Recognised, Became Invisible: For Jean-Luc Marion

unnamed
Caravaggio, “The Supper at Emmaus”, c.1601

Was it the breaking of bread that did it,
That act just so like the Bread of Life?
Or was it how the Word opened up the word
And our hearts were like flames within us? Our eyes
Beheld but did not understand, intuit
What lay behind all those parables, rife
With intimations of truth, had we heard.
Until now; saturated presence lies
Within our grasp, and then it disappears
Yet leaves us with the realised, the now-known,
Faith equipped by sight, and hearts to testify.
Manifest amongst us, the truth now sears
Within us where it took a seat. Once shown
The substance of our faith, let Life reply.

“The thick darkness where God was”

This is what must first be given to the painting, a harmonious warmth, an abyss into which the eye sinks, a voiceless germination…
(Paul Cézanne)

How often is he shown with those horns of light,
as though his head were itself full
of the brightest luminescence and
two cracks, two holes
had formed inside his skull to let
escape all that light, kept
invisibly, impossibly, inside.

Yet for Rembrandt see
how darkness grabs the eye much more
than all the plainness of that face,
how even those two tablets seem
as black as all the dark to which
we’re told that he drew near, while all
of Israel stood just far enough
away to not be safe.

And when El Greco takes
the striking forms of Sinai as
his text, the darkness is
in every shadow-line beneath
the redness of the clouds, around
those rocky pillars, rising from
the chalky, sketchy ground.

Not darkness, but light, shone forth
from those two tablets when
the light-horned Moses brought them down.
Yet light like that we must squint to see.
When fear declares that only man
is safe, that we can’t bear to hear
the voice that struck the tablets’ side:
O let us step, like Moses, to
that darkness without human horns
where only in that absence
of human sight can all Your light
be ever fully seen.

“A catholic taste,” she said

and I nodded,
not knowing at all what she meant, for I
was not, nor have ever been, Catholic.
How then, I wondered, was my reading taste catholic?
The word, at the time, meant Mary and popes,
not expansive, far-reaching, inclusive. Now I
give my old teacher’s words new meaning:
yes, catholic in reading, in writing, because 
bodies matter, and ritual
and beauty are core;
catholic because
bread and wine, and brokenness,
sacrament, liturgy,
should inhabit the fibre of the Christian page.
Faith is not, should never be, prose.
So Mauriac and Merton, Marion and Nouwen
shall show me the way to paint Christ
in rich praise.