There is a tension in the child's mind between her "ugly thoughts" and the knowledge.
Rather than accepting Grace, Asbury has been worshiping Art as a god instead in "The Enduring Chill." He realizes this when he overhears Mary George say that he has decided to be an invalid because he cannot be an artist, thinking, “He had failed his god, Art, but he had been a faithful servant and Art was sending him Death.” When Father Finn instructs him to pray, he responds, “The artist prays by creating.” The stain on Asbury’s bedroom ceiling can be interpreted as representing the Holy Ghost.
It appears to him as a “fierce bird with spread wings.
It had an icicle crosswise in its beak.” Since he has closed himself off to faith, he finds it irritating and sometimes frightening.
After Father Finn leaves, having instructed him about the Holy Ghost, Asbury “looked at the fierce bird with the icicle in its beak and felt that it was there for some purpose that he could not divine.” When he realizes that he is doomed to a long life suffering from undulant fever, “the fierce bird which through the years of his childhood and the days of his illness had been poised over his head, waiting mysteriously, appeared all at once to be in motion.” It descends toward him, since he is doomed to suffer for his refusal to open his mind to Grace.
Though he is a juvenile delinquent, Rufus achieves Grace in "The Lame Shall Enter First" because he believes in Jesus and tries to share the truths of the Bible with Norton.
After Wendell sings to the girls, they use the Latin songs they have practiced at school to make him and Cory feel confused and embarrassed; accordingly, "The sun was going down and the sky was turning a bruised violet color." After the child has achieved Grace in the chapel of the convent school, during the drive home, "The sun was a huge red ball like an elevated Host drenched in blood and when it sank out of sight, it left a line in the sky like a red clay road hanging over the trees." The Host, which Catholics like O' Connor believe is literally transformed into the body of Christ, is also linked to the hermaphrodite's body when the child thinks of the "freak" during the mass ceremony.
In "The Enduring Chill," when Asbury arrives at the train station as the story begins, “The sky was a chill gray and a startling white-gold sun, like some strange potentate from the east, was rising beyond the black woods that surrounded Timberboro.” His mood is like the sky, since he believes he is about to die.
Rufus declares himself to be controlled by Satan on the very first day he meets Sheppard.
However, unlike Sheppard, he actually believes in God and begins to teach Norton about heaven and hell.