"The Radiant Coat"
(by: Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

3-3-99 Story of the Week from Church Within #21

Greetings my Dearest Sisters and Brothers, and welcome again to The
Church Within Story of the Week [S.O.W.]

This week's SOW - #21, contributed by: Minister Judy Girard

Story of the Week

"The Radiant Coat"
(by: Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

        This is how it is not. It is not that we have a meeting with death somewhere off in the future. But rather we are on a pilgrimage here on this planet and death is our great compañara, our great companion. It was she who cradled and protected us when we were being born from our mother's thighs; she steps every step we step, sings every song we sing and weeps when we weep, and it is she, death, the best friend, who will midwife us again in the second birth at the end of this life, the birth into the next world.

         So in order to tell you the facets of this journey with death, it is necessary to tell stories. Stories that are old but young; stories that are of our time, but also outside of our time. For in stories, as in no other way, the ancient and the new, the past, present and future are all in conjuntium, meaning in harmonious relationship to one another. So the one thing I ask from you now is this, listen to these stories with your soul hearing - with the ears that belong to your soul. You know, the auditory nerve runs from the ear along the floor of the brain pan which it is said by ancient disectionists, to trisect into three roads or pathways deep within the brain. They surmised that the ear was meant, therefore, to hear at three different levels. One pathway, so as to hear the mundane conversations of the world; a second pathway so as to apprehend learning and art, and a third pathway so the soul itself could hear guidance and gain knowledge while here on earth, so choose this last pathway, the path to the hearing of the soul. And I invite you to listen to the story now of The Radiant Coat.

        There was an old man who slept by the side of the road. His skin was so shiny that his bones shone through. His feet were so worn their souls were like two brown oak leaves, wrinkled. And his bony skull was laced with veins which pulsed with his heartbeat. And all he wore was a little rag around his waist, a tiny little rag that was part loin clothe and part sash.

        But it was not always this way. When he had been newborn, a tall tinker had appeared in the village and somehow his poor parents had purchased a long and beautiful coat from the traveling merchant, and as the tinker had promised, the coat was not only long and beautiful but it had a certain magic about it. And as the boy grew, also did the coat grow longer and longer, keeping stride with its boy. And at last he attained manhood and he was a handsome man in his beautiful coat. And more than that, when he needed rest the coat covered him from head to toe and when he needed food he reached into pockets of the coat and food was provided him, and when he was lonely, he curled up in his coat and he felt wanted.

        But as in all things, he traveled and aged and the beautiful coat began to wear away; first it became thinner around the cuffs and the hem was not so strong anymore as it had once been. And he tore it on a wooden nail. And though wherever he journeyed he washed the coat in rivers and pounded it with a stone to make it clean again, eventually some tiny holes were left in the torso of the fabric. And later there was a long rip up the back from a snarling dog and several short tears on the shoulder where he had been set upon once by thugs.

        And finally from sitting and standing and laying and walking so much, the bottom of the coat wore so thin, you could hold it up and tell the time of day through it. So with his knife, the man cut away the bottom of the coat and he made a half way handsome jacket. Except for fraying around the cuffs and collar, old tear stains, many food stains, it stayed as it was for a long time. The man wore it on all of his travels. It kept him warm and he felt wanted. When he was hungry he reached into the pockets and it fed him. But in time it too began to wear again, and as he himself became aged, his jacket became more and more ragged, and he tore his sleeve on something, he could not recall what, and he tore the other sleeve on something, he could not remember what it was. And pretty soon the sleeves were in ribbons.

        And so it seemed good fortune that the man met a tall tinker at the crossroads. "Why, my man, your jacket is in tatters. Here, purchase one of mine." And the tinker showed the man his wares. "Oh, how much I should desire to purchase this one." The man gently touched with his grimy finger a pure white long coat, with a rose colored collar and gold trim about the cuffs, but alas, the man had no ability to pay. So as was meant in these matters the tinker and he parted ways, and the man traveled onward by himself.

        In the morning as he awakened, the sleeves of his jacket fell away from his jacket like leaves from a tree and without any extra work, the man was left with a vest to wear. And this he did and proudly and he was in good humor for it served, although not as well as before, it served nevertheless. And when he slept it covered him more or less, and when he was lonely he pulled it tighter and he felt cared for and in the pockets was still nourishment.

        And so it went, and of course the vest wore more and more until finally it was hanging from his shoulders in rags, and he said to himself, "Well, I shall use it still and I shall fashion it into a sash". And that is what he did. And there was still a little pocket there over on the side and when he searched into it there was still a little food, and when he slept he was covered in the middle, but bare to the sky at both ends, and in truth he did not always sleep well for he was not as warm as he used to be. And now when he felt lonely there was not much to pull toward himself, but there was enough and he was of good spirits.

        Then, on his last night he was sleeping and his raggedy jot of sash, as though having a life of its own, began to unravel. First one thread broke and curled upward and then another, the threads making no sound but breaking and opening the way a rose opens in the spring. And the old man, with every breath he took, broke more of the threads and more until suddenly through the opening of the frail sash out leapt the old man's luminous soul which raced up and out to the mid heavens in a boundless joy, looking back to the earth fondly but not with regret. And although souls are almost never surprised, this soul, whose old man body now lay still at the roadside, this soul who was he, was indeed surprised and joyous to behold himself wrapped in a soft white coat with a rose colored collar and fine gold trim about the cuffs and even more so, how it billowed about the soul, being a sail taking him onward as always!

The Prayer
Dear Ever Loving Parent,        
        Remind me frequently that my physical body with it's ego is but a garment needed to protect during this mortal life, my True Nature which is my Soul.

You ALL are Within the Infinitely Loving Embrace of our Universal Parent,

The Creator's Eternal Love, through me, to all of You,
Pastor Daniel

Previous Story                       Next Story

Back to the Story of the Week Archive Page

Back to the Story of the Week Main Page

Back to the Church Within Home Page