Monday, December 12

Advent 2011

Oscar Wilde's only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, tells the story of a young man who, enthralled with a credo that beauty and fulfillment of the senses are the only things worth pursuing in life, wishes that his recent portrait would age rather than himself.  He gets his wish.  He notices the first change after he has spurned the love of his fiancĂ©e and broken off the engagement with "I don't wish to be unkind, but I can't see you again.  You have disappointed me."  He wanders the streets all night and returns home to the portrait.

He turned round, and, walking to the window, drew up the blind.  The bright dawn flooded the room, and swept the fantastic shadows into dusky corners, where they lay shuddering.  But the strange expression that he had noticed in the face of the portrait seemed  to linger there, to be more intensified even.  The quivering, ardent sunlight showed him the lines of cruelty round the mouth as clearly as if he had been looking into a mirror after he had done some dreadful thing.

His words had become flesh.

Words become flesh every day.  Have you ever had a teacher or colleague or cousin or fellow church member who was just plain mean, who did mean things and said mean things and eventually just looked mean no matter what they said and did?  Did their flesh conform itself to their cruelty through perpetual sneers or permanently dilated nostrils or compressed lips cast in stone or squinted eyes never opened wide enough to convey welcome or joy or surprise?  On the other hand, have you ever had a teacher or colleague or cousin or fellow church member who consistently did and said kind, encouraging, compassionate, and generous things and who looked as if the light of Christ glowed incessantly inside?  Did their flesh conform itself to their love through a perennial smile and eyes opened wide with a glow of enthusiasm, a brisk movement exuding deep interest or a palpable calmness emanating from their entire body?

God had the power to make the Word into flesh and send it to dwell among us.  He gave us the power to make words into flesh, where they too dwell among us, either destroying or lifting up.

In the end, the portrait of Dorian Gray became too honest a mirror of the man he had become.  He stabbed it repeatedly to destroy it, but the stabbing only destroyed the flesh which the portrait represented.

When they [the servants] entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty.  Lying on the floor was a dead man in evening dress, with a knife in his heart.  He was withered, wrinkled and loathsome of visage.  It was not till they had examined the ring that they recognized who it was.

Words become flesh.  May we use them wisely.

- Wyc Rountree


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