Yesterday, August 3, was the memorial of Nicodemus the Teacher for Anglicans and Roman Catholics. It was also the anniversary of the death of Flannery O'Connor, who died on August 3, 1964.
For the occasion, last night I re-read O'Connor's The Artificial Nigger, a somewhat mystifying tale of God's mercy and human folly, and today I listened to our pastor teach on Jesus' late-night encounter with Nicodemus, a somewhat mystifying conversation about God's mercy and human folly.
Good teachers create great pictures that illuminate their more difficult teachings. Jesus, more than a good teacher, created pictures that were themselves teachings that simultaneously hid and illuminated the truth. "You must be born again."
Nicodemus asks, "How can these things be?" He is baffled, but as it turns out, he's in a pretty good place-- engaging the Great Teacher, grappling with unfathomable metaphors, struggling to make sense of the non-sensible.
O'Connor, too, baffles with her pictures, and grappling with her stories is always a challenge. But as I reflect, I, too, usually feel that I'm in a pretty good place-- grappling with difficult metaphors, coming face to face with my wickedness and God's grace, struggling to make sense of the great paradoxes of life in this fallen world.
O'Connor isn't Jesus and I'm not Nicodemus, by any stretch, but we both live as reflectors of God's image in us as teacher and learner, hider and seeker, enlightener and enlightened. And it is always a pleasure to struggle with a difficult metaphor that brings me nose to nose with truth. After all, "It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of Kings is to search things out."
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For more written this week on Ms. O'Connor, see
Rod Dreher on what Flannery might have to say to Anne Rice, who recently attempted to repudiate Christianity while remaining a Christ-follower (HT to my friend Fr Greg Crosthwait)
Warren Cole Smith in World, on a visit to Flannery O'Connor's grave
Today's NY Times has an overview of her life and work by Brad Gooch, author of a recent biography of O'Connor, with links to the NYT archives on stories about her
For my take on O'Connor's Wise Blood, see these recent posts