The offense, along with time and geography, had made it reasonable for me to avoid exacerbating the situation by removing myself altogether from the person's proximity. I had gone on my way, nearly a decade, without giving thought to the person, let alone their name.
I no longer dwelt on the offense, the memory was buried long ago, but the name brought it back, the dagger pierce of the wound, now not the quickening prick of the blade that had offended me, but now the blade in my own hand: my rectitude and righteousness and moral superiority, ready to strike.
I have shared with really only one person before this post how I feel when I start hating someone. I'm a passionate person, so hate can oft be the most honest word for it. How the Holy Spirit ends up convicting me of the sin of hatred toward my neighbor, especially my enemy, is usually by bringing them to mind as a miniature of themselves---like a toddler---hand out and empty where once they were holding an ice cream cone that is just now dropped on the pavement before them. For, to my horror, I realize that I'm the one who has struck it from their hand.
That usually abates my anger. That usually makes me see them as a person again, as a mortal again, as soul that I can reach out and touch and commune with.
But this day, this name, this eight year old name in front of me, conjures a deep, old kind of hatred, a hatred that doesn't make sense, because I read One Thousand Gifts and I pray the psalms and I bake and I paint, which should mean that I see this name and feel nothing but grace.
But no. The hatred, the old, cheat hatred is there.
I expect the toddler image with the ice cream, but it does not come.
As I sit in this circle of beautiful people, panic setting in, the words about me move in rhythm, as each prays in turn and the lot falls closer and closer to me, to bring words forth myself, a different image comes to mind.
An image I haven't thought of in longer than that name.
When I was young---too young, in fact---I read the book series The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which is a version of the chronicles of King Arthur, told from the perspective of Morgan Le Fay, the Lady of the Lake. In addition to its liberal view of sexuality and representing it explicitly, the book series hinges on the thesis: All gods are one God and all goddesses but one Goddess. (The book essentially pits Christianity and paganism against each other, paganism without question coming out looking the better for it. It's pantheism and universal at their worst and, I assure you, I read these books without my parents' permission or knowledge.)
But for all its ills, there is a scene at the end of the last book that has always haunted me, though it rarely has occasion to come to mind. Lancelot, portrayed through the books as champion of impious Christian dogmatics, has been searching for the Holy Grail, the cup Christ drank from at the Last Supper, for decades and, at the close of his life, finds himself in a rundown chapel receiving Communion. But when he receives, the cup is borne to him not by the priest but by Morgan Le Fay, his old enemy and the champion for the pagan cause and, ultimately, worship of the idolatrous Goddess. And, more over, it is not an ordinary cup, but the Cup, the Holy Grail itself held in her mystical, goddess-representing hands.
Again, the line all gods are one God and all goddesses but one Goddess comes in, the book closing with this picture of universal acceptance and salvation.
It's an absolute blasphemy. It's completely heterodox.
Yet, I find this image coming to mind instead of the toddler and the ice cream. This image I have not thought of in years, longer than that name.
For I saw myself, not Morgan Le Fay, holding the cup of wine, holding the Holy Grail. I saw my enemy, not Lancelot, kneeling at the rail.
"The Blood of Christ," I said, and offered the cup.
And then, in turn, it is my enemy with the cup and me at the rail. "The Blood of Christ," said to me, and I drink this offered cup, not from my enemy, but my fellow priest.
Perhaps, this is what is meant:
And I will go about your altar, O Lord, that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders.
What I now see from Bradley's fiction I had not seen so clearly before, that the Holy Ghost can truly redeem and make beautiful all things in their time, and that this cheerful pagan taught me an image of what it is truly to forgive.
The person who had offended me, who was my enemy, was also a fellow Christian; this enemy, as I had called them, was of my own kind. I must offer forth the Cup, with my wounded hands, with the paint-stained nails and palms that never seem to get clean.
We shared the same Cup. We share the same Cup. At the end of all things, we shall share the same Cup.
The circle of prayer reaches me. No toddler image, no lingering hatred, but the Cup.
All is but grace. By His Blood, by this Cup, we are reconciled even if only in heart and mind.
I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men ... lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
1 Timothy 2:1,8