“Triptych of the Madonna and Child with Angel Musicians, St. John the Baptist, and St. Jerome”
(1400, in a Private Collection)

Her face is singularly simple, and His
Seems unaware of the inscription written
Across the scroll His hands unfold to us,
Words spoken to Moses from the burning bush:
“Ego sum Qui sum.” And “Venite ad Me.”
Jerome himself once said that to profess
Truly the triune mystery is to admit
We cannot comprehend it, nor does the mother,
It seems, nor Child. And yet we know the Child,

When grown to manhood, claimed again God’s name—
“Before Abraham was I am”—baffling
Our simple minds, which try by threads and pieces
To clarify our faith, envying the ease
With which these angel choristers, with lute,
Psaltery, portative organ, and vielle,
Rejoice with their insouciant hymns of praise,
Each note a part of one felt harmony
That we would join in did we know the tune.

Yet from the pinnacle the Father and Dove
Look down, gifting with will and love the viewer,
And John, the grateful forerunner, declares:
“He Who comes after me was before me,” thus
Affirming the eternal presence of the Son,
Whose timeless interaction with our time,
Can lift us undeservedly above
Time and our losses, when we rise to it.
Only His grace enables us to try,
And her simplicity is how we have to see.

Articles by Helen Pinkerton

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