Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Where Dumbledore's Treasure Is

There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways (Didache 1:1). Ash Wednesday's Gospel reading says it this way: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6). There is another two ways, one of life-giving treasure and one of death-bringing treasure. Death and life and treasure.

Harry and Hermione discovered this, if not before that moment, perhaps a little bit more as they stood before Dumbledore's sister's headstone in Godric's Hollow. And even further still by the end of The Deathly Hallows. (A fitting name for the conclusion of the series if there ever was one). For there are also two ways in Harry Potter, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways. On the headstone they read a portion of Matthew 6: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Just what was Dumbledore's treasure? What could possibly have led the family to choose that epitaph for their daughter, Ariana? The answer, I think is found in the writing on another tombstone Harry and Hermione come across, that of Lily and James Potter.

"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

That's no coincidence. As one of Rowling's most notable influences once said, "There's no such thing as coincidences" (C.S. Lewis). On many occasions Rowling herself has said that the entire Potter series is all about death and how the characters respond to and live in the face of it (and therefore by extension how the reader ought to face death as well). There are those who are afraid of death and thus seek to manipulate, rule and overpower others around them by means of control and rule of force. They live for themselves. These are the Death Eaters and Voldemort chief among them. And then there are those who, although struggling with the reality of death and the pain it brings them and their loved ones, look with hope to a life after death. Thus they live in sacrifice and love for others. This is where we find Harry Potter, Hermione and Dumbledore, who is second only perhaps to Professor Snape in living in hope of the resurrection. (If you've read the books, that's enough for you to get the point on that account; and if you haven't, well...you should).

These are the two ways. This is where we find Harry and Hermione as they stand before his parent's headstone in Godric's Hollow. Hermione catechizes Harry, who will come to understand what she says later, much like the disciples after Jesus' resurrection from the dead. 

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death...A horrible thought came to him, and with it a kind of panic. "Isn't that a Death Eater idea? Why is that there?"

"It doesn't mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry," said Hermione, her voice gentle. It means...you know...living beyond death. Living after death."

It means resurrection. Life. It was for Dumbledore. That's why he laid down his life. It was for Harry's parents and it was for Harry too. Two ways. Life and Death. To paraphrase Psalm 1:

Blessed is the boy who lived and walks not in the counsel of the dark lord, nor stands in the way of the Death Eaters, nor sits in at the table of  slytherin;
But his delight is in the words of Dumbledore, and on his instruction he meditates day and night.
He is stronger than a womping willow planted by Hogwarts Castle...
The Death Eaters are not so, but are like dementors that a patronus drives away.
Therefore the Death Eaters will not stand in the judgment,
nor their followers in the congregation with the Order of the Phoenix; for the way of Dumbledore is life, but the way of Voldemort will perish.

With Ash Wednesday around the corner, this too is our greatest treasure. Let the superscription be, Jesus Crucified for me. Death swallowed (eaten) up in victory by Christ. Moth would consume the cloaks that Jesus wore in mockery. Rust would destroy the spear that pierced his flesh. But neither could lay a hand on the Lord of life. Death would not the victor be of him who hung upon the tree. The grave met its match when Jesus laid in its dust. For us the word on Ash Wednesday is this: "Dust you are and to Dust you shall return." But that is not the final word for us. Jesus gives us his last word over the last enemy: "It is finished." Jesus rises from the dust. And He raises you from the dust and ash heap to sit at the feet of princes. At his crucified feet, the Prince of Peace. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

A blessed Lenten-tide to you all.

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