A convincing mystery

He held the half-caste firmly in the saddle and walked on. His feet were bleeding, but they would soon harden. An odd stillness dropped over the forest, and welled up in the mist from the ground. The night had been noisy, but now all was quiet. It was like an armistice with the guns silent on either side: you could imagine the whole world listening to what they had never heard before — peace.
   A voice said ‘You are the priest, aren’t you?’
   ‘Yes.’ It was as if they had climbed out of their opposing trenches and met to fraternize among the wires in No Man’s Land. He remembered stories of the European War — how during the last years men had sometime met on an impulse between the lines.
   ‘Yes’, he said again, and the mule plodded on. Sometimes, instructing children in the old days, he had been asked by some black lozenge-eyed Indian child, ‘What is God like?’ and he would answer facilely with references to the father and the mother, or perhaps more ambitiously he would include brother and sister and try to give some idea of all loves and relationships combined in an immense and yet personal passion… But at the centre of his own faith there always stood the convincing mystery — that we were made in God’s image. God was the parent, but He was also the policeman, the criminal, the priest, the maniac, and the judge. Something resembling God dangled from the gibbet or went into odd attitudes before the bullets in a prison yard or contorted itself like a camel in the attitude of sex. He would sit in the confessional and hear the complicated dirty ingenuities which God’s image had thought out, and God’s image shook now, up and down on the mule’s back, with the yellow teeth sticking out over the lower lip, and God’s image did its despairing act of rebellion with Maria in the hut among the rats. He said, ‘Do you feel better now? Not so cold, eh? Or so hot?’ and pressed his hand with a kind of driven tenderness upon the shoulders of God’s image.
   The man didn’t answer, as the mule’s backbone slid him first to one side, then the other.

— Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory

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