Thursday, March 31, 2011



This story also shows that there is a different rhythm of life in eternal time. One night, a man from our village was coming back home along this road where there were no houses. Cycling along, he heard beautiful music. The music was coming from inside the wall by the sea. He crossed over to the wall to find that he was entering a village in this forsaken place. The people there seemed to have expected him. They seemed to know hinm and he received a great welcome. He was given drink and lovely food. Their music was more beautiful than he had ever heard before. He spent a few hours of great happiness there. Then he remembered that if he did not return home, they would be out searching for him. He bade farewell to the villagers. When he arrived home, he discovered that he had been missing for a fortnight even though it seemed like half an hour in the eternal fairy world.

My father used to tell another such story about a monk named Phoenix. One day in the monastery he was reading his breviary. A bird began to sing and the monk listened so purely to the song of the bird that he was aware of nothing else. Then the song stopped, and he took up his breviary and went back into the monastery to discover that he no longer recognized anyone there. And they did not recognize him either. He named all his fellow monks with whom he had lived up to what seemed to be half an hour before, but they had all disappeared. The new monks looked up their annals and sure enough, years and years before, a monk called Phoenix had mysteriously disappeared. At the metaphorical level this story claims that through real presence the monk Phoenix had actually broken into eternal time. Eternal time moves in a different rhythm from normal, broken human time. Oscar Wilde said, 'We think in eternity, but we move slowly through time.' This beautiful phrase echoes powerfully since it comes from De Profundis, Wilde's letter of love and forgiveness to one who had betrayed and destroyed him.

These Celtic fairy stories suggest a region of the soul that inhabits the eternal. There is an eternal region within us; there we are not vulnerable to the ravages of normal time. Shakespeare expressed the ravages of calendar time beautifully in sonnet sixty:

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

so do our minutes hasten to their end

each changing place with that which goes before

in sequent toil all forwards do contend.

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