Chapter 13

A vision of the Virgin Mary skiing at Røros 

I sit on my indoor bicycle doing my routine training and listening to the radio. The NRK broadcast radio sermons every Sunday. I have not had the habit to listen to these sermons.

             But when I started to write about religion, I thought I should listen to get an impression of what is going on in The Church of Norway.

            This Sunday the sermon is broadcasted from the town of Røros. The town is situated on a mountain plain in Central Southern Norway. It is one of the few inland Norwegian towns, and the one highest above sea level. Røros was founded because copper ore was discovered on the mountain plain. It was a copper mining town for centuries, until there was no more ore to be found.

            Today Røros is a tourist attraction. The town’s old wooden, whitepainted church is a favourite with postcard makers. The church and some surrounding old buildings are on the World Heritage List of the United Nations.

            I think the famous wooden church may have been a possible target for the Satanist cult we had in Norway some years ago.

             If you, dear reader, are a foreigner, you probably cannot imagine Norwegian blondes as darkhaired, darkdressed Satanists. But it is true that we had a small group of Satan worshippers, and that one of the group’s ambitions was to burn down churches.

             There are more wooden churches in Norway than in most other countries. Some of these churches are stave churches from Medieval times. The stave churches are irreplaceable

treasures. Many people, including me, were worried that the Satanists would set one or more stave churches ablaze. The tar impregnated timber of the old churches would make them burn like torches in the night.

              Members of the Satanist group put at match to a church in Oslo. It was the wooden Holmenkollen chapel, at the wellknown Holmenkollen ski jump hill, the landmark of Oslo.

             The chapel was popular with the royal family who has a log cabin, Kongsseteren, in the woods near the chapel. Holmenkollen chapel was totally destroyed by the flames, which could be seen all over Oslo. Some Satanists were arrested and sentenced for the deed and went to prison.

              The chapel was to be rebuilt, and the reconstruction to be financed by contributions from the population. I did not contribute. Today the chapel stands there as it did before. The Satanist cult is no more to be heard of, but may exist deep underground.

            The sermon broadcasted from the Røros church, which luckily did not suffer an attack from the Satanists, is about the Virgin Mary. I pedal my bicycle and listen to the old words spoken by the young priest in the old church. The liturgy is the same as in my school days, when I had to go to church because it was an obligation for pupils. I hated the forced church-going. It turned me away from the church and from Christianity.

            I listen to the tale of the Virgin Mary. It is a wonderful story, this metaphoric narrative about a teenager girl who was to give birth to the son of God. But to me the story is no more than a myth. I cannot believe that Mary’s firstborn baby was the son of God.

            All of  a sudden I see a Mary-like figure for my inner eye. It is a dark Virgin Mary. She looks like a Somali woman, and has a beautiful face like so many Somali women have. Over her head she wears a hijab. The hijab is of a purple colour, and so is her Somali-style robe. What is a bit funny in my vision, is that my Mary is wearing skiing boots and stands on a pair of skis.

            How come the skis? At Røros on the mountain plateau there is still a lot of snow and good skiing conditions. I have always envied the people of Røros that they can go skiing in late April, and possibly in early May.

            Now I envisage my Mary standing on the top of a steep, snowy slope outside the church of Røros. Since the church is located in the middle of the town, there can be no ski-slope in front of it. But in my vision there is.

            She hesitates at the top of the slope.

            ”Go, Mary, go!” I exclaim.

            There she goes. She stand steady on her skis and does a perfect downhill run. At the bottom of the slope a crowd has gathered. The women in the crowd are dressed in traditional national costumes (”bunader”), and the men wear the traditional caps (”østerdalsluer”) of Røros and the Østerdalen valley.

            On the way down Mary’s hijab blows off her head. Her dark hair becomes visible. It is nicely curled like the hair of an angel painted by one of the pre-Rafaelites.

            My Mary takes a wide telemark turn at the end of the slope and glides into the crowd where she is embraced by the folkloristic women, and her skis kissed by the men. Yes, the men throw their caps in the air and bend down to kiss Mary’s blessed skis.

            This vision, I am sorry to say, is not a religious vision. I interpret it as a political vision. It is all about how I hope that integration of immigrants will hopefully work out in Norway. Not that I wish the ordinary Somali women of this country to go skiing. The ski run of my Mary was a symbolic one.

            You are crazy, I say to myself. You are what Ernest Hemingway in one of his short stories, with a wry smile, called a worthless character.

            My bicycling comes to and end, and so does the sermon from Røros.

            ”We should, like the Virgin Mary, be ready to do what God wants us to do,”  the priest said. And then he added something about the Holy Spirit, who made Mary pregnant.

            But I am not in touch with the Holy Spirit.

              The sermon left me cold. I did not receive anything from it. I listened, but I was like deaf to the liturgy, the prayers, the words from the Bible.

             The sermon was part of a musical festival at Røros, and had a lot of song and music in it. I tried to open my ears to the song and the music, which was played by a very good violinist. And, yes, I heard the music. But the words of the clergyman preaching fell dead on me.

             Am I in a sorry state of mind? No, I am in my normal state of mind. I take a shower and go out in the garden. My companion and I make a fire. She has cut down a lot of small trees to let us have a better view of the big trees, especially a tall pine tree, and a cluster of oaks. The small trees were of the species aspen (”osp”), alder (”or”) and bird cherry (”hegg”). We burn the branches and the parts of the small trees that are of no value as firewood in our wood-burning stoves.

             We go and sit in the sun.

              It is a wonder of a day. A day on Earth. One of the limited amount of days we humans have. Summer is in the air, but it is cold in the shades.

            I say that I’m going inside to do some typing.

            She says it is good that I am eager on writing.

            ”It is good,” I say. ”But I don’t know what’s coming out of it.”

            ”Do you still try to write in English?”

            ”Yes, I do. It’s a foolhardy project, but I plan to go ahead with it. There is no stopping it now.”


       Chapter 12

Chapter 14