This week we are with the poetry of Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Acts 12:6-19 Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison

So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.

Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!” 

More thoughts for meditation

St. Peter and the Angel

Delivered out of raw continual pain,
smell of darkness, groans of others
to whom he was chained –

unchained, and led
past the sleepers,
door after door silently opening – 
       And along a long street’s
majestic emptiness under the moon:

one hand on the angel’s shoulder, one
feeling the air before him,
eyes open but fixed . . .

And not till he saw the angel had left him,
alone and free to resume
the ecstatic, dangerous, wearisome roads of
what he still had to do,
not till then did he recognize
this was no dream. More frightening
than arrest, than being chained to his warders:
he could hear his own footsteps suddenly.
Had the angel’s feet
made any sound? He could not recall.
No one had missed him, no one was in pursuit.
He himself must be
the key, now, to the next door,
the next terrors of freedom and joy.

Thank you, Denise Levertov, for capturing the eerie awesomeness of this scene. Can you imagine awaking to being awake and suddenly free? Levertov can, and with imagined details like the sudden recollection of silent angel steps she opens us up to the shared reality of Peter’s calling. We too hold the key to the terrors of freedom and joy. In art, Peter is often pictured as holding a key. Isaiah 22:20-23 and Matthew 16:18-19 are often cited to explain this. But Levertov sees that it is also this encounter with the the angel which gave him the power to bind and loose, and which enabled him to lead so many as he was enabled to the freedom of Christ. Eventually the authorities killed him, but not before he opened as many doors for others and more as the ones that opened before him on that night. 

Suggestions for action

Ask yourself and reflect in your journal: “To what am I awaking? For what and whom am I free? How has God rescued me already? What lived reality of what Jesus said of me can I bring to those near me today?” Ask God to help with one or two answers to these questions.