As I was flipping through my Magnificat prayer-book, trying to find today’s Morning Prayer, a poem that was printed after yesterday’s Mass caught my eye, so I decided to read it. I never made it to the page for Morning Prayer. The poem was called “Eve,” by Madeleine L’Engle. I had never seen it before, and found myself profoundly moved by it, so much that I wanted to share it.
When we left the garden we knew that it would be forever.
The new world we entered was dark and strange. Nights were cold.
We lay together for warmth, and because we were afraid
of the unnamed animals, and of the others; we had never
known about the giants, and angels gone wild. We had not been told
of dwarves and elves; they teased us; we hid whenever they played.
Adam held me. When my belly grew taut and began to swell
I didn’t know what was happening. I thought it was the beginning
of death, the very first death. I clung to Adam and cried.
As I grew bigger something within me moved. One day I fell
and the pains started. A true angel came and pushed the grinning
creatures back. Adam helped. There was a tearing. I thought I’d died.
Instead, from within me came a tiny thing, a new creature,
red-faced, bellowing, mouth groping for my breast.
This was not death, but birth, and joy came to my heart again.
This was the first-born child. How I did laugh and sing!
But from this birth came death. He never gave me any rest.
And then he killed his brother. Oh, my child. Oh, my son Cain.
I watched from then on over every birth,
seeing in each babe cruelty ready to kill compassion.
For centuries the pattern did not change. Birth always meant death.
Each manchild who was born upon the longing earth
in gratefulness and joy brought me only a fresh ration
of tears. I had let hate into the world with that first breath.
Yet something made me hope. Each baby born
brought me hurrying, bringing, as in the old tales, a gift
looking – for what? I went to every slum and cave and palace
seeking the mothers, thinking that at least I could warn
their hearts. Thus perhaps the balance might shift
and kindness and concern replace self-will and malice.
So I was waiting at that extraordinary intersection
of Eternity and Time when David’s son (Adam’s, too)
was born. I watched the Incarnate at his mother’s breast
making, by his humble, holy birth the one possible correction
of all that I by disobedience had done. I knelt and saw new
Adam, and I cried, “My son!” and came at last to rest.
I read and re-read the poem, trying to process my strong response to it, and suddenly realized that I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude — for the Saviour who made, “by his humble, holy birth the one possible correction of all that I by disobedience had done.” A refrain from an old song popped into my head: “What return can I make to the Lord for the good He has done for me?” I found myself longing to try to give something back, to do something to show the Lord how grateful I am for His incredible gift.
I googled the song refrain and discovered that it was based on Psalm 116:12. “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?” In reading the following verses, I found the answer to the question:
The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord; my vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people. … O Lord, I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; You have loosed my bonds. To You will I offer sacrifice of Thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. (Psalm 116: 13-14, 16-17 NAB)
There’s no better response to God’s gift of salvation than to turn to Him in gratitude, and seek to serve Him in all we do. Thank you, Lord, for giving me such a beautiful focus as we begin this holy season of Advent!