Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Confident (07/05/07)
TITLE: Fully Known
By Helen Paynter
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One day, beyond eternity…
I have passed from monochrome to colour. I have stepped off the pages of the book I inhabited into the 3-dimensional world of substance.
It is beautiful beyond words and my breath is stolen from me.
It is heaven.
Before the Throne – I cannot yet look fully on that sight – are creatures. Unbelievable, inexplicable, mysterious beings. They transcend comparison with anything I have ever seen, yet I somehow know that they are, by the wisdom of divine perfection, exactly as they must be. Their wings move in a perfect choreography of worship. Their eyes – their many eyes – are fixed in constant gaze on the One who sits on the Throne.
‘Go on, Dad. Try him out.’
My grandfather looks down at me with a sceptical expression twitching below his moustache. Finally, he laughs. ‘All right then, I will. Tim, how do you spell… ‘cherubim?’
I always enjoy the spelling game. ‘Easy, Grandpa. C-H-E-R-U-B-I-M.’
I know he’ll tip me a shilling. I’ve already spent it in my imagination. But the best prize is the look of admiration on his face.
‘Five years old! My grandson the spelling genius!’
The place I am in defies report. Now I understand why Daniel, Ezekiel and John struggled so much to describe their visions. There is glory heaped on glory. My retinas should be seared, but the harder I gaze, the better I can endure it.
To dwell five minutes in this place I would exchange all the vanities of my life in a heartbeat.
‘Well, now we move on to our final round. The toughest questions for the last two surviving contestants. Tim, here’s a nasty one for you. How does John describe the foundations of the New Jerusalem?’
I smile. The book of Revelation is something of a specialty of mine. ‘They are built in twelve layers, of twelve precious and semi-precious stones. In order, the layers are jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth and amethyst.’
I lean back in my chair and lap up the applause.
I am frozen on the threshold, uncertain of my role and doubtful of my welcome. I fear to be the first to tread muddy footprints across the virgin brightness of this land.
I turn towards the Throne, for I can sense that it is from this most glorious place that the word of truth originates. The strings of the fabric of all reality – old and new – are tethered here, and I, too, am drawn by irresistible cords towards the brightness.
‘Mr Williams, I’ve enjoyed reading your excellent thesis on the eschatological symbology of the book of Daniel. Tell me, what do you see as the biggest scholarly challenge in this passage?’
I release a long-held breath at his words. My much-dreaded PhD viva. But his opening question is undemanding. Let him ask away. Three years of minute study have made me an expert. He will not catch me out. I put the tips of my fingers together and begin to speak.
‘Well, as I see it, one of the biggest problems is the question of inter-testamental midrash as it was applied to the book of Daniel…’
The voice in my head is insistent and demanding. ‘By what right do you stand here? How do you dare to approach the Most Holy Throne of the Ancient of Days?’
My tongue is slack in my mouth. My mind is a vacuum. I have nothing to offer. Nothing to bring. Words and thoughts and wisdom have fled. Despair and darkness are taking me.
Suddenly, inspiration cracks open a sliver of recollection. My paltry wisdom is irrelevant, but there is a deeper hope. One I first learned at my Mother’s knee.
‘The blood of the Lamb! I claim the blood of the Lamb!’
I fall on my face before the Throne, prostrate before his Majesty, and await the judgement.
But I am confident of the verdict.
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