March 2, 2013

Reflections: Like a fairy tale, message of faith is that in the final wash of events, all will be well

By MERLE STEVA

Fairy tales often carry truths in small packages. Familiar to all is the tale of Cinderella -- a young woman put upon by a wicked stepmother and two horrible stepsisters.

REFLECTIONS is a column written by members of Maine's faith-based community. Opinions expressed in the column reflect the author's view and not necessarily that of the newspaper.

She must clean the kitchen, scrub the toilets, empty the ashtrays and walk the dog. Required to do more than her share of the cooking, she must scrape and wash the dishes, then wrestle the pots and pans into their assigned slots. She hauls the wood, sets the fire and carries out the ashes. She spends so much time by the fireplace that her clothes take on the color of cinders and soot. Out of spite, further humiliating her and with malicious intent, she is called Cinder/ella.

It is not a good world for this cinder-covered woman. It is as if she lived in an asylum where the inmates were doing the therapy. This is, however, a fairy tale and fairy tales are fictions about the reversal of fortunes; they are a reminder that justice is the ultimate goal of the universe.

Here we are told that one day a handsome prince travels to Cinderella's part of his father's kingdom. He is bent upon finding a bride and has planned a fashionable ball to which he invites all the eligible young women of the province. As you might expect, the horrible sisters make arrangements to attend the ball. Cinderella, on the other hand, is reminded of her low estate and told that she must stay at home. She would merely be a distraction at such a fashionable event. Sadly, Cinderella, betrayed by events and her family, accepts her fate, and tearfully helps her wicked stepsisters get ready for the ball.

We are not far into our fairy tale when we learn that Cinderella has a friend in high places -- a fairy godmother who sees that Cinderella goes to the party, though Cinderella is cautioned that she must leave before the midnight hour. Arriving in a splendid coach with numerous attendants, Cinderella is the sensation of the evening -- though a guest of mystery. She is beautiful beyond all description. Hovering about her is a delicious air of enchantment. Who is this wondrous beauty? Every song seems to be a song about her. Midmost in the evening, the prince sees this beautiful stranger across the crowded room (you know the song). Captivated by this mystifying young woman, the prince dances with her the whole evening. Cinderella, also smitten in heart, is so enraptured by the handsome prince that she loses track of time right up to the fateful moment of midnight. Desperately, she asks to be excused. Thinking she needed only to powder her nose, the prince is startled to see a few moments later Cinderella fleeing down the castle steps into the night. In vain, he hurries after her, but finds on the palace steps only a small and delicate glass slipper that has fallen from Cinderella's foot. Well, you know the rest of the story. The prince after a time finds Cinderella and they are married.

Whoever first created that story shared an important secret about this unsounded creation with the rest of us. It is a story about a universe that ultimately honors earthly faith in the triumph of what is true and good even when the odds are mightily against it. A fairy tale is the perfect machine of our dreams and our hopes. Fairy tales exist to remind us that the world is an improbable and curious place and that in the last life really means us well. Fairy tales inevitably gain my attention. These wondrous oracles I choose to pass on to anyone listening.

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