I have struggled with a Christmas poem this year. I was reminded of the story of Christian de Cherge at the Mount Atlas monastery, saying to the terrorists who came to the monastery, “This is the birthday of the Prince of Peace, and you come bearing weapons”. The terrorist leader apologised and left the weapons at the door, at that time. Peace is a hard concept to think about just now. Then I went out to the garden.
Ausculta is the first word of the Rule of St Benedict, and it is usually translated as ‘listen’. But it’s more than that, It means an active attention, engagement leading to understanding, and a heartfelt response.
So here is my Christmas message – wishing you happiness, good company, delight, and also peace.
The wind is in the cypress tree, a long shout
over the hawthorns, ruffling the dignity
of the magpies’ showy livery. The sun glows
on the new bulb shoots and the random
unseasonal violet. The leaves are all down,
turning to cold mulch around the rogue seedlings
of last year’s neglected berries. There’s a riff
of starlings around the feeder and a single
collared dove among the groundling pigeons.
I can hear spring begin to whisper beneath
the drone of distant traffic, in the heave
of frost-lifted ground and the quiet undersong
of the little burn. Dark is gathering, but light
waits, in the hush where we might hear the song
of angels, and a voice that speaks of peace.