The Absence

It is this great absence
that is like a presence, that compels
me to address it without hope
of a reply. It is a room I enter

from which someone has just
gone, the vestibule for the arrival
of one who has not yet come.
I modernise the anachronism

of my language, but he is no more here
than before. Genes and molecules
have no more power to call
him up than the incense of the Hebrews

at their altars. My equations fail
as my words do. What resources have I
other than the emptiness without him of my whole
being, a vacuum he may not abhor?

So many times we have seen Thomas refer, sometimes obliquely, to the absence, or the sense of the absence of God. This trait is so pronounced that some have called him a poet of the absence of God. Here there is nothing oblique about the treatment of the “absence” – it is the gaping hole that is the centre of the poem. But that is the point.

It is in our fallen nature to want to be like God and to want to see God when we want to see him – and that is usually NOW. Yet throughout this series of poems one message runs – that is not given to us in this mortal world: restraining our desires; calming our busy minds; stopping and taking the by-ways; knowing that God is everywhere. Thomas is an apophatic poet, we know God by what he is not, by paradox, by intution, by ephiphanies. We see, as Paul said we would in this world, God as “through a glass darkly”. There is no easy resolution of the paradox of our wanting God and God loving us; it is in the nature of this mortal life. That is why God does not “abhor” the “vacuum” – it is necessary.

If, as we are promised, eternal felicity means seeing God as he is, then the distance he keeps in this life is part of this life, and however much we want to know him better and see him better, he has told us, through the Incarnation, how we should try to live this life. As and when, and if, we do that, we come closer to him. And in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine at the Eucharistic feast, we are one.

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!