Empty Hands

As part of Cath and my preparation for Easter, we watched Robert Besson’s striking Diary of a Country Priest during Holy Week.

It is a thoughtful and at times achingly beautiful look at the inner life of a sickly priest dealing with a parish that despises him. (Thank you, Heather, for pushing me to watch this film.)

The movie is built on contradictions and tensions – a priest who painfully searches for G-d’s presence while being moved through His spirit; a congregation that rejects him because they see him as truly good; a life mystically set-apart yet mortally human.

The flick seems built on morsels of food-for-thought; nearly a gorging of simple bites.

One moment that struck me too deeply: the priest kneels at the body of a deceased woman – one whom he had recently (and supernaturally) counseled, resulting in her turning from bitter resentment to resigned contentment. His thoughts:

“I had said to her, ‘Peace be with you,’ and she’d received that peace on her knees. What wonder that one can give what one does not possess! Oh, miracle of our empty hands!”

I often have felt (feel!) empty; I know of the knee bruising, searching for a G-d inexplicably standing at the edge of sensation; I am familiar with eking out spiritual meals using ingredients solely from memory – of ecstasies past, earlier companionship, even the memory of communions yet to come.

And oh! I resonate with the awkward reassurance of being an instrument, of a spirit coursing through me on the way to someone else’s need, desire or whimsy.

To have a time of not hearing the Lord’s voice, save the echo as it is given, ventriloquist like, to an alternate audience!

In a way, is that not itself a communication? Is that not G-d in action, speaking to me by acting through me?

Is that not, in its own way, the answer to the petition, “My G-d, my G-d?”

Oh, miracle of our empty hands!

Just my thoughts,

Sean

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One response to “Empty Hands”

  1. Linds says :

    I’m so glad you loved it – it’s one of the most powerful movies I’ve ever seen, and it’s had a deep impact on my view of Christ and His work through us. Interesting enough, Nate showed this to his high school film students, and he was a bit apprehensive about how they’d receive it. I think it’s a tribute to the power of film (and to the extent to which we underestimate and pander to teenagers) that they adored it and spent an entire 85 minute class period in rabid discussion of the film and its meaning. That’s the power of good cinema. 🙂

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