The Boy, in his boyish way, does not recognize the central role this toy plays in his day-to-day living. Equally, the Boy doesn't realize the transformative power of his attention and affection--even if it is self-centered or self-serving in a naive way--on the little bunny. The bunny is becoming Real--he is realizing his soul.

The domination system of the nursery can't hold him down. The bunny is becoming. However, his transformation is not complete until he accompanies the Boy through a long illness and becomes infected with the disease. The bunny, like everything else in the nursery with which the child had had contact during his illness, will be burned.

He is burned. The Velveteen Rabbit as the Boy knew him is no more. All that remains is what is Real. The Spirit survives the fire and, in the world of the story, manifests itself as a living bunny rabbit.

The survival of Spirit is just a detail of the story, though. Love requires sacrifice, and sacrifice it will have. So be it. The focus of this tale is really on the quality of the love, the casual disregard of the source of this love, and the burning of the bunny without care or conscience. There's no looking back. No, "I should have been more thoughtful." No recollection, of what the bunny endured outside and alone on damp nights. Love takes in and takes on the ugly and unpleasant and painful. The lover of a soul doesn't look back, either. Looking forward, though, you know the feeling. Moving forward, you bring it with you. You know there is no greater strength, no greater beauty.

Comments

  1. I came to your blog through Blogmad, and for once was absolutely thrilled with what I found. This post truly moved me.

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  2. This is really an interesting post...and really informative too...got to know lot from here...just loved reading through it...and well i've also posted a few things on Easter over at my blog on Easter Wishes and Greetings so drop by sometime and check out all that i've posted there!!!

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  3. wow... i will be rereading the velveteen rabbit this week... great post.

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  4. You described The Velveteen Rabbit so well that I got tears in my eyes just from the description!

    Now, I must read it.

    Once I get control of myself.

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  5. Thanks for all your kind comments. I love this book. I particularly like the version illustrated by Allen Atkinson. He was one of mom's Friendly's regulars.

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  6. The quote I cited on my blog has not only convicted me but made me want to read the book over and over again.

    http://www.servingbread.net

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