Top left an angel
Top left an angel hovering. Top right the attendance of a star. From both bottom corners devils look up, relishing in prospect a divine meal. How old at the centre the child's face gazing into love's too human face, like one prepared for it to have its way and continue smiling.
As so often with Thomas, we are catapulted into the middle of a scene, and a train of thought. Mthr Carys likens the poem to a painting. Its elements are familiar to us from a million Christmas cards. Its message is a reminder to us of what this birthing means for us all.
On high the symbols of his lordship – the angels from the realms of glory, the star which guided the Magi. Below, well there we find the symbols of the devil who will tempt this new-born child as they tempt all of us. At the centre is that image which dominates so many icons and paintings – the Madonna and child. But this is not just a sweet and sentimental scene – it could hardly be a poem by Thomas and be just that.
God, St John tells us, is love. Thomas often reminds us of the limitations of words, but he uses them so well that he almost takes us beyond what they alone can tell us, despite that; it is his gift as apophatic poet. We know the word “love”. We use it promiscuously though: I’d love a glass of wine; I’d love to see that film; I’d love to be able to see my relatives this Christmas; I’d love to go there; all the way through to “I love you” to my other half. “Through a glass darkly”, as St Paul puts it, we see love; but God is love and if we observe him, we too will have an insight.
At the centre of this poem is the Divine Word made Flesh, that face so full of ancient wisdom, gazing into the face of human love in its purest form. There is no love so unselfish as that of the love of the mother for her child. Sometimes, Divine Love is called “Sophia”, and here there is an echo of that. The love of mother for child is as the love of God for each one of us. He formed us in our mother’s womb, he numbers the hairs upon our head. And yes, and yes, at the last he is willing to suffer for us. He knows where our passions can lead – to what Passion he will come. Mary is told by Simeon:
but she loves her child and will go all the way to the foot of the Cross with him. His love takes him to Golgotha for us. However much the “devils” lick their lips, Love will triumph.
As we prepare homes to celebrate the birth of the Lord, let us not forget that love which prepares us for him and that we were bought at a great price, paid willingly. At such love we can but marvel – but the mother and the child give us a taste of how great God’s love for us is. Maranatha!
There is an #adventbookclub 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!