Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2012.02.15 A Twitch Upon the Thread

I’ve often wondered just what it is that attracts people to religious faith and action? It’s not a particular tradition but rather seems to be the sense of being in a community/church that worships the mystery some call God and then tries to imitate that divine love in the world.

Many leave and almost as many in time return to the folds of faith in one’s own heart and expressed in religious practices in community. I don’t think such returns are all out of guilt. Guilt is not a strong enough motivator to make a faith both hold and connect you to your own deep goodness.

What tidal movement draws people to faith and its many expressions? These days such faith is taking shape outside of traditional forms as well as being renewed within the best of the old. It's gloriously messy and includes death alongside life.

Here is a bit of wisdom about that spiritual pull. Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead Revisited is speaking particularly about the Roman Catholic faith but to me his metaphor is about the way Godde twitchs the soul’s thread. (Brackets are mine to clarify the context a little, something one must always do when an intense young teen is speaking fast, right?)

In the mouth of a girl of 15 speaking to the novel's narrator, a man and family friend: “D’you know what papa said when he became a Catholic? Mummy told me once. He said to her: 'You have brought back my family to the faith of their ancestors.' Pompous, you know. It takes people different ways. Anyhow, the family haven’t been very constant, have they? There’s him [papa] gone and Sebastian [her brother] gone and Julia [her sister]gone. But God won’t let them go for long, you know. I wonder if you remember the story mummy read us the evening Sebastian first got drunk, I mean the bad evening. “Father Brown” [the character in the novel mummy was reading] said something like ‘I caught him’ (the thief) ‘with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.’”

This girl believes God won’t let people go away for long. Her religious faith draws her and provides a cushion and a structure as she tries to discern her own place and possible vocation in her context which is aristocratic pre- WWII England.


Is that a metaphor for divine grace, like the subtle pull of the moon on the tides, from so far and so tenuously connected, like a thread that with one twitch, a twitch not a yank, brings us back to join the ebb and flow of faith?

Love is like that, a twitch upon the heart’s threads.