“The night is over.
The real light is already shining.
Anyone who loves his brother
is living in the light.”
(from 1 John 2: 8-10, The Jerusalem Bible)
These are the days when sun and light
and moon and stars grow dark
and day is darkening at the windows
of the house no longer theirs,
the car derelict just off the highway,
when the bird is silenced, and
to go uphill is an ordeal, and to walk
is something new to dread.
(from Ecclesiastes 12: 1-5, The Jerusalem Bible)
The world lines up at the door
of City Light Community Ministries
Monday, Wednesday, Friday noon, Sunday morning,
for grace and a meal handed out at the door,
all changed since the Virus turned the tables
on sit-down breaking of bread, sharing the cup
of communion, for an hour no one displaced
to the streets, the covered parking lots,
tent city, railroad underpass, the nameless
huddled on flattened cardboard boxes.
So . . . City Light:
Pastor John Moore and Lynn Martin,
Maura and Olga, Robert and Jersey, Tom and Keith,
Barbara, Debbie and Beverly,
Wanda and Katherine, Katrina and Louise,
Kayleen and Caitlin, and all who have
come before and all still to come
who suffer the homeless, suffer for the homeless,
taking prayer requests for family, their needs
unceasing, walking the streets, lips forming words
only the homeless understand, hands fluttering
about their face, sign language of the Fallen
choosing to discern Good from Evil,
preferring Good, as often as possible.
City Light workers doing all that can be done
for those staring up from hospital beds
pleading for breath against the suffocating Virus.
All that can be done for those on the city streets,
the blizzard record snowfall, fifteen inches,
minus four degrees overnight; loss of heat, loss of water
for those freezing, hungry and thirsty, the stranger
sick in the prison of self.
Then unknown neighbors come and give
to the least of these–mercy unsung,
and sometimes poets approach the Ineffable
to help us comprehend such love as that of
Crowley, theological serpent of the Garden
(from Terry Pratchett’s and Neil Gaiman’s novel
Good Omens),* who having been damned
for offering the forbidden fruit, tells Aziraphale,
angel of the Eastern Gate: “‘I can’t see what’s so bad
about knowing the difference between good
and evil, anyway'” (Good Omens, p. 3).
And then when Crowley asks Aziraphale,
“‘Didn’t you have a flaming sword?,'”
the angel, a “guilty expression
crossing his face,” admits he gave it away
to Adam and Eve leaving the garden:
“‘Well, I had to,’ said the angel, rubbing his hands
distractedly. ‘They looked so cold, poor things,
and she’s expecting already, and what with
the vicious animals out there and the storm
coming up I thought, well where’s the harm,
so I just said, look , if you come back
there’s going to be an almighty row,
but you might be needing this sword,
so here it is, don’t bother to thank me,
just do everyone a big favor and
don’t let the sun go down on you here.'”
(Good Omens, p. 4)
And then there’s James Wright’s poem “Saint Judas”**
depicting Judas as the Good Samaritan, his act of
compassion for “this victim beaten / Stripped,
kneed, and left to cry” (p. 56), and Judas, betrayer
of Jesus, despairing, on his way to hang himself,
“. . . Dropping my rope
Aside, I ran, ignored the uniforms:
Then I remembered bread my flesh had eaten,
The kiss that ate my flesh. Flayed without hope,
I held the man for nothing in my arms.” (p. 56)
Judas, loving this stranger, his neighbor, more,
much more, than himself, as Jesus commanded,
“You must love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no commandment greater” (Mark 12: 31-32),
so James Wright confers sainthood on Judas–
hope for us all.
Though the night is never really over,
a light always shines in the dark,
a light that darkness cannot overpower. (John 1: 5)
“Far away, in the dripping woods, something
bright and fiery flickered among the trees.”
(Good Omens, p. 5)
*Pratchett, Terry, and Neil Gaiman. Good Omens. William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.
And . . . “Good Omens,” Amazon Prime Video, TV Mini-Series (2019), Creators: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
**Wright, James. “Saint Judas.” Saint Judas: Poems, Wesleyan UP, fifth printing, 1982.