In the film Wings of Desire, Damiel is an angel seeking to strengthen what is spiritual in the minds of the people he supports. He is, however, outside of time, in eternity, and therefore can only observe but not experience human life itself. He decides to become human in order ‘to be able to say “Now and now” and no longer “forever” and “for eternity” … At last to guess, instead of always knowing. To be able to say “ah” and “oh” and “hey” instead of “yes” and “amen.”’
In ‘Abiding’, the book we are studying together in Lent, Ben Quash uses the example of Damiel leaving the certainty and the knowledge of eternity to live in the flux and flow of life, in order to explore the Biblical sense that ‘to abide we must journey; to have truth and life (to have true life) we must be always underway.’ Damiel’s embrace of a world in which we (unlike angels) exclaim “Ah!”, and “Oh!”, and “Hey!” is ‘a delicious reversal of that human instinct to eradicate all uncertainty and know everything fully, clearly and precisely.’
Quash writes that ‘A life of growth and surprise and relationship and invention … is the nature of the Way which is also Home.’ As a result, ‘Christian people have been called … to exchange changeless abiding into changeable abiding …’ We abide, he suggests, by fully living life in all its flux and flow.
As a result, this Lent we may wish to echo the prayer of the poet Wendell Berry, who, ends his poem ‘The Wild Geese’ with these words: ‘we pray, not / for new earth or heaven, but to be / quiet in heart, and in eye / clear. What we need is here.’
Revd Jonathan Evens