This is sort of a continuation of my Daily Cup, “Dreams,” of last week. I was going to title this one “Blind,” and I’ll explain that at the end. But first I’m going out on the limb and confess one of the reasons I’m a Christian. It has to do with accounts of incidents in my lifetime long before hearing Allan Hamilton on Krista Tippett’s program and reading his book. The most vivid incident dates from around the early 60’s. It was assistance rendered by a psychic in England to the Austin, Texas, Police Department. A child was missing – a young boy. Somehow the psychic’s help is offered or sought, I don’t remember which. An article of the boy’s clothing, a shirt I think, is sent to her. She handles it and tells the police to go an approximate distance in a specific direction from town, then in another direction for an approximate distance and look for ridges, like a washboard. They do – and find the murdered child in a cornfield. That was my first realization that there is a dimension, another plane, another frequency, if you will, that I’m just not tuned in on. A little while later, after John Kennedy’s assassination, I read that days before it happened psychics all over the world were going bonkers and frantically trying to get word to him to not go to Dallas. How do these things happen? I’ve since learned that psychics helping the police solve crimes is, if not widespread, not unusual. I’m sure they keep it quiet because it is useful, and they might have to do it less if they came to be ridiculed for it. The psychics and the Kennedy assassination are even more mysterious to me in that they were detecting something that hadn’t happened yet. Somehow murderous intentions in the minds of others – in some cases half a world away – are picked up with intensity, as if a tremendous evil force was loose in the world and they could feel it with clarity and specificity.
What this meant to me is simply that just because I can’t see it or hear it doesn’t mean that the communion of saints or a spiritual world are just poetic notions. I’m like a blind or deaf person who accepts that there are such things as colors or music because other people see and hear them. At my age now I’ve rather accepted it as a permanent condition, but there have been moments when I’ve felt it acutely. There was one such incident at Evensong and Benediction at St. Paul’s, K St, one Sunday evening, maybe 35 years ago now. The office hymn was “Holy, Holy, Holy,” which includes in the third verse the line “Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see.” (That was the 1940 Hymnal. In the 1982, in the interest of gender neutrality, it has been rephrased “Though the sinful human eye thy glory may not see.” Well intentioned, but it rather pulls the punch I think. It isn’t the eye that is sinful.) Anyway, those words really began to get to me as we were singing, and later, after the service, as we were all still kneeling in the dimly lit nave, as the acolytes were extinguishing the candles, the organist was improvising on the hymn, and I became overcome with grief, more so I think than ever before or since. I had this sense that there was this other reality, like my hand right in front of my face, that I could not see – that there a veil between me and it, and I could not even see the veil. I think it rather frightened one of my daughters who had come with me; she’d never seen her father like that.
The nuns that taught me sometimes mentioned something called the Beatific Vision, which is defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia as “The immediate knowledge of God which the angelic spirits and the souls of the just enjoy in Heaven.” It is perhaps the same as the “vision glorious” in the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation.” Maybe someday.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC