Sunday, 6 December 2015

I'm half sick of shadows...but Advent brings light.

and when that which is perfect may come, then that which [is] in part shall become useless...for we see now through a mirror obscurely, and then face to face; now I know in part, and then I shall fully know, as also I was known; 1 Cor 13:10,12 (YLT)

And moving thro' a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
              Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
               Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,
              Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
              The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
              And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
"I am half-sick of shadows," said
              The Lady of Shalott.

~The Lady of Shalott, Tennyson

Ah this poem.  I've quoted this bit before.  But it just resonates. Bong! Like a rumbly gong in my soul. Such poetic simile...ahem...

We see things as in a mirror darkly.  We see things as in polished metal - the type of mirror Paul would have known - we can see forms, we can see movement, but we don't see the whole picture, and in a mirror it's basically back to front.

Every so often I come back to this realisation.  That, despite my need for definition, for clarity, for absolute, I am merely seeing a shadow.  Jesus is so beautiful, so wonderful, and yet what I know and see is but a dim reflection.  I long to know him as he knows me.  But yet I have to wait.  Until then we weave our tapestry, we paint our pictures of what God is like, but they aren't clear and they aren't perfect.  We are still waiting for the perfect, our Saviour.

Jesus isn't like Lancelot who inadvertently leads the poor Lady of Shalott into a curse. Instead his Advent brings joy and blessing. He isn't a trick, something to lure us into error, into a curse.  No.  To look upon him is the ultimate of all heavenly manna.

This is the good news, when we turn and look upon him, our salvation! When we see him and his full gaze falls upon us.

Advent is this hope.  It is the hope of the blessing of the Numbers benediction, I quote here from the Book of Common Prayer:  

The Lord bless us, and keep us; the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us, and give us peace, now and for evermore. Amen

'Lift up the light of his countenance' - there's something about it that really makes me breathe, like a breath of fresh air, an intake of life, the desperate inward breath of a woman who thought she was drowning.  Life.  When you're swirling under a mass of stuff, he lifts up his countenance...and I can breathe.

That's what Advent it.  It's the hope of life to come.  It's the hope...the joy set before me of seeing HIM face-to-face.  Nothing obscuring my vision. Like those creatures in heaven who are covered in eyes, they really SEE him, every part of them from the top of their heads to the tip of their toes SEE him.  Inside and out, back and front, up and down, they see him as he really is.  That's life.  That's the beatific vision of wonder that awaits us.

When we see him as he really is, then all is well.

Come Lord Jesus!


  1. something in your post reminded me of something I read recently...we think of this life as reality, but heaven will be our reality.