"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Monday, May 03, 2004
This week's Blogger Idol topic is "Secrets."
rel-ic Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English relik, from Old French relique, from Medieval Latin reliquia, from Late Latin reliquiae, plural, remains of a martyr, from Latin, remains, from relinquere to leave behind -- more at RELINQUISH
1 a : an object esteemed and venerated because of association with a saint or martyr b : SOUVENIR, MEMENTO
2 : something that can leave you speechless in awe just because you are in its presence.
Somebody had told me ahead of time how to find it, and none of the other people on the bus had a clue.
We pulled up to the cathedral at Chartres, France in the early afternoon on a bright spring day. The courtyard was packed with groups of tourists wandering to and fro, following people with funny hats and sometimes umbrellas. We had our own guide, who had his own funny hat, and he took us on our own meander around the courtyard and the cathedral.
"Notice the statuary on the cathedral," he said. "The faces are more lifelike here than anywhere else in France, because the sculptors used the townspeople here as models." They really did look more lifelike, and before we would leave I would see a lot of faces that bore some striking resemblance to their ancestors who posed as saints.
"The steeples are different heights, because one was built far later than the other one and the architectural styles had changed." Well that was obvious. We went inside. "Here you can see the full view of the stained glass windows featuring the unique Chartres blue, a color that has never been duplicated. During the second world war, these windows were removed and hidden in the catacombs to keep them safe from bombing..."
The guide and my group wandered off, ostensibly to have a look at the catacombs. I hung back. I had more important things to do, secret things.
As I had been instructed, I made my way into a little used area off of the beaten track tucked into the left side of the vast space inside the cathedral. As I had been told, there was an old man sitting there on a chair beside an unmarked door.
I walked up to him, heart in my throat.
"Ou est le tresor?" Where is the treasure?
"Par cette porte et levez les escaliers." Through this door and up the stairs.
I opened the door and climbed a narrow wooden staircase, the only way you could go. At the top, one room off to the right, and I entered.
The walls of the room were covered with glass cases. I went through them one by one. Here was a uniform worn by Charlemagne. Here was another from Napoleon. And more, and more. But none of this was what I was seeking.
Then, I saw it. Way up above the rest of the cases, up near the ceiling out of my normal field of vision, was a glass case.
Inside the case was a piece of cloth, dirty and old. Ancient.
The veil of the Virgin Mary.
I had been told it was the veil she wore at the crucifixion. I have since seen where it has been referred to as the veil she wore when Jesus was born.
Whichever, it was supposed to be hers.
I stood there in complete awe.
It was one of those moments where you feel breathless and tingly all over, like icewater is being poured down your back a drop at a time. You hardly want to breathe. Your eyes won't even blink.
I just stood there and stared. Compared to everything else in the room, it was unspeakably plain. No ornamentation at all, just a dirty cloth. I think that that, more than anything, convinced me that it was real.
I knew that this was a moment that I would carry to my grave with me.
Now, I know that there would be a good possibility that I was really just looking at an old dirty cloth that had never been within a hundred miles of Mary. But hundreds of thousands believed that it was.
And so did I.
So now you know the secret. If you are ever in Chartres Cathedral, take off from your tour group. Walk into the left vestibule, and look for a guy in a chair next to a door.
And ask him, "Ou est le tresor?"
We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.