Upper Case, lower case


There are four doors which open on the skies.

The first is truth, by which the living word

Goes forth to seek the spirit and be heard;

Lost in the universe, the spirit lies.

Then justice with her veiled and quiet eyes

Stands at the second portal; at the third,

Faith and her sparrow, the immortal bird;

And the last gate is love’s, to paradise.

These are the doors by which the mighty pass.

Yet in the wall there is one wicket more,

With rusty hinges and a splintered floor,

A shattered sill half hidden in the grass.

Small is the gateway as the Scriptures tell;

Its name is pity, and God loves it well.

Truth, Justice, Faith, and Love: often, their importance is conveyed by capitalizing their first letters. Yet Nathan keeps them lower case – except for Faith, and that only because it is the first word of the line.

Pity is something different. Just about anyone can show pity, although we might call it by its fancier name: compassion.

I wonder. With the four big ones in lower case, just like pity, perhaps Nathan is trying to tell me something about who God is, and how I expect to be drawn into God’s holiness. Jesus, God-With-Us, embodies all of them. Maybe Nathan’s point is that while I won’t discount the value of Truth, Justice, Faith, and Love, I just might overlook pity.  That would be a shame, because Jesus certainly did not.

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt. 9:35-36)

Then Jesus mad a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. (Mt. 9:35-36, The Message)

Lord Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy. Lord Have Mercy.

[Robert Nathan, A Winter Tide, VIII; New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1940, p. 10]

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