Saturday, April 25, 2009

What is religion? I have given much thought to it, but in vain.

I pondered it especially that time a few years ago when I was compelled to officiate as a bishop in full canonicals at the carnival and give holy communion to the dwarfs of the Mantua court whom their Prince had brought here for the festival. We met at a miniature sanctuary which had been set up in one of the castle halls, and around us sat all the sniggering guests: knights and nobles and young coxcombs in their absurd apparel. I raised the crucifix and all the dwarfs fell on their knees. "Here is your savior," I declared in a sonorous voice, my eyes flaming with passion. "Here is the savior of all the dwarfs, himself a dwarf, who suffered under the great prince Pontius Pilate, and was nailed to his little toy cross for the joy and ease of all men." I took the chalice and held it up to them. "This is his dwarf's blood, in which all iniquities are cleansed and all dirty souls become white as snow." Then I took the host and showed it to them and ate and drank of both in their sight, as is the custom, while I expounded on the holy mysteries. "I eat his bodh which was deformed like yours. It tastes as bitter as gall, for it is full of hatred. May you all eat of it. I drink his blood, and it burns like a fire which cannot be quenched. It is as though I drink my own.
"Savior of all the dwarfs, may thy fire consume the whole world!"
And I threw the wine out over those who sat there, staring in gloom and amazement at our somber communion feast.

-- The Dwarf (1944), Pär Lagerkvist



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