The OA for Lent—Episode 7: Empire of Light

“How did you survive so long down there?”
“I survived because I wasn’t alone.”

Episode Summary

This episode begins with another unexplained dream premonition, forshadowning a new juncture in our story. It isn’t resolved by the end of Episode Seven, so we have to wait until the series finale to see whether this premonition comes true like the bus in Episode One, or its a diversion like the Statue of Liberty in Episode Two.

The Name

In this episode we finally we learn what The OA stands for: “The Original Angel.” The revelation comes unceremoniously as the Johnsons are having dinner, seeking some sebmlance of normalcy when a young woman takes a selfie with The OA and it sets Nancy off. We are reminded that the Johnsons still don’t know what happened to The OA in those seven years. The OA blurts out the story and finally reveals her name, only be be slapped across the face by Nancy.

Naming is a powerful theme in sacred Scriptures. In the Bible, God’s name “I AM” is revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush. Other characters like Abram and Sarai, and Jacob are given new names to signfy a new calling. In birth stories like that of Jesus and John the Baptist the name given to each child foreshadows their life and calling.

We are left to wonder why she is “The Original Angel.” Is it because she was given the first movement. We don’t yet know.

Reckoning and Redemption for Steve

Next to The OA, the most compelling and complex characters in the series is Steve, who has gone from a bully to a member of the five misfits, to a person that is trying to take more responsibility for his life and develop his “invisible self.”

Things seem to be going well for Steve as he has a new love intereste, but then it is revealed how he punched another student in the throat. He is taken away to a school/facility and The BBA follows him. Finally, she literally ransoms Steve with the $50,000 casheirs check that she received from her brothers estate. And so, The BBA who, when we first meet her, is set on getting Steve kicked out of school, now ransoms him to freedom.

When Steve returns to the abandoned house, he lashes out at The OA and stabs her with a pencil. She absorbs it as well as Steve’s fear and anger. He asks her, “How did you survive so long down there?” She answers, “I survived because I wasn’t alone.”

Purgatory

There is a brief conversation about purgatory between The OA and The BBA. The BBA asks her where she went and she answers, “I don’t think it was purgatory, but I don’t think we can understand.” The BBA asks, “Why do we always try to understand?” The OA offers, “The futue is dark, not dark like bad, just dark—you can’t see it—and maybe living is just bringing light to what you need in a day, seeing the day. Or at least that’s what I’m learning in therapy.”

An Invisible River

Finally The OA refers to an invisible river: “The force of the movements done with perfect feeling just opens something that’s already here, like an invisible river that carries you away but you have to jump in, you have to want to jump in.” Rivers are a powerful place across the world’s religions from the Ganges River in India to the Jordan River in Palestine. As one author writes, “rivers as the wellsprings of ancient wisdom.”

Podcast Conversation

Scripture Reference

  • “But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14God said to Moses, “ I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘ I AM has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:13–14 Here, in this epic moment when Moses encounters God as a Burning Bush, God reveals God’s name to Moses, “I AM.” What’s in a name? Sometimes everything.
  • “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34) The OA offers, “The futue is dark, not dark like bad, just dark — you can’t see it — and maybe living is just bringing light to what you need in a day, seeing the day. Or at least that’s what I’m learning in therapy.” Maybe today has enough troubles of its own without trying to figure out everything. Maybe its enough to be bring some light to this day, this moment.
  • “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. …For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8–11) The BBA ransoms Steve’s life with the check from her brother’s estate. In Romans, Paul writes how we have been ransomed by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you ever been ransomed at great price? Have you ever been the receipient of such grace and kindness that set you free, if only in your heart and mind? How did that feel? What did that mean to you?
  2. The OA has these premonitions that indicate a juncture in her life and in the series. How do you know when you are entering an important juncture or transition? What do you notice and how to you pay attention to what may be coming next?
  3. A selfie with The OA sets off a whole series of events in this episode. There is a lot of debate about selfies and whether they are self-promoting, distracting, or draw us closer together. When are selfies life-giving and when are they distracting or even harmful?

Spiritual Practices

Totems

In this episode, The BBA and The OA talk about her brothers check and The OA likens it to a totem. She says, “cultures that have survived more loss, like harsh weather or earthquakes, they have more totems. Objects carry mearning in difficult times.” The check was a totem for The BBA. Do you have totems? What do they represent to you? Spend some time holding/viewing and reflecting on the totems of your life.

Examen

The OA tells The BBA, “maybe living is just bringing light to what you need in a day, seeing the day.” One way to see the light in each day is to practice the Examen, created by St. Ignatius, founder of Jesuits, and look back over your day. You might also start a gratitude journal, capturing the things you are grateful for each day. Or, start each day with intention to “see the day” and “bring light to it.”

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