The Triumph of the Angelicals

 


Charles Williams writing about a church of which I was the Pastor in the 1990s.

            As he reached the other side he saw before him a church.   It was a small, old, rather ugly Wesleyan church; the doors were open because of the heat, and apparently the service was not yet over.   Richardson, casually attracted, looked at his watch: nearly nine.   He paused on the pavement and looked in.   It must, he thought, be some kind of after-service, and, after a few moments' search, the notice-board confirmed the idea.   On the third Sunday in the month there was apparently the Breaking of Bread.   It must, he thought, be a rather out-of-date place; most of the Nonconforming Churches had adopted the words "Holy Communion." Besides, this building still called itself "Zion," which was surely a rather old-fashioned title.   But perhaps he was wrong; he didn't pretend to be an expert in ecclesiology.   All that sort of thing was very well for the minds that could use it; he couldn't use it, neither the small dull gatherings of the Evangelicals or the large gaudy assemblies of the Catholics.   "The flight of the alone to the Alone." But no doubt this was proper to them--if it increased their speed upon the Way.   Speed, speed, and always speed! His mind remembered that wild careering herd; so, and swifter than so, he desired the Return.   He seemed to hear the beating hooves again, and while for a moment he attended to that interior echo something huge and rapid drove past him and into the church.   Certainly he had felt it, though there was nothing visible, but he had felt the movement of a body and heard the sound of hooves.   Within him his chief concern renewed itself in a burst of imperious ardour; he burned towards the--no, not fire; no, not darkness; no words, no thought, nothing but...nothing but...well, but--that which was when all other "buts" had been removed, and all hindrances abolished.   For a moment he felt a premonition; something wholly new and exquisite touched him and was gone.

 

    He was standing in front of the church and looking into it.   There didn't seem to be many there; one or two figures were moving at the upper end; a few more were scattered about the small building.   They were seated as if waiting--perhaps for the Breaking of Bread; and as he gazed a gleam of extreme brightness struck through the building and vanished, for the lights within had flashed upon something moving that caught and reflected their radiance in one shining curve as if a sword had been swung right across the church.   Blinded by its intensity he took a step back, then he recovered and looked again.   

 

            This time--and his spirit livened again with his habitual desire--he saw it.   It was standing at the other end of Zion; it was something like a horse in shape and size, but of a dazzling whiteness, and from the middle of its forehead there grew a single horn.   He recognized the myth of poems and pictures; he saw the Divine Unicorn gently sustaining itself in that obscure and remote settlement of the faithful.   He recognized the myth, but he recognized something else too, only he could not put a name to it.   The thing moved, pure and stately, a few paces down the aisle, and as it did so he was transported within himself a million miles upon his way.   It moved with the beauty of swiftness, however small the distance was that it went; it lowered and tossed its head, and again that gleaming horn caught all the light in Zion, and gathered it, and flashed it back in a dazzling curve of purity.   As the brightness passed he saw that within they were still intent upon the service; the deacons were bearing the Bread of the Communion to the few who were there, and as they did so it seemed to the watcher that the unicorn moved its head gently in the direction of each, nay, that some eidolon of itself, though it remained unchanged in the centre, went very swiftly to each, and then he lost sight of the images.

 

            Only now he was aware--and only aware--of a sensation of rushing speed passing through his being; it was not for him to ad or e the unicorn; he was the unicorn.   He and those within, and others--who and when and where he did not know, but others--a great multitude whom no man could number--they went swiftly, they were hastening to an end.   And again the shining horn flung back the earthly lights around it, and in that reflection the seeker knew himself speeding to his doom.   So slow, so slow, the Way had seemed; so swiftly, so swiftly, through aeons and universes, the Principle, the Angel of man's concern, went onwards in unfailing strength.   Yet it had not moved; it stood there still, showing itself, as if in a moment's dream, to the fellows of devotion, so that each beheld and supposing it to be a second's fantasy determined not to speak of it.   But pure and high the ardour burned in every soul, as Zion shone in Zion, and time hastened to its conclusion in them.   The minister gave out a hymn; the voices began it; the great beast of revelation that stood there moved again, and as Richardson unconsciously moved also he felt his arm caught from behind.

 

            Startled and constraining himself, he turned his head.   Behind him, a little to his left, clutching his arm, and staring at him with fierce bloodshot eyes, stood Foster.   For a few seconds Richardson did not take in the fact; the two remained staring.   Then, he could not have told why, he broke into a little laugh; Foster snarled at him, and the hand that was on the other's arm seemed to clutch and drag at it.   Richardson took a step or two backward, his eyes going once more to the aisle as he did so.   But this time he could see nothing unusual; indeed, he felt doubtful already of what he had seen, only he knew that there was working within him a swiftness more than he had ever dreamed.   The hesitations and sloths that had often hampered him had vanished; he looked at Foster from a distance, down a precipice from the forest of the unicorn to the plain of the lion.

 

Foster said, "It's here."

 

"It's always here," the younger man answered, "but we have to go a long

way to find it."

 

Charles Williams

The Place of the Lion (1933)

Chapter Twelve