The Tanager’s Lament

While working outside recently, I suddenly noticed a brightly colored scarlet tanager on the ground about ten feet from me.  He would peck at the ground and then furiously scratch and preen his feathers, frequently writhing and rolling in the dirt.  His body was in rough shape, with patches of feathers missing. The poor thing was suffering from a mite or lice infestation.

I finished my work and sat on the ground just a few feet away, my heart filled with compassion as I watched him suffering with his parasite infestation.  It seemed wrong that such a beautiful and rarely seen bird should suffer so greatly and be reduced to that pitiful state.  I asked the Lord about the spiritual lesson here. As the saints have taught, all things have a spiritual meaning to covey to us.

I felt the meaning was this: we humans were made in the beautiful image of God.  We fell from that grace, and while the image was not destroyed in us (we still possess some of that beauty), it was greatly diminished.  The sinful passions plague us, making us miserable while tarnishing the beauty of the divine image.  Unlike what I learned in my Protestant years, God does not look at us with rage due to our sinful activity, rather both He and the angels look upon us with pity, desiring to help us.  Just as it pained me to see this lovely creature suffering, it pains God and the angelic order to see us reduced to such misery by the sinful passions.

Once the tanager flew away, I resumed my work and thought about my own passions.  What does my soul look like?  On the outside I have probably fooled many trusting people into thinking I have it all together, but inside I am infected with the parasites of sins.  Neither my Lord nor my guardian angel look upon the exterior image that I present to everyone.  Instead, they see my soul as a little bird, covered with parasites, itching at these interior wounds, having lost much glory.

If that little bird had flown to me, I would not have known how to help it.  However, the Lord is an expert in these matters and is able to come to the aid of every soul that even looks His way.  He lifts us above the parasite passions and into the heavenly realms, that we may sing His praises in Spirit and in truth.

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