Nativity – James McAuley


The thin distraction of a spider’s web
collects the clear cold drops of night.
Seeds falling on the water spread
a rippling target for the light.

The rumour in the ear now murmurs less,
the snail draws in its tender horn,
the heart becomes a bare attentiveness,
and in that bareness light is born.

James McAuley

I like this simple expression of the lead up to the Christmas birth in terms of light and the break of a new day.

A spider’s web is of course thin and its purpose is to entrap insects so collecting clear cold drops of water is in that sense a distraction. I think many would identify with the image of seeing spider webs glisten with dew in the early morning light. And who hasn’t seen seeds falling on water. But these seeds are falling before daybreak waiting for light to illuminate.

The rumour of Christmas decreases with the approach to the birth just as the snail withdraws its tender horn aware of the imminent approach of damaging light. The heart and nature in general is attentive to the coming break of day. How appropriate to consider this as bare and in this bareness light is born.

The response of nature to the breaking first light is an everyday event but is the first light of Christmas Day different from any other day and to what extent was the birth of Christ anticipated by nature or indeed part of a natural evolution.

I think James McAuley’s words indicate something quite special – consider the title, nativity and the link of the birth of light to the birth of Christ.

Footnote –

James Phillip McAuley was an Australian academic, poet, journalist, literary critic and a prominent convert to Roman Catholicism.

Wikipedia link – James McAuley

Your word in my ear ...

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