Friday, August 15, 2008

Swaddle it be

My alarm went off yesterday at 7:45 a.m. At 7:52, after one "snooze," I was out of bed and offering up whatever I was about to endure for special intentions that I asked Our Lady to place in her Immaculate Heart.

Thirty-five minutes later, I was lying on a slab inside a silent, sarcophagus-like cylinder, swaddled mummy-like from neck to toe in a white flannel sheet, unable to move. The cylinder was open on one side—like a slick modern take on a first-century tomb. The only image I could see, painted in brown on the grayish interior that curved two inches above my face, was two perpendicular lines that overlapped one another directly above the bridge of my nose. A perfect cross, the kind seeming to "extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape," as G.K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy.

Our Lady sure has a sense of humor, I thought.

Honestly, can I just say it was a slightly bizarre way to begin the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

In case you haven't guessed, I was getting a radiological test in advance of my hospitalization next Tuesday through Thursday. With me all "meanly swaddled" (as Peter Cook would say), it looked something like this photo I later found online, only the scanner was designed with an opening of a few inches on the left-hand side, so I wasn't completely shut in. Also, unlike an MRI test, there was no noise.

This is not me—but it shows what I mean by "swaddled."

To make it even more surreal, my head was inside for only the first 10 minutes or so. Then the slab slowly emerged just enough so my face was in the light. The rest of me was still swaddled for about another 10 minutes, when the tech unwrapped my arms and had me fold my hands across my chest, where they had to remain for the rest of the half-hour test.

The experience taught me a couple of theological lessons, the first a reminder that—to borrow a phrase from Ray Pritchard's First Law of the Spiritual Life—she's the Mother of God and I'm not.

Meaning, for example, I should stop complaining already. As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen observed (after spending his Feast of the Assumption getting a pacemaker implant), "If the Lord called her, who 'deserved' no pain, to stand at the foot of the Cross, why should He not call me?"

A 30-minute radiology scan is nothing compared to what the Blessed Virgin went through. She had Seven Sorrows. I have $7 salads.

The other lesson was that, while I realize some Catholic theologians assert that the Blessed Virgin did not die but only "fell asleep," there is really something reassuring in the thought that she imitated her Son to the point of experiencing death. After just 10 minutes with my head inside a whitewashed "tomb," I don't want to think about Our Lady's having been lowered into a real one if she were in fact "not dead yet."

TRACKBACK: I am honored to have inspired a fellow blogger's recollection of a radiology test that was a little too close to a certain classic "Twilight Zone" episode.