Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Shrine of Godlessness.

It was a beautiful day in the Mosel valley, today. We’ve got sun only about every 4th day or so this time of year, and one must take advantage of it when one can. Finishing a wonderful late lunch of a dry chicken curry, we laid the youngster down for nap, enjoyed a bit of marital bliss, and a post bliss nap, then went for a walk in the “forest”.

Now, forest here doesn’t mean quite what you might imagine. It’s a fiercely “managed” forest, i.e., there are no trees in a certain age/size range because they have been logged out. Biodiversity suffers correspondingly, making it more like a park than a wild wood, but its a lovely, leafy still place to take a walk. Down the middle of it is an old cobblestone road. It could be 200 years old, or 2000, you never know around here.

When the hand is held at arm’s length, every finger between the sun and horizon is 15 minutes of day light. We got to the woods with a finger of of sun left in the valley. The sky was orange, and the trees gradually lost color, the vibrance of their brown of bark and green of moss gradually fading to navy and gray on their way to the black of silhouette. As I walked along the muddy cobbles I saw lights on the hill. It looked as if Christmas lights had been laid in a heap on the floor of small room, and the lights shown red and white out the arched door.

As we walked the lights seemed to grow brighter against the gathering darkness while they go closer. In the last of the sunlight I could see the tiny building. It was shrine to Heilige Maria, Mutter Gottes, Saint Mary, the Mother of God. The red and white lights I had seen where the candles on the floor shining through the red and white glass that held them. The keystone of the arch read 1877, making this shrine a century younger than the one up the path a few miles.

I am not a Catholic, I am not even a Christian, but out of respect for the beliefs of those who built the shrine I removed my hat as I walked in. The shrine was warm, still holding the heat of the day in its massive stone walls, while the warmth outside disappeared with the sun. The ceiling was low, and the interior cramped by the two small kneeling rails.

I knelt on the first kneeler, the air thick with the scent of hot wax. I stared through the wrought iron bars at the tiny icon of Mary, holding the wounded Christ. Religiously, neither meant a lot to me. I never met Jesus, despite 25 years of looking. The Protestants tell me that woman holding him is not so important either, though the Catholics venerate her. As art, it was fairly weak, a mass produced bit of old plaster in a dusty hollow in the wall.

But that’s not to say I didn’t feel anything. I felt the press of history and the warmth of candles in room lit the color of gold and blood by the flame sparkling through the crimson wax. A shrine is repository of dreams and desperation. Though “Danke Maria” was written in stone on the walls, mostly I feel the dark peace of those accepting that there was nothing they could do to cause or prevent something. Kierkegaard’s dread poured out on the terra cotta tiles of this little stone room.

As always, I liked it. It’s the feeling you have when you stop crying and you know you aren’t going to cry any more. It’s the feeling of accepting the unacceptable because the only control you have is how you choose to feel about it. And so ironically, the shrine worked. I rose from the kneeler, feeling hard and strong. No mater how much I wanted something to be true, I couldn’t make it true. But I can change things by my actions.


November 3, 2008 - Posted by | atheism, Paranormal, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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