Monday, April 26, 2010


There is a large area above our garage. Years ago, it was home to a number of monks. They lived up there while the larger monastery structures were being built. From what the monks have told me, the style of life in those days had a lot of rough edges. Father Anthony tells me that there were mornings when it was so cold that the water in the holy water font turned to ice. There are still some tell-tale signs from those days. There are hooks on the wall and small cabinets where the monks stored their few personal belongings. Pairs of old well worn leather boots can be spotted here and there, as if patiently waiting to be filled with the feet they once protected. The area has been used as a storage area for many years. There are all sorts of things up there.
There are old books on shelves. Books about farming and seeds, machinery and soil. The books are all more than sixty-years old. I noticed one book that was lacking its binding. I took the book from the shelf, brushed off a layer of dust and opened it. It was a New Testament and from the light brown stains on the upper corners of each page, it was a well read book, the finger prints of a long ago seeker of God’s wisdom still quite evident on every page. The binding looked as if it was chewed off. The rest of the cover was in good condition. A mouse must have gnawed off the entire binding as use for making her nest. I suppose that she could have gone for the entire book, but probably took just what she needed for her dwelling. Or perhaps she moved on to more mundane texts, though I did not see any other books that were missing bindings or covers.
I thought about some things later.
Great care has been taken over the centuries to record God’s Word and to preserve it. Many a scholar has devoted an entire career to analyzing ancient biblical texts in the hope of securing a surer footing as to its origins, its place in the emergent body of religious literature, its possible contribution to the seemingly ever elusive search for the truth as to how God has entered history and what that entrance means for us. And so it is natural that biblical texts are of irreplaceable importance as prime source material.
The mouse of course had no idea of all of this. She needed a home, a place to birth her young. And the Bible binding must have fit the bill perfectly. Somewhere up in that space above the garage, there is a nest with sacred shreds, shreds that are inextricably woven in with whatever else the mouse found to make her nest. So, the mouse put the sacred binding to good use.
I wonder if I have done the same over the years.
Maybe there is something to learn from that little creature.
In a flight of fancy, imagine that there was only one bible left on the earth, and it was hidden in that space above our cars by a long gone monk who hoped to preserve the last extant Bible. Believing that the Truth was to be kept safe, little did he know that time would pass and that the book would be chewed to bits and made into a nest. New born creatures would be given shelter and warmth by God’s very word, and they would be oblivious to it. But the written word would have proven itself true in the very making of a nest, a secure dwelling place.
The truth is not in the sacred text. The text points to a truth outside of itself, a truth that is growing, a truth that is fashioning hearts and hopes, horizons and possibilities, patterns of forgiveness, love and mercy as these are fleshed out in our lives. The truth lives all within us and about us. We do not find it as much as live it. It does not come to us. It is already here, in the wisdom that monks, among others, follow. It is the wisdom that finds what it needs and builds a nest for new life. And it is the wisdom that makes me hope that God is taking the stuff of our lives and building a home where we will be born anew, a place divinely made, a place made of hearts and hopes, tattered lives and dreams that we once thought were lost forever.
That little mouse did well, being about her business and making a home for her young. Such a modest creature reminds me that God is doing much the same for all that He has made, from monks seeking wisdom to mice that have somehow found it. .

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