I have met them in the Uffizi the angel hunched on bended knee— his thigh thick beneath his satin robe— the virgin’s urgent contrapposto her sudden arm extended long beyond the border of her cape halting his rehearsed song as if his theme weren’t love but rape.
Her face impossibly serene does not betray her body’s fear. His deathless eyes have never seen a mortal woman quite so near. The space between their outstretched hands salvation in a single glance.
In 1595, the English Jesuit Robert Southwell wrote “The Burning Babe,” a startling, unsettling poem about the incarnation—which means, given Southwell’s rich theological imagination and deep Catholic piety, that it is also a poem about suffering and salvation. And about the human predilection to resist divine love.
Three hundred seventy-one years later, Denise Levertov penned “Advent 1966.″
The lectionary texts tell us that Advent is a time to look forward to Christ’s second coming rather than back to his first. Yet most churches prefer Christmas pageants to second coming pageants. Given all the doom and gloom that accompanies apocalypse, they may be concerned about scaring the kids.