Damascus 2: Pentecost

Conversion_on_the_Way_to_Damascus-Caravaggio_(c.1600-1)
Caravaggio, “Conversion on the way to Damascus”, c1601

I missed the flames that day,
was at my books, learning the whys and wherefores of Law,
determined that every subscript iota
would not be neglected when I stood before God.

The Spirit blows wherever it wills.
Mine was the letter, not the wind.
When, years later, I clutched letters in hand,
I held every one that spelt, I am right.
I missed the flame, but the wind still arrested;
and the Son spoke assaults on my well-crafted name.
The Spirit caught, sent me – though crooked –
blown by its wind to the street they call Straight.

Damascus 1

Conversion_on_the_Way_to_Damascus-Caravaggio_(c.1600-1)
Caravaggio, “Conversion on the way to Damascus” (c.1600-1601

Something ends here:
paused mid-threat, flung groundward,
the man called Saul can breathe no more murder
while the horse kicks up its hooves and he points
his arms half-desperate at heaven.

Something begins here
yet it looks altogether like dying:
the fall, the pervasive dark,
the eyes failing to see, and yet
the spirit cognisant like never before.

I will show him how much he must suffer.
All this awaits, after the falling of scales;
now is the dying; the blindness preceding sight.
Must resurrection look like this?
With groans of creation, Saul will rise,
and Paul will live anew.

“…and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Emmaus 3)

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Caravaggio, “The Supper at Emmaus”, c.1606

How like him to appear this way:
a walk alongside the mourners,
an attentive ear, a willingness to linger,
and then – the climax –
seated at table,
bread, the beloved symbol, poised in hand,
and at its breaking
all finally clear.

How like him
who broke bread with Zaccheus,
with Levi, with Judas.
How very like the bread Himself
to be broken, then to be known.

Chiaroscuro

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Caravaggio, “The Supper at Emmaus”, c.1606

To Cleopas and his friend,
the revelation and its impact no doubt stuck.
Their paradigm, irremediably shifted, could hardly go back.
Such things as resurrections we don’t
forget in any hurry.

Yet for those serving at table, I wonder:
did the light dawn so quickly, so decisively?
More or less a normal night’s work,
and that constant attempt not to eavesdrop
or at least not be seen doing so.

And then, some vague but growing sense
that here was a light altogether different in quality,
such that everything else was jet in the background,
that here was a customer who transformed the meals he ate
and left behind more than he took.

Perhaps, on the table,
after he left, as though spirited away,
in place of the customary tip a piece
of bread leftover, and a cup of wine,
and with the skeleton of the fish course lingering on the plate,
a parchment asking silently,
“Shall these dry bones live?”

Recognised, Became Invisible: For Jean-Luc Marion

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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.

Easter Sunday

Unintentionally, I keep vigil the night before
while my son, restless for the dawn,
unsettled by the changing of the clocks,
bids me stay awake and pray.
Some sleep gained before sunrise, yet when the lights comes
it feels somehow the natural outworking of the night,
for I’ve walked through all its stations,
met its passing watches.
And when it’s time
to take off the rags of sleep and roll back the stone for the sun,
day seems natural, an arrival at home.
Yet when it comes I am weary,
ready to return to night,
and when night comes the routine
of dishes and rubbish bins consumes
the wonders of the vigil past.
Sun and moon and clocks distract:
in spite of us, eternity wins each linear day
and Grace keeps vigil over tapering hearts.

Holy Saturday

Vittore_carpaccio,_cristo_morto
“Cristo Morto”, Vittore Carpaccio, c.1520

I know this day well, have often lived here,
yet rarely for good reason, only
the wounded pride of disappointment,
the failure of God to sate expectations.
Licking my wounds, embalming my life goals,
I sit beneath a Jonah tree and await the explosion.
Nothing comes, only Sabbath:
the time for waiting, for preparing spice and oil,
ready to have all expectation
destroyed and rearranged.