Sunday, December 28, 2014


And then the angel left her. She arose
After a while, and took the broom again
And wondered, as she swept, “was it a dream?
And what are dreams and what is waking life?”

She walked in dreams. How do you reconcile
The strange transcendence of another world
With baking bread and spinning wool for cloaks?
And why should such a being greet her thus?

And then she smiles an inward-turning smile
And cups her work-rough hands across her front
Protectively, as women always have
Who carry a new life inside their flesh.

Angels, it seems, do not give detailed plans
Of how and who to tell of such strange things,
But the necessity, the child within
Loosens her awe-struck tongue – this must be told.

It seems she walks in an unsolid place
One foot on earth and one foot in the air,
And round her head the secret angels fly
And round her feet the thorns and thistles tear.

She fears the scorn in Joseph’s honest eyes:
Must this, too, be yielded as the price?
But no, this mercy given wraps her round;
He knows she is the mother of the Christ.

And then Elizabeth, the one who knows,
Whose miracle blooms like a desert rose,
Richly endowing a gaunt barren place,
And tears of wonder water both their hearts.

And then her feet are turned to Bethlehem
As some far emperor she has never seen
Moves all the pieces round upon the board
Into a shape that is the will of God.

And soon now will the angel-hosts return
To bless the turning earth with peace decreed,
The while she carries, underneath her heart

The meaning and the answer to our need.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Beast

It was born into the world back near the beginning, when the man and the woman both turned away from Life. At first it was weak and tentative; its presence remained unknown until brother envied brother, and selfish rage fuelled the hand that rose and struck down the one had done well. Then it stood revealed, and its presence was accepted as inevitable. Soon it was stretching its power, and man after man, woman after woman, sooner or later became its lawful prey. There was only one jarring exception: the man called Enoch, who walked straight past it into the presence of God, and it could not lift so much as a claw against him. That was disconcerting, and troubling, implying a weakness in its absolute tyranny, but, as time passed and humanity expanded, that one anomaly was almost forgotten. There were no other exceptions, everybody else, however strong, wealthy or good, was forced, in the end to submit to it.

The centuries passed and it grew stronger and stronger, with more to feed upon, though there was a niggling sense of weariness even in its insatiable appetite. Flexing its muscles, feeding its hunger, it developed more and more weapons to use for its purposes: violence, famine, disease, flood, fire, foolish superstitions and corrupt religion which gave it little children and men and women at their finest strength offered up in useless sacrifice. Its favourite of all was war. When clan fought against clan, or, better still, nation fought against nation, men women and children were fed to the beast in such quantities that it was left marvelling that humanity could so hate itself! Oh yes, there was the strange anomaly of Elijah, so many centuries before, managed to bypass its claims, but what was one against so very, very many?

Then came the time that changed everything. It loved the Roman armies, for they fed it well, so well that it had no particular attention to spare for one more crucifixion in a small provincial town. But on that particular day, when that particular man died, and Death, the great Beast, took Him down into its jaws, something indescribable happened. This prey did not stay lifeless and limp in its jaws. Instead the hunter became the prey, the victim became the victor. In the darkness of the tomb, beyond the reach of human sight or understanding, cosmic battle was waged on mankind’s behalf by one who was a man, yet more than a man. And Death itself was defeated, the Beast was chained, its power broken.

What were Enoch and Elijah compared to this? They may have bypassed Death for themselves, but this man, this Christ, this illegitimate shabby Jewish teacher, had destroyed death in the very act of his dying, and offered freedom from the Beast for all mankind. Oh, until the last Act of the drama was played out, men’s bodies would still endure death. But his jaws held no more terror now, his gums were toothless. The Beast was now on a chain, and one day, very soon, the chain would be pulled in and the end would come. He was the Last Enemy, but one day every enemy would be conquered. Death would die, its death sentence had already been given in the court that could not be gainsaid.