How much does an angel weigh?

We’re home again, now reflecting backwards on our trip to see family and friends in Paraguay. One woman we met there, soon to celebrate her 65th birthday, said she finds herself “meditative” now. I like the word: of, involving, or absorbed in meditation or considered thought. Travel, reunions, aging — all can open us to this state.

I was caught by the following. When you spend two weeks steadily with people you haven’t seen for many years, you hear a great deal. Good stuff like what children and grandchildren are doing, and progress and satisfactions of various kinds, but tough stuff too, involving illness and death, difficult memories, ongoing challenges, fractured relationships.

The_Wounded_Angel_-_Hugo_Simberg“We don’t want to burden you,” one person said after a complicated tale involving the last on the list. I didn’t know how to say that they were the ones who were burdened, but that now we would carry it nevertheless.

During this time I happened to see, in someone’s Facebook status, Hugo Simberg’s beguiling painting, “The Wounded Angel,” and one night, sleeping poorly, a question flung itself around and around my head: “how much does an angel weigh?” There was no answer, just the question, repeating itself. I also found a feather, tiny and perfect, on the verandah, which I picked up as if dropped especially for me. I encountered “wings” (mine and God’s) in the Psalms.

IMG_6864These items aren’t a narrative. I’m setting them side by side because they remind me how much we’ve heard by the time we’re old and how, day by day, we’ve had to carry. How we have to keep learning to carry.



5 thoughts on “How much does an angel weigh?

  1. I have never seen this painting, Dora, and am so intrigued with it. A “wounded” angel? Bearing the burdens of others has become too much, even for an angel? I love that you found a feather. God’s mystery revealed in a small but poignant way!


  2. The angel (not the whole painting) appears on the cover of Joanne Gerber’s story collection, The Misleading Absence of Light.
    But you probably know that.


  3. Very fine & thought-provoking painting & reflection on helping to carry the burdens of others–and doing this lightly with the touch of a feather, recognizing that we are perhaps entering someone else’s “holy ground.” Reminds me of a poem I wrote years ago, “Weeping for a Child in Ramah” (based on sad/tragic experiences in Mozambique). It began with this quote:
    “Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honour. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I …”
    (- Hildegard of Bingen CD: Feather on the Breath of God)


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