“The Word” by RS Thomas, for the 9th Adventing day

The Word

R.S. Thomas

A pen appeared, and the god said:
‘Write what it is to be
man.’ And my hand hovered
long over the bare page. 

until there, like footprints
of the lost traveler, letters
took shape on the page’s
blankness, and I spelled out 

the word ‘lonely’. And my hand moved
to erase it; but the voices
of all those waiting at life’s
window cried out loud: ‘It is true.’


(Laboratories of the Spirit, 1975)

When we sit in the season of Advent we come to understand that it is about longing; longing for the world to be a different way, longing for light, longing for all the things we barely hope for. Last night as I talked with a friend we geeked out on the hymn, which seems Adventing to me: “Love Divine, All Love Excelling.” It has a line in it that says “enter every trembling heart.” Perhaps the heart of all that we long for is the hope of Christmas–the Incarnation—that God would be with us. RS Thomas expresses that longing in this poem that states a human condition: It is lonely. In Advent, we hear, or perhaps we are, the voices of all those waiting at life’s window that its true.  We hope to dispel the loneliness. God be with us.


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