Our too brief trip to the Maritimes this summer included a short visit to Avonlea. It was my idea. I couldn’t imagine being on Prince Edward Island without stopping there. Although I had yet to read any of Anne of Green Gables, there was something in the film shown about Lucy Maude Montgomery’s life and the poetic soul that drew me to her. In Prince Edward Island’s rich tapestries she saw ruby, emerald and sapphire. On our return home I took down the books and began a delightful journey.
There is much in the books. Much of delight, of wonder, of awe, of beauty, of love. Dramatic and colourful, filled with insights and fancies, flowers, and foolishness. They are populated by people whose character and characteristics are as alive in them as they were alive in Lucy Montgomery’s life, as alive as they are today. The books are insightful, and with an almost overwhelming tendency to delightful.
Anne is at their centre. Bright, shining, eternally optimistic, compelling, joyous Anne. Questioning conventions, accepting a world steeped in God’s love, populated by fairies and haunted, at times by souls lost in sadness. Sometimes, even her own. In the books and in the lives of many of their readers, Anne is something of a saint. Especially when judged by the numbers engaged on pilgrimage to Avonlea.
Saints in our lives call something out of us at a level that is difficult to quantify. It is not something one can come at with intellect or rationalization. Our ancestors in faith have tried to share it with us in many ways.
Psalmists have written great poems and praises to the love that holds us all in the language of their time and place and culture. Language of grandeur, language of wonder, language of awesome mystery and majestic presence.
Prophets speak in words of warning, when their people turn away from love, and in words of joy to come, when their people are lost in despondency and fear. However they speak, there is something shining forth from prophets that marks them as love’s messengers. An indefinable something that iconographers and artists have often marked for us with halos encircling the heads of prophets and saints.
St. John of the gospel speaks in language less than understandable. Not rational or literal or in any way meant to speak to our heads. John means to speak to us of the Word made flesh. Of the ground of all being, of the love pervading all that is, and was, and would be. John writes of a family weeping to one they know to be an emissary of love, calling for love’s response to life’s greatest sorrow. Two sisters pouring out and broken, a brother in the tomb four days gone. Wounded hearts raw and bleeding before him.
John speaks in our hearts. Whispering to our souls of bodies long dormant suddenly enlivened in new light, he holds out promise and predestination. Not only will Jesus become the fulfillment of this promise, so too, will those who walk the Way of love in Spirit with him. Lazarus may be, as some scholars suggest, the first of these. He will not be the last.
In scripture we hear and read ancient truths put down by our ancestors in faith. Put there for them, put there for us. Psalmists, Prophets and Saints have not done with us yet. The Bible may be written and set before us as a guide to our journey, but poets continue their writing, prophets continue their speaking and Saints continue living and pouring out love among us, every day.
Who are they? Where are they? How do they call? Listen for the words of love and you’ll find them. Look with the eyes of love and you’ll see them, speak with the heart of love, and you will be them.
Anne of Avonlea called all around her to see the world as she saw it. A place of beauty, joy and mystery, a place of comfort, solace and care for the afflicted. A place of love flowering constantly, a place of gardens waiting for the hands of those who would assist in God’s yearning call for love planted and tended among us.
God calls each of us into a ministry of prophetic, poetic, saintly life. How will we live out ours?