Hands blessed for blessing

A crack runs through the sanctuary of God,
     a crevice across the floor,
     spewing smoke from under the altar;
The crack widens into a chasm,
     the crevice into an abyss,
     belching clouds to hide the heavens.
From the blackness emerges a scorpion,
     a locust with sting in its tail,
     and takes its stand at the altar;
From the deep creeps a face like a man’s,
     a head with hair like a woman’s,
     and presides over the mystery of ages.
Locusts swarm over locusts,
     the mass of scorpions writhes,
     it kindles a coarse fire.
Locusts entangled with locusts,
     scorpion legs around scorpion tails,
     in a fire that burns but does not warm,
     a fire that consumes but gives no light,
          and they smile with teeth like a human’s.
The people shuffle into the Temple,
     they drag their feet into the sanctuary;
     they are obliged to Mass every Sunday.
They come like lambs to the slaughter,
     they breathe the smoke and the ashes;
     there is no other path to communion.

Lord, Lord, if I could only look away.

Hands blessed for blessing
     impart a curse by their touch;
fingers crumbed with God’s body
     grope the feet of children;
     small boys curl in agony.
Mouths ordained as fonts of law
      decry commandments in flattery;
tongues bent around the Gospel
      straighten out to deceive;
      the simple grope in a labyrinth.

Strong guardians are at hand;
     fierce protectors take note.
Their swords are upraised,
     their muscles tensed;
     they surround their own
          like an angel stationed before the sacred garden.
Their wrath falls on the children,
     their blows on the parents of boys;
     their chasubles enfold the aggressors,
     they shield the predator from its prey.

Lord, Lord, permit me to look away!

But the Lord God said to me:

The day is coming when none shall look away,
     none shall avert his gaze,
     but each shall see what he does not want to see.
The hour is near when every eye shall be imprisoned,
     every glance in chains,
     and every man shall fix his gaze on evil.
For the day of the Lord is brighter than every day,
     the light of the Lord is brighter than every light,
     banishing every darkness and every shadow,
driving away the darkness of night,
     the gloom under trees at midnight,
casting out the murk of caves,
     the stifling blackness of mines,
routing the shadows of the valleys,
     the dim shadows of steep alleys,
blazing into corners and crevices,
     into closets and under beds,
shining beneath every leaf of every bush,
     under every belly and backside,
flaring inside the tea pots, the wine casks, the ink wells,
     inside the soda cans, the bank vaults, and every pocket,
inside every clenched fist,
inside every closed mouth,
inside every eyelid,
until every eye shall see what you see,
     and every heart shall long to look away,
     and shall not.

From vision shall come a voice,
     from comprehension a cry of command,
     and good men will tremble to hear it;
with the day shall come a storm,
     from the light a hurricane,
     and evil men will run for refuge.
It rages over the ocean,
     tossing waves up to the sky,
     its progress unstoppable;
it crashes against the shore,
     leaps over the beach,
     admitting no obstacle.
dirt whips through the air,
     sand whirls in circles,
     pebbles roll and rush and lift and soar.
trees bend, lose first leaves
     and then branches,
     crack, and fall.
Windows explode,
     shingles fly,
     roofs lift and fall and crumble.
The very house of God groans,
     the Temple sways,
     his people cry aloud for fear;
the doors burst inward,
     the structure heaves,
     the wind drowns every cry but its own.
And the east wind,
     the strong east wind,
     carries away pew and people,
          banner and book,
          speaker and podium,
          glory and praise,
          bishop and priest,
          locust and scorpion,
until the sanctuary of God is left
     like a booth in a cucumber field,
     like a rock in the desert,
     the altar of God immoveable.

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Author: Dr. Holmes

Dr. Jeremy Holmes teaches Theology at Wyoming Catholic College. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Jacinta, and their eight children.

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