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Brennan Manning and the Dun Cow

One of the books a friend gave me for Christmas was Brennan Manning’s The Furious Longing of God. As I was reading the last chapter a couple days ago, I came across this paragraph: “By entering human history, God has demolished all previous conceptions of who God is and what man is supposed to be. We are, suddenly, presented with a God who suffers crucifixion. This is not the God of the philosophers who speak with cool detachment about the Supreme Being. A Supreme Being would never allow spit on his face.”

I immediately thought of another passage from a book I read last year that I first heard about here on the Rabbit Room, Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Book of the Dun Cow. Although this tale about a rooster and his coop is not an allegory, it is still possible to see in this story hints of what I think is one of the great truths of Christianity, the idea that God has come near. Reading this, I am comforted that, though we ache with the knowledge that things are not as they should be, we know, in the midst of our suffering, that we are not alone.

The dark land everywhere held still, as if on purpose before such a ringing, echoing cry. The dark sky said nothing. The Rooster, with not an effort to save himself, sagged, rolled down the roof, slipped over the edge of the Coop, and fell heavily to the ground. Wind and sobs together were knocked out of him; he lay dazed.

And then it was that the Dun Cow came to him.

She put her soft nose against him, to nudge him into a more peaceful position. Gently she arranged his head so that he might clearly see her. Her sweet breath went into her nostrils, and he assumed that he woke up; but he didn’t move. The Dun Cow took a single step back from the Rooster, then, and looked at him.

Horns strangely dangerous on one so soft stood wide away and sharp from either side of her head. Her eyes were liquid with compassion – deep,deep, as the earth is deep. Her brow knew his suffering and knew, besides that, worlds more. But the goodness was that, though this wide brow knew so much, yet it bent over his pain alone and creased with it.

Chauntecleer watched his own desolation appear in the brown eyes of the Cow, then sink so deeply into them that she shuddered. Her eyes pooled as she looked at him. The tears rose and spilled over. And then she was weeping even as he had wept a few minutes ago – except without the anger. Strangely, Chauntecleer felt an urge to comfort her; but at this moment he was no Lord, and the initiative was not in him. A simple creature only, he watched – felt – the miracle take place. Nothing changed: The clouds would not be removed, nor his knowledge plenished. But there was this. His grief had become her grief, his sorrow her own. And though he grieved not one bit less for that, yet his heart made room for her, for her will and wisdom, and he bore the sorrow better.

The Dun Cow lay down next to the Rooster and spent the rest of the night with him. She never spoke a word, and Chauntecleer did not sleep. But for a little while they were together.

At dawn Chauntecleer crowed lauds; and then he went alone into his Coop.


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