On the Feast of the Annunciation

CormorantIn a letter to the Times
Blasting faith’s glib assurances,
The writer tells how, as a young man
In a sea storm all alone
He prayed for help –
No answer but a cormorant
Perching and observing him awhile,
Then flapping off,
For him a lifetime’s proof
Indifference holds sway.

It wouldn’t do to note that he survived,
Or that the bird might have been sent for comfort.
Most talk of faith rebuts a nightmare or gives way to it:
Prior to Darwin it was the fear of hell
Since then, of nothingness.

In any case, faith’s not about big things,
The moral law or natural selection,
At least not to begin with.
Sure, we can’t fail to wonder
About the darkness we can’t see beyond,
And even at our most theistic
We either shudder at the thought of sovereign holiness
Or turn impatiently away
If God, like some idiot savant,
Thinks so far past the world and all its devastations,
We must recall him to them.
But faith is the assurance of a communication
By God close and stooping low,
Abruptly or roundaboutly
Offering friendship and some job to do.
That’s how we know God and are known,
And we work out from there.

Granted, the op-ed writer says God wasn’t there for him,
But as in anything,
Extremes, whether of grace or loss, teach little,
Blinding the eyes or deadening the heart.
We weather them until,
Our psyche righted,
We once again make out God’s voice
In ordinary things,
God slipping in in person or by messenger:
The wind buoy’s drone,
The raven’s caw,
The angel’s ave in our lady’s ear.

~Thomas E. Breidenthal