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A Five Part Lenten Reflection
Part 2: A New Enchantment
By Dick Donnenwirth

I had thought it was a house I had visited before. The same sense of a personal presence was there as I approached. The same feeling of belongingness permeated my anticipation of the new. Yet the differences were quite noticeable. The other house was quiet; this one was noisy. The other house was empty of people; this one was full. The other house spoke to me through my sense of touch; this one communicated through sight and sound.

As I came closer, I recalled the experience of a year ago when that other house which I could not see nor hear let me know of the security, the challenge and the sensitivity of life through the texture of its walls. The personal presence in the door and at the table was to welcome and fill me and later to call me from that place into the world with new sight and new hearing. Yet, through the year gone by, there continued a restlessness-- a mixture of the pull of nostalgic memories and the search for new enchantments. So once again in the "proper" season of the year, my foot was on the path of the seekers.

The noise of this new house hurt my ears. At first I thought this is not for me and started to retreat. But something or someone stopped my withdrawal and urged me nearer the building. I call it a building even thought it wasn't exactly what I was used to. The walls seemed almost fluid as they moved in response to the personal experience within. "Where is the rock-like security of the other house?" I cried to myself. "Where is the challenge of the rough-hewn bricks or the sensitivity of the fine-grained wood? Where is that which I might grab hold of and shake only joyously to discover that it will not move?"

The noise, the strange walls, and then the people-- the crowd was around me almost before I knew it. For a moment the fear that I might be engulfed by those who were not me caught at my breath. Then one of them touched my hand in greeting. I listened closely and heard the irregular breathing of others. The fear that had been mine was not mine alone. Others spoke of many things and I listened with great interest. In all of the words, there came through feelings about themselves. I spoke and found others who listened. The walls moved slightly. The temptation was strong to shout that more might be moved to listen-- that the walls might billow from the blast. I'm not sure why I resisted this urge; I only know that I did not shout. The others nodded as if to show they understood my struggle.

At one point a moan traveled through the crowd in impotent protest over the leaving of one from our sight. At another juncture angry voices were raised against two who would not let go of one another. At still a third point there was laughter over the imaginative words of one. Always there was the sound of work and creation.

There were comings and goings, smiles and tears, pleasures and pains, and it was time for me to leave. As I moved toward the door, I knew that there were things I had left undone, but also that some tasks had been completed. Looking back from the doorway I was hurt that many seemed not to notice. Outside again it occurred to me that the noise still hurt my ears and the walls still moved under the pressure of the personal. "Should I ask what's the use?"
"No, for I knew!" The use was in my coming into the presence of others; and fearing, moaning, crying, laughing, being angry, working, creating, and leaving. For this I was truly thankful but, to be truthful, also a bit sad for I was well aware this enchantment could not happen again. 

(March 1966)





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