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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Light, Love and Resurrection in "A World Lost"

At the conclusion of Wendel Berry's short novel A World Lost, Andy Catlett who has told the story of his Uncle Andrew, his murder when he was a child and his attempt many years later to unpack the events of that day, reflects on the members of his family and the way their story has unfolded.
One by one, the sharers in this mortal damage have borne its burden out of the present world ... At times perhaps I could wish them merely oblivion. But how can I deny that in my belief they are risen?

I imagine the dead waking, dazed, into a shadowless light in which they know themselves altogether for the first time. It is a light that is merciless until they can accept its mercy; by it they are at once condemned and redeemed. It is Hell until it is Heaven. Seeing themselves in that light, if they are willing, they see how far they have failed the only justice of loving one another; it punishes them by their own judgment. And yet, in suffering that light's awful clarity, in seeing themselves within it, they see its forgiveness and its beauty and are consoled. In it they are loved completely, even as they have been , and so are changed into what they could not havbe been, but what, if they could have imagined it, they would have wished to be.

That light can come into the world only as love, and love can enter only by suffering. Not enough light has ever reached us here among the shadows and yet I think it has never been entirely absent.

Remembering, I suppose, the best days of my childhood, I used to think I wanted most of all to be happy - by which I meant to be here and undistracted, I thought I would be at home.


But now I have been here a fair amount of time, and slowly I have learned that my true home is not just this place but is also that company of immortals with whom I have lived here day by day. I live in their love, and I know something of the cost> Somewhere in the darkness of my own shadow I know that I could not see at all were it not for this old injury of love and grief, this little flickering lamp that I have watched beside for all these years. (p.326 - pagination from the the reprinting of A World Lost in Three Short Novels)

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