Saturday, June 11, 2011


Long ago in Russia, there were many attacks made on a small town, and in a monastery the monks got very nervous and could no longer concentrate on their prayers because of all the violent conflicts throughout the town. The abbot called his icon painter, Rublev, to paint an icon to help the monks remain prayerful in the midst of restlessness, trouble and anxiety. Rublev painted an icon based on the visit of the three angels to Abraham in Genesis, seated around a table of hospitality. In the icon, the figure in the center points with two fingers to the chalice and inclines toward the figure on the left, who offers a blessing. A third figure on the right points to a rectangular opening on the front of the table through which the viewer is invited to enter and participate in the spiritual actions. Together, the three figures form a mysterious circle of movement in perfect proportion. So when the monks prayed with the icon and focused on that circle of hospitality, love, and intimacy, they realized that they did not have to be afraid. When they allowed themselves to be part of the community formed by the three figures and let themselves be drawn into that circle of safety and love, they were able to pray and not lose heart.
--Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit

As you may or may not have noticed, for some weeks we have had in our midst an anonymous, obsessively, almost comically hostile heckler.

His comments are meant to hurt and they hurt, but I figured Let the violence stop here. I figured the less said, the less energy frittered away, the better. So I let the comments stand.

Last week, though, people started coming to my defense, which shows the age of chivalry is not dead.

I love that community--awkward, small, unlikely, and puny though it seems--protects us from harm. I love Rublev's/Nouwen's idea of entering in and participating through that weird little rectangular opening.

So from hereon in, I'll delete the hate comments.

It's that little glint, that privileged look into a keyhole, and realizing suddenly that there's this little universe that's probably suffering and barely breathing, but it's pulsating, vibrating, with its own life. That in itself is a metaphor of the universe.
--The Brothers Quay

(now they should be the subject of their own post)
And let's keep The Anonymous Heckler in prayer. Because we are all Prodigal Daughters and Sons. And we all know what it feels like to eat alone.

the first film of the STILLE NACHT series, 
 a "gorgeous black and white reverie about iron filiings." 


  1. Yes. There's just no substitute for honest-to-goodness community, communion, koinonia, fellowship, togetherness, amity, charity, love. It is rest most sweet, it is grateful coolness in the heat, it is solace in the midst of woe.

    How easy it can be to heckle -- if not to heckle, then to bicker, or to pick splinters. I speak here of myself. I've "debated" the faith more than I've lived it, alas.

    But yes, communion and the love that never fails. And the incalculable beauty of the Rublev icon.

    Thank you once again!

  2. Heather, I have recently learned the word NO is
    a complete sentence. Heckling is easy and it
    doesn't take much thought.

    Perhaps someday your heckler will find peace.

    This is your blog-your life and your writing.
    We may follow Christ-but we aren't perfect.
    We also have choices- good choices to make.

  3. God manifested himself as a human being and gave man two commands: (1) Love God above all else, and (2) Love others as you love yourself. For that, they nailed him to a tree. Your anonymous hecklers will be legion, given the love you manifest in your writing. Moderation is prudent, but don't expect the hate to abate. It comes with the witness you bear.

  4. Heather

    It is Saturday night and I have just finished reading "Redeemed". In the last chapter you end the book with the metaphor of the table set and waiting for the dinner guest-whoever or whatever that may be. Maybe your obvious love and compassion for humanity will soften the heart of this person and he will take his seat at the table.

    You are a obvious recipient of God's grace!

    God bless.

  5. Back in the day, I wrote an op-ed piece that ran in a major newspaper. It was the first time I'd been published, and among the happiest days of my life - up to then, the happiest.

    The first person I told was an old friend, and his reaction was dismissive: "Well, the Tribune isn't a very good paper." I didn't expect that; I felt like I'd been clocked. I'd assumed that among the duties of friendship (or of someone who'd extended the hand of same) was simple joy at a friend's little victories.

    That experience took a lot out of me. One unfortunate result: I tend to keep things too close to the vest. I'm glad you don't, but also glad you've decided to approve comments before they're published.

  6. Heather,

    This is a very thoughtful and charitable post.

    The image of a community under attack and the invitation to table fellowship (which for us Catholics is ultimately linked to the Eucharistic sacrifice) is uncanny in its timing, as it resonates with the poem that I just composed in reply to Pablo Neruda.


  7. I like the Rublev icon very much. You may know that Nouwen wrote a book on meditating on icons and this one by Rublev was one of his favorites.

  8. Thanks so much, folks...part of the deal perhaps, but we put our stuff out there at all in fear and trembling, in my case with a kind of Kafkaesque "The Trial" is so often the case, humor is maybe the best antidote. We will carry on! Yet another exciting lineup for the coming week...

    I appreciate your thoughtfulness, insights and reading suggestions.

  9. I usually don't read the comments, but I would think this is one of the last places that you would find a heckler. All I would say is that there are many people who appreciate your writing, and find your candor and obvious love a welcome change from the normal internet chatter. Keep it up!

    Also, because of you, I watched the utterly strange and strangely affecting Street of Crocodiles today. Quite good, and I can't wait to watch more of the Brothers Quay. Thanks for the recommendation.

  10. I think so often when people attack or are dismissive (as the story mojavehicular related) they are coming from a place of extreme hurt and/or even jealousy and/or a feeling of inadequacy. Or at least that's what I tell myself when I get attacked. :) Heather, your posts are beautiful and your response in this post was very charitable. God bless you!

  11. I love your piece on Dorothy Day. I discovered her many years ago when I picked up "The Long Loneliness" at the public library not really knowing much about her except that my father used to growl that she was a communist. I was so touched by her story. So I must get the book of her letters as soon as may be. I think your heckler may be a bit like Breen, her difficult guest who harrangued and hated but in the end thanked her. Nobody acts so odiously without some inner emptiness. Your generous response to such animosity is touching and makes me think of "not I who live, but Christ who lives in me."

  12. Trolls don't just linger under bridges. They emerge blinking into daylight to spam blogs. I've had my share on articles and blogs too. Just don't feed them and they go away.

  13. Oh good, Sterling, Street of Crocodiles! Weird, moving...they are one, I mean two of a kind, those brothers....


I WELCOME your comments!!!