Fifth Sunday of Easter
One way of reading Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” is to understand it as a story about theological imagination, and how it is we come to envision the world rightly.
At the center of this story is a nameless child who, being rather remarkable in her imaginative capacities, manages to see beyond the ordinary around her to a world shot through with importance and the work of the Spirit.
In one particularly poignant passage, she’s considering freaks in the freak-show at the fair, and understands them to be martyrs, supposing that what the adult tents contain must be about medicine. She decides she’ll be a doctor, but then reconsiders, thinking she’ll be a saint, but even that doesn’t fit, for she knows her sins. As the story goes,
“She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick. She could stand to be shot but not to be burned in oil. She didn’t know if she could stand to be torn to pieces by lions or not. She began to prepare her martyrdom, seeing herself in a pair of tights in a great arena, lit by the early Christians hanging in cages of fire, making a gold dusty light that fell on her and the lions. The first lion charged forward and fell at her feet, converted. A whole series of lions did the same. The lions liked her so much she even slept with them and finally the Romans were obliged to burn her but to their astonishment she would not burn down and finding she was hard to kill, they finally cut off her head very quickly with a sword and she went immediately to heaven. She rehearsed this several times, returning each time at the entrance of Paradise to the lions.”
This kind of imaginative vision stretches beyond herself to the world around her. Where some see freaks, she sees temples of the Holy Ghost. Read more