Some mornings, when Lorraine and I arrive at the Theology library, the lights are still off in the basement book stacks. Peering through the doors into these catacombs, all you can see is gloom; the library was once a chapel, and the basement is mostly underground. Yellow hallway lights sculpt the silhouettes of shelves, with here and there the glimmer of a gilded binding.
Anything could be in there, I’m thinking.
Advent has me pondering “all things visible and invisible”. I started down this road thinking of “A Christmas Carol”, and specifically the scene after Jacob Marley’s visit to Ebenezer Scrooge. The latter peers from his bedroom window and perceives that the outside air is filled with ghosts clustering around those in need. These departed spirits are in torment, and, as Dickens says, “the misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.”
Most of the time, Ebenezer would not have seen these spirits…they would have remained invisible. How much of reality, then, remains invisible to us?
My sister-in-law has experience casting out demons. At Thanksgiving, she told of things she had seen when praying over those who were bound by evil. And her words mirrored those of Father Amorth, the Vatican exorcist, who has liberated thousands. I’ve never seen folks writhe on the floor to escape being prayed over, nor have I had doors slam as demons left my household; yet these things have happened to people that seem pretty sturdy to me.
I suppose, maybe, folks like me have the equivalent of poor eyesight. Maybe I’m colorblind to the incorporeal. And I wonder if this is a case of not having the faculty for seeing, or whether I’ve just got atrophied? Maybe we all could see spirits, once upon a time….
I enter the gloom of the book stacks, searching for light switches. Each burst of florescence pushes the shadows back, and over and over I have to walk forward to confront new ones. There are dozens of switches in this dungeon.
In “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, C. S. Lewis places his protagonist, Lucy, in a precarious spot. She must go into a wizard’s study, open his spell book, and find a spell that will cause the invisible Dufflepuds to become visible once again.
As she seeks the “visibility spell”, Lucy is sorely tempted to utter an alternative, one that will make her more beautiful than anyone else in the world. This evil beckons, but she does not yield to temptation. And, once she finds and speaks the words of the spell she was seeking, not only do the Dufflepuds appear, but also the wizard, plus Aslan, the Christ figure in Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia”.
I’m wondering if seeing angels and demons is like throwing light switches. With each burst of light, you get to see something that you didn’t know was there. Flick! There are the atlases. Flick! There are the art books. Flick! There’s a copy of “Brideshead Revisited”.
Maybe we only see the things we’re supposed to see.
I’m coming down on the side of atrophy; I expect my “angel vision” needs a heap more training. So, during Advent, I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for Ebenezer’s ghosts. To find them, seems to me all I’ve got to do is flush out folks who are depressed, or ill, or in need of a helping hand, then start scouring the horizon for halos.
And the more I keep gunning for glimmers of the supernatural world…that is, the _real_ world…the more I reckon I’ll be able to see through the gloom.
- Jef Murray