The gift has always been in my family. In olden times, I expect I’d have been burned, people always get frightened of things they can’t understand, but I tell them it’s nothing to do with me, nothing at all, because it really is a gift, a present from God, and as long as I use it for his glory then there’s nothing to be afraid of, nothing weird or occult, which would be the devil’s work, and no mistake.
It seems to me that most Godly things become devilish if you use them wrong. Eve and Adam just wanted to be like gods after all, a worthy enough aim and where’s the harm in that you might ask. But it destroyed paradise and landed us in the mess we’re in now, and all because they tried to do a godly work without God, which is a lesson to us all when we try so hard to be good and don’t want to let God get a look in until we’ve finished and made ourselves fit to enter his presence, fools that we are.
It seems to me like we’re all walking wounded, maimed by sin, and unable to use all the talents that God gave us, and I’m just one of the luckier ones who’s got a hint of the lost abilities, praise God who created me and breathed his spirit into all of us.
It’s not as if I’m specially bright or intelligent. The clever men in the church can run rings round me with all their smart theological talk, a lot of long words that make my head ache. I always feel that if a child can’t understand it then it’s probably human pride speaking, not God’s will for us, but I expect they know best, bless ’em.
So I just come in, do all the stuff that’s laid down, the fasting, the prayers, I know it works because I’ve been doing it ever since my dear husband died, God rest his soul. We were only married for seven years, seven good ones they were, but a day doesn’t pass but I think of him, and offer up a prayer of thanks for the great joy he gave me, and peace in my soul at the memory. Not that I don’t feel sad sometimes, missing him and the warm touch of his hand, but that’s the past and I still have a life to live, glory be to God who’s spared me these 84 years and will take me to be with him and my dear husband when he knows the time is right.
I love it in here, the peace when there’s no one around, or perhaps just a solitary soul praying in front of the altar, the single candle flickering, dim in the bright daylight. And then the great chorus on the Sabbath when the place is packed, their voices glorifying God with music, like tongues of languages nobody knows, the harmonies saying the things I’d like to say but cannot. People kid me about it, say I’d live here if I could, and when I’m not sleeping I certainly spend most of my time here. I know the church isn’t bricks and mortar, it’s people, but all the same when a building’s been here as long as this one has, all the worship that’s taken place, I really feel it seeps into the fabric, and anyone can feel it when he comes in, even someone from another planet who’d never been in church before, he’d take his hat off and bow his head.
Even the drunks who make such a mess of the porch, I clean it up whenever I can because it upsets the vicar so, I just praise God that he gave them this place to shelter, so close to him when they are so alone, so outcast from the good things of his world.
Sometimes when I pray I get this vision of God’s will for us, so I speak it out, which is why people started calling me a prophet, I suppose. I don’t know what that means. I’m not like one of the old prophets, long white beard and denouncing the evils of the day, though God knows there’s enough of that to talk about, the poor people without jobs and streets you can’t walk down without getting mugged. I don’t tell the future, though sometimes, at baptisms or other times of dedication, I get this feeling, a vision as I say, of a life and all its potential stretching out, and God over all, smiling.
When I take a baby in my arms I often feel it, like a laying on of hands, and it’s better if I can touch the skin, feel the warm pulse beating inside the body, the lifeblood, a river flowing from the very soul.
That’s the way it was with that particular baby, and when Simeon handed him to me it was like a great light going off in my head, bright and warm, pulsing to the very fingers and toes on my hands and feet, making me aware of every hair on my body, as if each one was charged with electricity. And a great feeling of joy, like as if I was a young girl again not an old lady waiting for death, ready once again for someone to come and be a man with me, and him the one I married and carried to the grave, back and more alive than ever with me like he will be in heaven that I know is waiting for all of us who seek to enter in.
I love children, though God never blessed me with any, he had other plans for me I suppose, but that moment when I hold the new baby in my arms is always something special, a moment of surrogate motherhood if you like. But this baby was something very, very special, not just the way he lay there quiet in my arms, despite being passed from one stranger to another, good as gold, not caterwauling like some do at the strangeness of it all and who can blame them, bless their little souls. Later, Simeon said it seemed to him he had been waiting all his life for that moment, for that particular child, and that now he could die in peace, and I knew exactly what he meant, because I felt much the same.
But when I handed him back to his mother, a mere slip of a girl she was but such serenity in her eyes, as who wouldn’t with that baby come out of her body, I knew the feeling he had given me wasn’t just for me, to set the seal on my life, though it did that and no mistake. It was something I had to tell about, to share it around, because it would turn the whole world around, the muggings and the hopelessness and the loneliness.
I had this vision of the city decked out like a bride, the garbage gone from the gutters, and the people taking hands, their eyes smiling. I knew it wouldn’t happen overnight, I could even see a lot of agony and suffering ahead, and my heart leapt at the pain I felt for the part the child would play in it all, the bitter cup he would have to drink, the deepest, darkest cup of all, when even he would cry out in the terror of abandonment, when he took all that loneliness upon himself, a ransom for the world, and God no longer within him as he always is in the worst of us, and I felt the harrowing of hell in him like icy fingers in the pit of my stomach.
Then the moment passed. I looked in his eyes, so wise, serene as his mother’s, and it was like a reassurance, that this too would pass, and no cup was so deep it couldn’t be emptied, especially when these lips did the drinking, taking the poison from out of our world, returning us to that moment before the sin that drove us out of paradise.
I spoke it out, though words are inadequate for what I saw was about to happen in this child’s life, and how it would change us all. But weak as words are, they had to be said.
And I walked out of the church into the world, praising God.