In great cathedrals, empty and still
Tiny tongues of flame cast feeble shadows
through the vast, dark room—
the prayers of the penitent
We look up, study that vast, ancient work
that stands now behind the altar—
its surface still shimmering with the
sheen of the master’s brush.
O writhing man, pinned on that cruel frame!
The pain in his face no language can tell—
even the image bears only
shadows of the truth.
His hands, though torn, reach out
in weary, violent embrace—or is it
the open plea of despair?
A weight greater than that cruel, crossed wood
was borne on blameless back that day.
Yea, the figure below, his fingers
still clasped ‘round the offending hammer
as he scoffs upward—it is a face
I know too well. It is my own.
And now the tears come, welling up
from deep within. It is a cry
of mourning, a wail of deepest hope—
oh, that my sin should demand
so high a price!
I have been in temples and shrines
and seen the faces of other gods.
They are content, blissful, and unaware.
Basking in their serenity, the world
slips by to the screams of the children,
the death-cries of the starving
as they lie wasted in the street.
And the gods are unmoved.
No, this is the God for me.
In agony and torment, I know
He paid my ransom-price.
Not in escaping life, but in surrendering
to the tortures of this shadowland
did he find peace. And only there,
in that twisted, pain-wracked visage,
can the road of my peace lie.
For only he understands.
I smile weakly and turn to my dear companion.
The flickering light sparkles off the tears
rolling down her cheeks,
and I know she has met her God again,
just as I have.
We rise together, silent, and shuffle
hand-in-hand to the prayer table,
where we carefully blow out
the last dying flames.
And the cathedral is dark again.