As I had always known he would come, unannounced, remarkable merely for the absence of clamour. So truth must appear to the thinker; so, at a stage of the experiment, the answer must quietly emerge. I looked at him, not with the eye only, but with the whole of my being, overflowing with him as a chalice would with the sea. Yet was he no more there than before, his area occupied by the unhaloed presences. You could put your hand in him without consciousness of his wounds. The gamblers at the foot of the unnoticed cross went on with their dicing; yet the invisible garment for which they played was no longer at stake, but worn by him in this risen existence.
What then? What after we wait?
Sometimes people want to argue with me about whether God exists. I don’t. I don’t, not just because dspite being a “mouthy feminist lefty” (you know who you are!) I don’t like arguing much, and I dislike, especially, arguing about something that matters this much. I mention it because this is, for me, what this poem is about. This poem is a sort of answer to the question of what happens when we wait.
There is no great epiphany. No Damascene moment. Just as we meet him in the breaking of the bread, so also we meet him in the way that suddenly our minds see the solution to a problem which has baffled us:
So truth must appear to the thinker; so, at a stage
of the experiment, the answer
must quietly emerge.
Here again the echoes of that other great Welsh priest-poet, George Herbert resonate. In Prayer (1) , Herbert concludes the act is:
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood
It is that process we saw in prayer, that moment which creeps upon us with no fanfare, that fragile, fleeting, numinous sense of being in a liminal space where we tune in, so to say, to the eternal clouds of witnesses. He is not separate from our everyday life, and Thomas again emphasises there is no dichotomy between flesh and spirit. Hence, I think, the reference to St Thomas, who would not believe the reality of the Resurrection until he had put his fingers in the nail holes. We can do that without consciousness of the wounds – as the soliders are not conscious that the seamless robe is worn by the Risen Lord.
Christ is not separate from us, he is here to be encountered where we can and will. His arms reach out. He loved us first. If we will stop for a moment, turn off the phone, the computer and light a candle and settle to pray and wait. And here, in Advent, we wait. Cavafy had it right at the end of his great poem, Ithaka:
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Lord, may we, through this Advent, come to an understanding of what the waiting means. Come, Lord Jesus, come!
There is an #adventbookclub is using “Frequencies of God” by Carys Walsh and you can support the publisher by buying it here: https://canterburypress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9781786220882/frequencies-of-god. We’ll be running this club on Twitter and Facebook, and you are welcome to join in with thoughts and comments. Other folk doing this are https://grahart.wordpress.com/, and https://becausegodislove.wordpress.com/ so please pop over and read their thoughts too!