The Courteous Community of the Lamb

Canto XIX

Right as the mighty moon can rise
After the day-gleam's driven down,
So suddenly, in wondrous wise,
I was aware of a procession.
This noble city of rich emprise
Was suddenly full--without any summon--
Of all such virgins in the same guise
As was my blissful one under crown.
And crowned were all of them in that fashion,
Bedecked in pearls and raiment white;
On each one's breast was badged and bound
The blissful pearl beyond delight.

With the pearl poet, as with the Revelator himself, I would suggest, all the imagery of architectural splendor is but prelude and setting for the picture of community into which we now move--the courteous community of the Lamb.

Again the pearl imagery becomes strong, the imagery of purity and pricelessness. The pearl of great price, for which the merchant sold all, has been found. It is, of course, a singular gem; it is the Lamb himself, "that gay jewel!" Yet, even so, it is plural as well; "on each one's breast was badged and bound the blissful pearl beyond delight." Such is the magic and majesty of the kingdom of God!


With great delight they glided together
O'er golden streets that gleamed like glass.
Hundreds of thousands, I wot, there were;
And all alike their livery was.
Hard to know whose the gladdest cheer!
The Lamb before did proudly pass
With seven horns of red gold clear;
Like prized pearls his raiment was.
Toward the throne they trooped en masse;
Though they were many, no press in the plight;
But mild as maidens seemly at mass,
So drove they forth with great delight.


The delight his coming now induced,
Too much it were of which to tell.
The elders, then, when he approached,
Prostrate at his feet they fell.
Legions of angles, together summoned,
There cast incense of sweet smell.
Then glory and glee anew were broached--
All sang to laud that gay Jewel!
The strain might strike thru earth to hell
Which the virtues of heaven with joy indict.
To laud the Lamb where his people dwelt,
In truth I felt was great delight.


Delight in striving the Lamb to devise,
With much of marveling, thru my mind went.
Best was he, blithest, and most to prize
Of any upon whom speech is spent--
So worthily white were those weeds of his,
His looks so simple, himself eminent!
But a wound full wide and wet there is
Anent his heart, thru skin that's rent;
From his white side his blood gave vent.
Alas, thought I, who worked that spite?
Any breast for bale should have felt torment
Ere therein it had had delight.


But the Lamb's delight could none demean;
Though he was hurt and a wound had,
In his semblance it ne'er was seen,
His glances were so gloriously glad.
I beheld then in those he did convene
How they with life were lavished and lade.
Then saw I there my little queen
Methought stood by me in the glade.
Lord, much of mirth it was she made
Amongst her friends who were so white!
The sight made me think that I would wade
For love-longing toward that great delight.

The lamb bears a terrible wound. We all bear wounds; but his is worst. (And notice, now, that the Jeweler has entirely forgotten his.) Yet the Lamb in his joy--his joy over us--also forgets his; "in his semblance it ne'er was seen, his glances were so gloriously glad." The writer to the Hebrews (Heb. 12:2) speaks of Jesus, "who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God."

And once we are willing to look away from our own wounds and look upon his, ours can be forgotten, too. in his wounds our sorrows can be drowned. his heart was broken so that it could receive our broken hearts. And here, then, is Christian comfort: "I beheld then in those he did convene, how they with life were lavished and lade." There is "much of mirth" in the great delight of knowing that, even with all our wounds, we live together in him.

Copyright (c) 1983