Sunday, June 03 2018
More than a decade ago, a member of this parish gave me a copy of Books and Culture. It was in this bi-monthly publication that I first encountered the name of Michael O'Brien, the Canadian Roman Catholic novelist and icon painter, and his best known piece of fiction at that time, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse. I knew the reviewer and several other scholars who lauded the author's works. After reading Father Elijah, I was hooked.
The reason I mention this in this reflection is because there is a passage in the novel that makes a significant point with regard to the baptism of Noah Weinstein this morning, though O'Brien certainly did not have this intention in mind: “I think that it means that in every person's soul there is an icon of what he is meant to be. An image of Love is hidden there. Each soul is beloved beyond imagining. Each soul is beautiful in the eyes of God. Our sins and faults, and those committed against us, bury this original image. We can no longer see ourselves as we really are.” The assertion is made by Fr. Elijah to a dissolute, self-loathing man who fancies himself a realist; the remark penetrates his seemingly impenetrable shell; it functions as a catalyst for his eventual conversion.
This morning we are baptizing a very young child. This little chapter, really a preface, perhaps only a title page, is just the beginning for Noah Weinstein. As he grows into the full stature of Christ with the help of his family, most notably his parents and godparents, the holy material of his everyday life will be defined by the choices he makes. As C. S. Lewis notes in The Great Divorce, those choices, in their singular part in the drama of the universe, will shift the balance of the world. Though we may not know it, though we may not think about it this morning (especially if we attend the eight o'clock service), a baptism in a small church on the north shore of Long Island occupies a prominent place in the divine drama of salvation. As Pawel Tarnowski, the primary character in O'Brien's Sophia House, says, “[You and I] must live by the conviction that each human life—even the humblest—is of infinite worth.”
This is true even of a baby who has no grasp of what is to transpire at Saint John's. O'Brien puts it this way: “Every soul is an icon of Christ.” Gathered together, you and I transmit the message this morning that the life of Noah Weinstein is of paramount importance because he will make Christ manifest to others. This morning we sing “Open your ears, O faithful people.” Let our ears be so open to God's word that we will live out our promise to shepherd Noah on his journey, that he will know that God has come to him.
Under the Mercy,