Across the field and through the trees
of Ephron, slumped upon his knees
Beside the cave of Machpelah,
The old man scorned anathema
For love and kissed the ivory lips
Of his dead wife; then laid the strips
Of silk and linen on her face,
As beautiful today with grace,
He thought, as when Abimelech
Desired her once, without a speck
Or blemish to this day, but now
As cold as snow upon the brow
Of Mount Moriah. Abraham
Thought to himself, "This time no ram
Caught in the thicket for her life,
You spare my son but not my wife."
He rose with Sarah in his arms
And laid ten thousand days and charms
To rest within a Hittite cave,
And in the dark paused once to save
The union for a moment more.
But in the dripping dark before
His mind the awful scene arose
Again: first one, then two plateaus
The boy and he, alone he thought,
Had climbed Moriah while he fought
The tears and coughed away the sobs.
He felt again the way it throbs
Behind the eyes when there's no vent
To grief. The wild bewilderment
On Isaac's face when he perceived.
And then the fear, deep unrelieved,
That his own son might curse the Lord
And tear his flesh against the cord
To save his life; and kick and bite
And scream and writhe with all his might
Like any ordinary boy.
But Isaac knew he was the joy
Of this old man. By wonder born,
By wonder he would die, and scorn
The pain and look into his eye
With childlike trust and say goodbye.
"The greatest moment of my life,"
Thought Abraham. "O precious wife,
The darkness of this cave is brief,
And we've been trained in strong belief:
‘Is anything too hard for God?'
And should we not now kiss the rod
And wait until the angel voice
Express the everlasting choice
Of our appointed substitute?
This time, my love, it did not suit
The sovereign will to interpose
A ram for you—or me—He chose
Instead to test me once again
If I will trust him now as then?"
Then father Abraham walked out
And spoke these words without a doubt,
"As sure as I stand in the light
The Judge of all the earth does right.
The Lord is not God of the dead
But of the living, as he said."
Almighty God, all praise to you
As we light advent candle two.