Wednesday, 28 May 2008
The Stone Angel
The Loretta in this tale is based on an actual photographer, the marvellous Loretta Lux, who's work should definitely be more famous than it is... and it's fairly famous among those who know about such things.
Many years ago in an old Victorian church, it seems there was an angel carved of stone. I don't know what kind of stone, it was not marble or alabaster, just some pale stone or the other. My friend Loretta told me about this angel, but with her imagination I was never sure if it was true or not. In any case, this is what she told me, so don't blame me if you don't believe it.
Loretta is now a brilliant photographer who takes slightly spooky photos of children that I admit I find quite imaginative in themselves. In any case, the story.
It seems that one night when Loretta was coming home having been out to a music concert, she saw the angel in the old church come out of the side door and cross the graveyard. Now Loretta is not easily scared of anything and to be fair all she had seen was a large pale wing and a shoulder. But she knew about the stone angel and was curious. She waited opposite the graveyard and watched as the moonlight showed the angel moving among the gravestones, slowly. His wings were folded neatly behind him and Loretta found she was holding her breath at the sheer beauty of him. After a little while, he left the graveyard and passed out into the street a little ahead of her. Loretta now was cursing herself for not having her camera to hand. Yet, it felt as if it were right that she should not record this, but experience it in all its richness and wonder.
The stone angel moved along the street among the very few people who were on their way home to bed. He watched them with an expression of such compassion that Loretta was almost moved to tears. To her surprise however, nobody seemed to see him. She wondered why it was that she could see him and others could not. Had she a keener eye than others?
She did not know, but shrugged her shoulders and continued to follow the angel. After a little while, the angel arrived at a bigger church and paused. Around the church was a high iron fence with a row of spikes on top. On the pavement beyond the fence of the church, two homeless men slept side by side. The angel seemed to sigh and carrying both men in his arms as if they were but babies, he flew over the fence and strode towards the doors. The doors opened quietly and the angel placed the men before the altar brushing his wingtips over them. Their worn out, soiled sleeping bags became proper beds with padded duvets and there were pillows beneath their heads. This done the angel left the church and the doors closed behind him.
He moved on through the city and all night Loretta followed him. She watched as he protected the vulnerable and the helpless, soothed the sorrowful and those in pain. He turned the tears and sorrows of prostitutes into gold coins. He removed the addictions and the drugs of junkies from them. The homeless he housed, the single mothers he gave strength and hope to. But as the morning drew on and he returned to his own church, Loretta saw that there were two wet tracks upon his face. He had helped the helpless, but their plight had moved him to tears. He slipped back through the graveyard and into the church by the side door and the door shut quietly behind him. Loretta went home unsure if she were dreaming or awake. But the following morning when she awoke, she walked to the church and looked for the stone angel. The beautiful face gazed down behind him, resting on his hand and there were two wet tracks of tears that still flowed.
"It's a miracle!" the priest exclaimed with delight before rushing to clear out of the church two homeless men.
Loretta said nothing. She left the church deeply moved that even an angel of stone could feel more compassion than a human priest. As she left she turned to the angel and murmured,
"Ad te levavi animam meam."*
* I lift up my soul to you.