At the feast of 'Corpus Christi' last Sunday (19th June) , an AECI friend suggested a poem that focused on holistic healing and on health. 'The Latecomers' by Seamus Heaney and its wider context is set out below:
After having suffered a severe stroke, Seamus Heaney was asked if he might write a poem for the issue of Poetry Ireland Review that might offer a personal answer to the question of what the personal Christ meant to him, (“Who do you say that I am?”) .
Out of that request came a remarkable piece—“The Latecomers”. It reads as a poem in which Heaney sees himself, not as the palsied man, nor as the helpers, but as Christ himself, surrounded by the needy who press around seeking help and healing. Heaney was then constantly being badgered for signatures, for readings, for statements. The poem is written from Christ’s perspective.
"THE LATECOMERS" ~Seamus Heaney
He saw them come, then halt behind the crowd That wailed and plucked and ringed him, and was glad They kept their distance. Hedged on every side,
Harried and responsive to their need,
Each hand that stretched, each brief hysteric squeal – However he assisted and paid heed,
A sudden blank letdown was what he’d feel Unmanning him when he met the pain of loss
In the eyes of those his reach had failed to bless.
And so he was relieved the newcomers Had now discovered they’d arrived too late And gone away. Until he hears them, climbers
On the roof, a sound of tiles being shifted, The treble scrape of terra cotta lifted And a paralytic on his pallet
Lowered like a corpse into a grave. Exhaustion and the imperatives of love Vied in him. To judge, instruct, reprove,
And ease them body and soul. Not to abandon but to lay on hands. Make time. Make whole. Forgive.
'...nothing is commonplace, we do not live in these things, we go beyond them'