Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Way of the Cross

from The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton

[King Alfred, discouraged in trying to rid his land of the heathen invaders, has a vision of the Virgin Mary and asks her whether he will ever succeed.]

“Mother of God,” the wanderer said,
    “I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
    To see a secret thing.

“The gates of heaven are fearful gates
    Worse than the gates of hell;
Not I would break the splendours barred
Or seek to know the thing they guard,
    Which is too good to tell.

“But for this earth most pitiful,
    This little land I know,
If that which is for ever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss,
    Seeing the stranger go?

“When our last bow is broken, Queen,
    And our last javelin cast,
Under some sad, green evening sky,
Holding a ruined cross on high,
Under warm westland grass to lie,
    Shall we come home at last?”

And a voice came human but high up,
    Like a cottage climbed among
The clouds; or a serf of hut and croft
That sits by his hovel fire as oft,
But hears on his old bare roof aloft
    A belfry burst in song.

“The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
    We do not guard our gain,
The heaviest hind may easily
Come silently and suddenly
    Upon me in a lane.

[…]

“The gates of heaven are lightly locked,
    We do not guard our gold,
Men may uproot where worlds begin,
Or read the name of the nameless sin;
But if he fail or if he win
    To no good man is told.

“The men of the East may spell the stars,
    And times and triumphs mark,
But the men signed of the cross of Christ
    Go gaily in the dark.”

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I love that image of the godly man setting his face like a flint to do what is right because it is Right, and not because he’s sure of success. May we ever “go gaily in the dark.”

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