We've spent much of the Christmas season hearing the voices of angels, notably the angel Gabriel. We've read the texts as part of Advent meditations. We've had our church choirs sing in a variety of voices to mimic the angel choirs that appeared to shepherds. We've had people take on the voice of Gabriel and other angels as we've watched Christmas pageants and heard the Christmas Eve readings and other church services, like Lessons and Carols, where the angels speak.
For me, the presentation of the angel that affected me most happened on Christmas Eve. Our 7:30 p.m. service had children reading most of the parts of the story. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph, a very young reader took the microphone. She was new to reading, and I suspect even newer to reading out loud.
She read slowly and deliberately, giving every word an equal weight. Each word took on an eerie importance. With this very different reading style, the angel Gabriel got my attention again.
That moment made me think, as I often do, about angels appearing in modern life. What would it take to get our attention? Would we even notice if angels appeared?
I've written about this topic in a poem, which I've posted here before, but in this Christmas season it makes sense to post it again.
It was first published in the online journal Referential.
His angels return, abject in failure.
Lately, an angel makes an appearance,
and the human makes an appointment
with the doctor. Anti-psychotic
medications render his angels mute.
He used to be able to appear in visions,
back in the days when humans remembered
their dreams and dissected them over breakfast.
But his humans, ever more efficient, have banished
sleep from their daily to-do lists. They drop
into dreamless heaps and sleepwalk through the day.
Even the night skies defeat
his purposes. His industrious
humans, so smart, have lit
the planet with electricity and cloaked
the skies with smog. No one can see
the celestial signs he sends.
He even tries the personal touch, the old tried and true,
but decides to leave the shrubbery
alone after that woman yelled
at him. “I just planted that bush.
I don’t think Home Depot will take it back
in this condition. Have you priced plants lately?”
He considers withdrawal, the passive-
aggressive game of pretending not to care,
pretending there’s no pain.
He decides to mute his majesty.
From now on, he will not be the first
to speak. Instead, he decides to create spectacular
sunsets, and new colors, and a new species here or there.
He attends to the routine miracles: tumors that shrink,
lucidity repaired, relationships resurrected.
He sketches recipes for miracle drugs
in the laboratory dust of the pharmaceutical companies
and moves the iron clad hearts
of dictators who free the jailed opposition leaders.
feeling the feelings…
9 months ago