I came in after dark last night just in time to hug my children and pray them to bed. “How was it?” my wife asked. “Good,” I said. “Very spiritual.” That was all.
C.S. Lewis thought Till We Have Faces: a Myth Retold was his best book. The story reworks the myth of Cupid and Psyche from the point of the view of Psyche’s sister. It is unlike any other fiction he wrote.
Psyche’s sister never ceases to grieve for banished psyche. In her old age, a queen for years and years, she goes on a progress. One autumn day she comes to a small temple, barely more than a roadside shrine. The priest tells her the sacred story of the goddess of the place. It is her sister, Psyche.
Yesterday evening I went to a sealing.
I’ve known the wife for some time. In American terms she is not middle-class physically or financially or culturally. In Mormon terms she comes from a family that is not “middle-class” either–they are discussed in ward council more then they attend it. Her husband is a recent convert who is on disability and has struggled to give up his chewing tobacco. One year ago they got married civilly so he could get baptized.
I do not have a lot in common with them. I may be eighth cousins or so with the wife, but I went because I did some free legal work for them last year that saved the wife’s job. In the peculiar way things work, I have felt like I’m under an obligation to them since.
None of this status stuff was on my mind as I walked into the temple. I was not consciously thinking that I was degreed and they not; I a returned missionary, they not; I a lifelong attender, they not. I was not mentally fondling these markers of status like an old-fashioned miser with his gold. It was the stuff about obligation that was on my mind, and I was grinning a little.
But just a rich man always knows he’s rich, whether he is contemplating his wealth or not, I must have been at some level aware of status. I’d bet that we all are. This barely conscious awareness is important to what happened next.
Something, some source of wisdom that came from outside me, brought to memory Lewis’ little roadside shrine and the simple-minded priest telling his story. The phrase “the sacred story of the goddess” caught my mind. Abruptly my presence at the temple took on a different character. It was my privilege to be a bystander, perhaps, generously, a minor participant, in a climax in the story of the goddess who is my friend. My burden of attendance was like that of Simon the Cyrenian, whose “burden” it was to be forever remembered in connection with our Lord.
In the sealing room, I saw them, husband and wife, already lightly divine.
That, darling, is how it was. That is the answer I should have given you.