Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Post: He looked through the lattice of our flesh and He spoke us fair

I don't suppose I really screamed. What had happened was that I had fallen asleep at last and drifted into nightmare. I was imprisoned in stone. I knew then what men suffered who are walled up alive....And when I had been still for a little while I found myself slowly edging forward. There was a crack in the stone....I went on scraping through and at last there was a glimmer of light. It came to my feet like a sword and I knew it had made the crack, a sword of fire splitting the stone. And then the walls drew back slightly on each side of me, as though the light pushed them. I had a sense of conflict, as though the darkness reeled and staggered, resisting the light in an anguish of evil strength....But the light, that seemed such a small beam in comparison with that infinity of blackness, kept the channel open and I fled down it. There was room now to run. I ran and ran and came out into the light.

I had escaped. I was so overwhelmed with thankfulness that I nearly fell. I sank down on the ground and sat back on my heels, as children do sometimes when they are saying their prayers and are tired. It was ground, not stone, it was a floor of trodden earth. The stone walls were still there but the light had hollowed them out into a cave and they no longer frightened me. There was a lantern in the cave and people were moving about, a man and woman caring for a girl who lay on a pile of hay. And for a newborn child. As I watched, the woman stooped and put Him into His mother's arms....It was like one of the nativity scenes that the old masters painted, only not tidy and pretty like those. The girl was exhausted, her clothes were crumpled, and the sweat on her face gleamed in the lantern light. The man was dusty and tired and not yet free of the anxiety that had been racking him for hours past. The woman was one of those kindly bodies who turn up from somewhere to lend a hand in times of human crises. She made soft clucking noises as she gave the baby to His mother, and the two women gave each other a long look of triumph before the girl bent over her baby. He was like all newborn babies. He looked old and wizened, and so frail that my heart nearly stopped in fear, as it always does when I see a newborn child. How could anything so weak survive? His thin wail echoed in the stony place and then was stifled as He sought His mother.

...I remembered the rocks of the wilderness and the multitude of sinners surging in, selfish and clamorous, sick and sweaty, clawing with their hot hands, giving Him no time so much as to eat. I remembered the mocking crowd about the cross and the thick darkness. I remembered the second cave, the dark and stifling tomb....And I remembered Saint Augustine saying, “He looked us through the lattice of our flesh and He spake us fair.”...He was not the weakness that He seemed, for He had a sword in His hand and all evil at last would go reeling back before it. He had entered the prison house of His own will. And so He was not trapped, nor was I. There was always the way of escape so long as it was to the heart of it, whatever it was, that one went to find Him.

Elizabeth Goudge, from The Scent of Water

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. Thanks be to God.


William Luse said...

Merry Christmas, Lydia.

Lydia McGrew said...

And to you and yours, Bill!