12/17/2005

Adoration

The Adoration of the Magi

It was the arrival of the Kings
that caught us unawares;
we'd looked on the woman in the barn,
curiosity you could call it,
something to do on a cold winters night;
we'd wished her well -
that was the best we could do, she was in pain,
and the next thing we knew
she was lying on the straw
- the little there was of it -
and there was a baby in her arms.

It was as I say the Kings
that caught us unawares….
Women have babies every other day,
not that we are there -
lets call it a common occurrence though,
giving birth. But Kings
appearing in a stable with a
'Is this the place?' and kneeling,
each with his gift held out towards the child!

They didn't even notice us.
Their robes trailed on the floor,
rich, lined robes that money couldn't buy.
What must this child be
to bring Kings from distant lands
with costly incense and gold?
What could a tiny baby make of that?
And what were we to make of it
was it angels falling through the air,
entwined and falling as if from the rafters
to where the gaze of the Kings met the child's
- assuming the child could see?

What would the mother do with the gift?
What would become of the child?
And we'll never admit there are angels
or that between one man's eye and another's
is a holy place, a space where a king could be
at one with a naked child,
at one with an astonished soldier.

--- Christopher Pilling
(from the Oxford book of Christmas Poems. Oxford University Press)

*******

I heard this poem for the first time last night at a concert of Winter Harp, an ensemble group of harpists accompanied by a storyteller, a percussionist, a flautist, and musician who played various medieval instruments such as a bass psaltry, a nyckelharpa, and an organistrum.

These were the words that struck me most:

And we'll never admit there are angels
or that between one man's eye and another's
is a holy place, a space where a king could be
at one with a naked child,
at one with an astonished soldier.

I often think about Gaps. They're the places, I think, where we fall short as a society, a people, a race, a religion, an economy. This is where the forgotten are born, shunned because of some perceived 'difference,' deemed unacceptable by a sometimes complex but most times chillingly simple set of rigid rules.

I try to fill gaps, mostly in communication between cultures. I'm a Cultural Translator of sorts, they tell me. I never want anyone to feel left behind for lack of a simple explanation or an adjustment of the rules to compensate for an original lack of compassion or vision. Finding and addressing these gaps is my passion and has lead me to understand my own sense of missing-ness and isolation both self and society imposed.

Over time, I think I have come to believe that Gaps are a bad thing - Oh sure it's good to have one's own space to exist in, move around, shuffle a bit, maybe dance. I've felt crowded before by motherhood, wifehood, editorhood, but that's a different sort of Gap, a Space, more like, that recognizes my own unique viewpoint. But I think, before last night, that Gaps in general were things to be filled in, smoothed over, changed, and perhaps even avoided altogether. Wars have come from Gaps. Prejudice is built on Gaps. Hatred, poverty, and oppression all come from Gaps we create for whatever, shortsignted reasons.

"a space where a king could be/at one with a naked child/at one with an astonished soldier."

It's a lot to claim that God is in the Gaps, connecting what is broken, creating community where one had not existed before, focusing our attention to a place unlooked for and granting Grace.

But yes, that's what I'm claiming, that's what I believe about that moment centuries ago. It's not so much that God /filled/ the Gap, but that He showed us there /is/ no Gap to begin with. That even with all the peaks and valleys of our existence, the vastness of the oceans that separate our thoughts and feelings from one another, like the air around us, He is between us and others, between us and Him, surrounding us, filling us, touching /us/.

That we are never, ever without Love.

"between one man's eye and another's/is a holy place..."

And if God is in the Gaps, then He is there to help us see those Gaps and to help us understand what the Gaps we create do to others, that we might recognize not just our uniqueness but also in gazing upon the Sacred, we are not so different. And the hope is, that in that space of "not so different" can come the promised Peace that comes of understanding and compassion. The Peace that comes of Love.

2 comments:

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

Aside: The Gendering of God is a problematic thing for me, but here it is shorthand, referring mostly to Jesus, who was man among us.

But in practice, to my understanding, God is beyond Gender, Patriarchy, and the other mucked up stuff sometimes necessitated and created by our own fossilized sensibilities.

rcloenen-ruiz said...

I loved reading this post.

You wrote:

It's a lot to claim that God is in the Gaps, connecting what is broken, creating community where one had not existed before, focusing our attention to a place unlooked for and granting Grace.

Indeed, God is in the Gaps. Thanks for sharing this.