“Shy Peasant,” Ilya Repin,” 1877, WikiArt.

“Sister, we don’t know how to pray.” Thus,
My evening began, around hearth fires, Irish
Shepherding family visiting stone cottage.
“We fear God as armed stranger.” Thoughts
Honest as perplexing, whispers shared,
Sister Muriel my calling amongst rustics
Working fields. “To invisible god, we
Cannot pray.” With their struggles I agreed,
As if troubled equally, concerns unvoiced.
In silence, we stirred warming fires, wood
Added, nothing solved this night.

Spring-pouring rains, hearts reaching
Self-realization, I suspected someone
To them preached, one all-powerful God,
Trinity, concepts difficult to fathom,
Neglecting Christ was son of carpenter,
Skills of farmers, artisans. By flickering
Flames, they slept, father, mother, two
Children. Day-long toils fatigued, eyes
Heavy, I uttered words to invisible god,
More so this rainful night, dark-drear,
I, too, feared shelter-seeking strangers.

As flames to coals smoldered, awakened
By hard knocking, stone fists upon my
Door, first instinct out window flee, but
Where in drowning  blackness, again he
Banged, door unhinging, cloaked traveler
Entered, sword and battle-axe bearing,
Blood-letting death loomed within these
Walls. Foreigner to our eyes, he removed
Daggers long and short. Lo! Prayers from
Shepherd and his wife: “Save us, Father,
Deliver us from evil.”

Hair, eyes coal-black, stranger devoured
Bread, wine, cheese, unconcerned for hungry
Children, no steed as strong, he broke apart
My table, wood upon fire, glared at weary
Wife, beckoned her to his side, mother’s
Nursing breasts firelight exposed, ruddy
hands fondled. Blade in hand, he pushed
Her to stone floor, sprawled upon her, body
Smelling, muddy boots, she was powerless
Save our prayers. Alas! We prayed aloud.

“Mother Holding Child in Doorway,” Adriaen van Ostade, 1667, WikiArt.

Prior to this, never had I taken human life,
Believed sin no matter circumstance. Battle
Axe to back of head, gushing gore, one blow,
He was ended. O! How redeeming rain washed
Away bloody deeds, body river sank. Wet to
Skin, shepherd, wife, and I rain-collapsed,
They had  learned to pray. No, God was not
Like armed stranger. Or this night was he?
How in turmoil times, night darkness, prayers
Offered, faith discovered, hidden strengths
Revealed, Christ’s own words, “I am the door.”

Of possible directions and endings, this poem of early Christianity,
circa 6th or 7th century Ireland, 
found its own course and refers to
John 10:9-10: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he
will be saved, 
and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does
not come except 
to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that
they may have life, 
and that they may have it more abundantly.” NKJV
Thanks for reading.

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