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!