Monday, 13 February 2012

Ripple effect


I attended a total immersion (submersion) baptism a while ago.
Having been invited by the person being baptised, I found myself in the second row of seats, just behind her, and with a clear and close view of the baptismal pool uncovered before her.
Until the baptism itself, when she and those who would immerse her and bring her safely back again stepped down into the pool, the surface of the water was like glass: as though it had rested there undiscovered for an age, as in a previously undiscovered cavern beyond the imagination of mankind. There was something absolute about that stillness. I was drawn to it, though not distracted from the goings on around me as the service got under way.

When the time came she was duly baptised, not as an unknowing infant, nor in response to any authoritative wish of another from within her family or her church, but as a personal commitment: an expression and fulfilment of a mature person’s desire to follow, to receive and to bring into the lives of others the object of that desire. As the service continued, though listening to all that was being said and sung, I could not take my eyes from the pool until all discernable movement had ceased; and even then I found myself looking back to it frequently to be sure that it remained undisturbed. As if it had taken on a life of its own, I watched it throughout, and would not have been startled if the surface had begun to bend its reflections once more as the body of water beneath stirred and slowly turned in its sleep.

It took ten minutes or more to settle completely, but within the first minute a part of me was already far away – perhaps at ‘a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew ... (where there) were crowds of sick people, blind, lame, paralysed, ...’  (John 5:2-3).
I could only watch what was happening, having been put in mind of the words following on from the above. 
Some searches, (e.g. at biblestudytools.com) come up with “No results found” in response to John 5:4 being entered; even the same translation can be found quoted in different ways. My printed copy of The New Jerusalem Bible excludes both the end of verse 3 and verse 4, but shows them in a footnote. An online version (at catholic.org) shows verse 4 but not the missing part of verse 3.
It was these sometimes absent lines that had set my eyes and mind on the movement of the water. They tell us that the gathered people were –
‘... waiting for the water to move; for at intervals the angel of the Lord came down into the pool, and the water was disturbed, and the first person to enter the water after this disturbance was cured of any ailment he suffered from.                                                                                                          (John 5:3-4)

At the end of the service the pool was safely covered over, and the room was as though the water had never been seen; almost. 
Darker patches on the carpet spoke of some recent occurrence, and of someone having passed that way. Something had happened there; someone had been changed by the presence of something unseen: touched by something more than water; something unrecognized had come to witness a person’s response to an ongoing beckoning which had filled and blessed, and left her changed in ways that will be revealed in stages through the coming years.
Her personal commitment had caused ripples, not just in the water after being in the pool, but in her own life: in her presence among others, family, community, and strangers whose paths she will cross as her journey continues. Such ripples will last much, much longer; they may never be entirely stilled.
  
Disturbances within myself had been mirrored in the silent rise and fall, the slow wave and warp of distorted reflections on the surface of the water as it obediently returned to its former self: flat calm and motionless; though below the surface, for a long time after, invisible eddies continued to settle into stillness. This process can only be set in motion by something being plunged into or passed through the water.

So it is for each of us as we follow our paths. Something stirs us; something reaches into our deepest depths, and in surfacing again draws our most basic need up into our consciousness. Our first experience of it might be barely noticeable or overwhelming; at whatever level, it might be as the heights of joy, or love, or peace, or the profoundest sorrow, grief, remorse or fear; it might feel as though it would break us completely, or be sensed as that which will be the making of us.
It is our response to that inner disturbance: our “Yes”, that causes ripples to penetrate through to every corner of our existence.
And those ripples spread out to gently lap at the shores of other people’s lives, even far beyond our knowing. In their turn they become the barely noticed prompts that lead others toward their own meetings with a desire that already lives within them.

At the pool called Bethesda, was it, perhaps, an intermittent inflow of water disturbing health-giving sediment that caused the crowds to gather in search of healing? Or did an angel of the Lord come down into the pool?
Was the disturbance in the waters of the pool I had watched so intently anything more than that made by people entering and leaving; or perhaps something deeper: the lingering but confined ripples from the full immersion of the baptism itself? Or was it a manifestation of that which is truly deep yet ruffles the surface of all things: that which can stir life even within the spiritually dead, and overflow from those already living within its embrace?


Lay it all within the compass of my own wandering imagination if you will, but the Holy Spirit was present, and the newly baptized lady had emerged from the water into a new form of life: one from which that spiritual presence, guidance and strength will never depart.
Was an angel of the Lord present?
If we loosen our interpretation of the word, perhaps many!
If such angels are God’s Messengers, may not some here on earth who are called to be His messengers be regarded, at least potentially, as angels? What else are we to others in need when we respond to God’s call to become His answer to their prayers, and to bring His healing touch into their lives?

Emerging from the baptismal pool, had come 0ne blessed with that potential.
May the on-going ripples from her commitment always reach to the inner shores of those who live and work around her; and for those to whose aid she may one day be called, may she be the angel who comes in their time of need.


About Me

Who I am should be, and should remain, of little consequence to you. Who you are is what matters; who you are meant to be is what should matter most to you. In coming closer to my own true self, I have gradually been filled with the near inexpressible: I have simply become "brim full", and my words to you are drawn from those uttered within myself, as part of an undeniable overflowing that brings a smile to my every dusk, and to my every new dawn.
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