Some dim dazzling trick of grace

Come the start of Lent, I always think of the last paragraphs before the epilogue in Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer, when the narrator discusses his future as he sits in a parked car, simultaneously keeping watch over the comings and goings from the Ash Wednesday services at the new-built Catholic church across the street.

The Negro has already come outside. His forehead is an ambiguous sienna color and pied: it is impossible to be sure he has received ashes. When he gets in his Mercury, he does not leave immediately but sits looking down at something on the seat beside him. A sample case? An insurance manual? I watch him closely in the rear-view mirror. It is impossible to say why he is here. Is it part and parcel of the complex business of coming up in the world? Or is it because he believes that God himself is present here at the corner of Elysian Fields and Bons Enfants? Or is he here for both reasons: through some dim dazzling trick of grace, coming for the one and receiving the other as God’s own importune bonus?

It is impossible to say.

from The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy (1960)

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