Here There Be Dragons

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in instructing catechumens, wrote:
“The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass.
Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls,
but it is necessary to pass by the dragon.”


No matter what form the dragon may take,
it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws,
that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell,
and this being the case, it requires considerable courage
at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller.

~Flannery O’Connor from “Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose”

But a dragon lies in ambush for the traveler;
take care he does not bite you and inject you his poison of unbelief.
Seeing this numerous company winning salvation,
he selects and stalks his prey.
In your journey to the Father of souls,
your way lies past that dragon.
How shall you pass him?
You must have “your feet stoutly with the gospel of peace,”
so that, even if he does bite you,
he may not hurt you.
~St. Cyril of Jerusalem

with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:15

<Here there be dragons>
was any place on the ancient maps
that was unknown and unexplored-
a place to avoid at all costs~
or for the daring and carefree,
pointing to exactly the place to explore.

Here there be dragons
marks the remainder of our days
that dwell at the edge of life’s roadmap
~ unknown and unexplored ~
and often full of peril.

So many dragons to pass
ready to swallow us whole if we make a wrong turn,
or singe our britches if we stray beyond the known borders of the map.

So many dark valleys to pass through
so many mysteries remain unsolved,
so many stories of fateful journeys told.

We pull on our stoutest shoes,
ready to trek where ever we are sent,
not straying from the well-worn path of the faithful
who have stayed out of the jaws of the dragons
to tell the story.

The Last Hour

photo by Josh Scholten

Resolved, never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
~Jonathan Edwards

The first few weekends of any university’s fall semester is fraught with risk.  It is a time when freshmen, in particular, participate in age-old college rituals that take some to the emergency room and result in a few lying in the morgue.  There is sometimes an attitude of tossing care and good judgement to the wind.  Leaving home and being on one’s own means the freedom to do what one wants, when one wants, until the moment when payment comes due.

The national headlines in autumn over the last few years have shouted in large font about toxic reactions at parties serving Four Loko, about students gone missing, about fatal falls off overloaded balconies, and this week about the devastating effects of alcohol enemas.  There never seems to be an end to ways students can experiment with stretching and possibly breaking the slender thread between life and death, in the name of fun and games.

A helpful rule of thumb has always been what our grandmothers said:  “Don’t ever do anything you’d be embarrassed to see on the front page of the newspaper.”

In this day and age of social media, as newspapers become less relevant, the new rule of thumb should be: “Resolved, never to do anything which I would be afraid to see on FaceBook, YouTube or going viral in a matter of hours.”  Unfortunately, in the twisted way modern society works for some, that is all the more incentive.

Jonathan Edwards, writing almost 300 years ago, had it right.  We need to live each hour as if it were our last, considering what that hour might mean for eternity.