“Do you want to be well-integrated, do you want to feel whole, happy, or in tune with your deeper self?“
These are the questions that novelist Susan Howatch asks her readers in her Starbridge series of novels, and her St Benets Trilogy.
And then, when her readers respond to this question, they find stories with themes of repentance, forgiveness, redemption, resurrection and renewal. That, in Susan Howatch’s own words, is what her books are all about.
For anyone with spiritual yearnings, Susan Howatch’s books are manna for the soul. And I am one of those.
This icon by Andre Rublev is seen by some as depicting the three men Abraham entertained (as told in the Old Testament story), who turned out to be angels; or the Holy Trinity. Jesus is the centre figure, God is on the left, and the Holy Spirit is on the right. The message is: at that table, there’s a place for us. This image represents an invitation to us to step up to the table.
A well-known miracle of Jesus is the one where he changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana, in Galilee. In that culture Jewish weddings lasted several days and it was vital to provide enough wine. So it would have been a major social disaster for the wine to run out. And when Mary, Jesus’ mother, said to him, “They have no more wine” his reply was something along the lines of “What is that to me?” Yet she turned to the servants and said “Do whatever he tells you.”
What he did is very well known. He instructed the servants to fill up several huge wine jars with water, and then to serve it to the guests. And then people started saying to the host, “Usually the best wine is served first. But you have saved the best till last.”
Wine here may be a metaphor for what we most need at this time.
And I believe that on an individual level, in our world, we need the message of invitation, acceptance, inclusion and love.
Despite all the obvious practical and physical needs we all have, especially in our troubled times of economic difficulty, and ideological strife, I believe this is what we need: the language of inclusion, invitation, acceptance and love, instead of the language of fear and violence and hatred and self-gratification, which often deafens us in our world.
What’s your take on this? What is the “wine” you feel we have all run out of? Please consider leaving a comment!