Friday, April 24, 2009

Discourse in the Churchyard

The next day, after services and a lazy Sabbath afternoon, Malcolm again made his way in the evening to the Alton to visit Mr. Graham. Malcolm found his friend seated on a stone in the churchyard.

"See," said the schoolmaster, "how the shadow from one grave stretches like an arm to embrace another. In this light the churchyard seems the very birthplace of shadows." A brief silence followed. "Does the morning or the evening light suit such a place best, Malcolm?"

The pupil thought for a while.

"The evning light, sir," he answered at length, "for you see the sun's dying like, and death's like falling asleep, and the grave's the bed and the sod is the bedclothes, and there's a long night ahead."

"Are you sure of that, Malcolm?"

"That's the way most folk sees it, sir."

"Come here, Malcolm," said Mr. Graham, and took him by the arm toward the east end of the yard.

"Read that," he said, pointing to a flat gravestone covered with moss but on the inscription nevertheless stood out clearly: "He is not here: he is risen."

While Malcolm gazed, trying to think what his master would have him think, Mr. Graham resumed: "If he is risen-- if the sun is up, Malcolm-- then the morning and not the evening is the season for the place of the tombs; the morning when the shadows are shortening and separating, not the evening when they are growing all into one. I used to love the churchyard best in the evening, when the past was more to me than the future. But now I visit it almost every bright summer morning and only occasionally at night."

"But, sir, isn't death a dreadful thing?" asked Malcolm.

"That depends on whether a man regards it as his fate or as the will of a perfect God. Its obscurity is its dread. But if God be light, then death itself must be full of splendor-- a splendor probably too keen for our eyes to receive."

"But there's the dying itself; isn't that fearsome? It's that I would be afraid of."

"I don't see why it should be. It's the lack of a God that makes it dreadful, and you would be greatly to blame for that, Malcolm, if you hadn't found your God by the time you had to die."

....They walked about the churchyard until the sun went down in what Mr. Graham called the grave of his endless resurrection-- the clouds on the one side bearing all the pomp of his funeral, the clouds on the other all the glory of his uprising. After the twilight was gone they once more seated themselves and talked and dreamed together of the life to come. There were also long periods of silence. For the master believed in solitude and silence. Say rather, he believed in God and he believe that when the human is still, the Divine speaks to it, because it is its own.

-from The Fisherman's Lady, by George MacDonald, pages 55-58

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