The Reverend Canon William Rhodes has slipped through the veil that shadows the world of the unseen from our eyes. His presence has moved beyond our vision but not from our hearts. His enchanting smile, though missed, will remain. His words, though not heard, will still remind. His beckoning of the saints to the Table will now be ours to fetch him to come.
Bill Rhodes was a living poem; he was wise, encouraging, an exact enigma. He was the master of the Table, keeper of the High Way. His theology was precise. His ethics made the margins as wide as the love of Christ he followed and as narrow as the path He walked.
Many of us have our favorite Father Bill story. Those remembrances will inspire us towards his path of courage and endurance. Bill Rhodes walked that dusty road, which was often filled with pain, pointing us to look at the redeemer and healer, God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We when hear those words, we will also hear the Sanctus Bells, smell the incense, see the fine vestments, taste the transmuted bread and wine, but we will only touch the priest in our souls. Grief can be as heavy as the aroma of years of frankincense. Let our tears mingle in the wine.
As was typical of Bill, just last week he gathered with his colleagues to discuss the challenging works of Franciscan Richard Rohr. The opinions in the room were as wide as the Anglican Communion. Some quoted scripture in defense of their position. Others referred to their experience of the Divine as the basis for their understanding. Bill Rhodes recited lines from the Eucharistic Prayer. His life of service to others was enmeshed in the liturgy he enveloped at the Table. Bill Rhodes had become the liturgy.
W.B. Yeats wrote, “Have not poetry and music arisen out of the sounds the enchanters made to help their imagination, to enchant, to charm, to bind with a spell themselves and the passers by? And just as the musicians or the poet enchants and charms and binds with a spell his own mind when he would enchant the mind of others, so did the enchanter create or reveal for himself as well as for others the supernatural artist or genius.”
William Rhodes was a living poem, the genius artist of the supernatural. He was an enchanter who invited us into the mystery of the Table. William Rhodes intimately knew the Triune God he so passionately celebrated as he opened the window for us to share a glimpse.
The poet may be hidden from our eyes, but his charm lingers in our hearts.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.
“The Elixir,” George Herbert