The Apostate’s Mercy (For Cyprian of Carthage, Bishop and Martyr)

When the ones who had fled emerged from their caves,
the fire died down, the Emperor’s rod
no longer raised, from some they received
mercy, from others the shame of the lapsed,
all the judgment accorded to those who denied
the name of the Lord for fear of the sword.
Cyprian stood as one of them, for
he knew in his heart the burning power of dread,
the instinct to flee, the shame of return.
Call as he did for these ones to find mercy
when they returned with heads sorrow-down,
he knew now full well the call of the Cross
and when his time came, he had grace now to stand
where many, like he, had other times quaked;
the mercy he found had transformed him.

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