Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Into the Forest

I'm still mulling over the Harry Potter finale, even as I move on to other reading.
Warning: This might spoil the ending if you haven't finished yet!

There's a great deal that I like in the last book, but I think the most moving part of the whole series is when Harry goes into the forest prepared to die. Rowling did a wonderful job of articulating what that selflessness might look like. Harry thinks he's been betrayed by Dumbledore and comes to resigned acceptance of that, with the stunned silence that we might all feel. But he also sees how giving himself up to Voldemort will save those whom he loves. So in spite of the apparent betrayal he accepts what he must do.

I think it must be very much like what the Garden of Gethsemane was for Jesus. We don't see any evidence the Jesus was eager to walk into Pilate's hands. His friend, Judas, betrays him, and in his cry from the cross, "Why have you forsaken me?" we see that he also felt betrayed by God. But he somehow sees through that, in the Garden, to what must be done. And so he tells his friends to let him go, and he walks unarmed into the grip of the soldiers who have come to take him to his death.

Whatever came next - for Harry and for Jesus - that act of relinquishment, of self-offering, is itself efficacious. It breaks apart the pattern of violence and opposition, of one force battling another. Voldemort and Pilate still pursue their violent plans, but the power of their actions has changed. Jesus and Harry make the more difficult, and ultimately more powerful choice, to give themselves up, leaving their opponents powerless over them.

Whether or not J.K. Rowling intended such an explicit allegorical reading, she absolutely understands the power of selflessness and describes it beautifully.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

All Good Tales Must Come to an End

I finished "Deathly Hallows" on Monday evening. I expected to be sad when I did, as I often am at the end of long book I've thoroughly enjoyed. But the end was so satisfying that I was happy to have been on the journey.

There are some things I wish she'd done differently, but all in all I'm awed by Rowling's insight, skill, and talent. I think it was clearer in this book than in the others that she writes in the tradition of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams.

I'll write later about some of my favorite parts. First I need to go back to book 6 and remind myself of all the connections.

What a great read!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Wholly Diverse

Welcome to my new blog as the new multi-faith chaplain at the University of the Pacific! I hope you'll join me for conversations about all kinds of things related to faith and life.

I've been thinking about Rose Windows lately because I now work and pray in a building with a gorgeous rose window. I've seen some others - in the cathedral in Lausanne, Switzerland, at Notre Dame in Paris when it was mostly covered in scaffolding, and in some other wonderful places. Most rose windows, I guess, are in churches because stained glass was a tool for telling the Christian story. But like all stained glass, no two people see the same thing when they look into these windows. For some they are testaments of God's activity in creation. For others they are monuments to human creativity. They may draw us out of ourselves or more deeply into ourselves. The symbols in the window may be familiar and comforting or entirely new and exciting. These windows may be all of the above, and in tiny bits of glass, they pull together all the potential diversity into a single glorious prism. The differences are all still there - varieties of color and glass size and symbols - but all as part of the larger whole, a circle encompassing all, and that is entirely holy. I'm so glad that this is what greets me every morning.