Zadkiel, the Angel of Mercy, was roaming through the earth far and wide, bringing the mercy of the Holy Immortal One to all the land. In the Spring, Mercy’s joy would sing in a thousand-thousand voices with the Greening, and life would emerge from every promise. In summer, it spread like sun-winds moving swift and clear over golden hills and down the plunging tides. In the Fall, Mercy brought forth the yielding and the gathering, the keeping and the sharing. And in the Winter, it brought candle-lit memories, hoping and dreaming, and the dark Grace of departing.

     One winter night, when a gale wailed over the hills, and frost cracked in the trees, Zadkiel passed a hut in a darkened village, and saw the Angel of Death, Dumah, The Silence, standing at its door. His garments were brilliant white and shimmered softly in the dark, a sign that the one he was seeking was a righteous soul. Zadkiel heard aching in the night, weeping and sorrowing that seeped from the door on slivers of candlelight.

      ‘Dumah what are you doing here,’ asked Zadkiel.

      ‘I have come for a man, father to the children and the woman who is grieving’.

      ‘But certainly Dumah, the Lord will have mercy and spare this man for the sake of his family. How will they survive the great poverty in which they are living without the strong hand of the man?’

     ‘Angel of Mercy, you know that I am doing the bidding of the Most High. This man’s allotted time has come, and shortly I will be here for the woman, she is ill but doesn’t know it as yet. Let me now continue with my obligation’.

     ‘What then will become of the two little ones? Is it not unmerciful to burden the Children of Adam in this way?’, questioned Zadkiel.

     Dumah stood silent for a time, then turned and said- ‘I will take the man now but will spare the woman who might become well if she receives care. But I will spare her only on one condition, that you Zadkiel, become a Child of Adam, and no longer be known as an Angel of God nor have those Powers or memories.

     Zadkiel’s power surged forth and blazed like the sun in the far heavens, then died slowly in the night’s darkness as he said ‘yes’. He watched Dumah enfold the man gently in his arms and rise through the night sky in a faint shimmering of pure light.

      When Zadkiel woke, he felt strange and wondered at himself. He remembered his name, but not from where he had come or why he was here. He knew the times and the seasons but did not know from where they came or to where they were going. A misty darkness lay over his knowing and a new and ancient fear dwelled in his limbs. His back ached from the hard floor he lay on, and his body seemed heavy and fragile even with the strength of muscle and bone. He felt hunger, and a strange uncertainty about what the future would bring. He no longer knew the Everywhere and felt that a day was no longer than the eye could see, and seasons were like breath that stretched away, far into the beyond.

     He saw the woman, bent with grief over her husband. Two young children held each other in silence from wonder and fear at what they had seen. As Zadkiel stirred, the woman looked up and asked if he was well.

     ‘I found you last night outside our door,’ she said, ‘and you couldn’t move or speak. I had to lie you here on the floor between us, my first love died last night and the bed was all we could give him’.

     Zadkiel felt a great weight of sorrow rise in his heart, a sorrow that had no words to speak, and was held in the silence of an endless shadow.

    ‘My name is Zadkiel’ he said, ‘I am one who wanders from the forgotten to the unknown. Now I am here, and if you will give me shelter, I will do the work of your husband and care for you and yours’.

     The woman bowed her head, stood very still, then brought a piece of bread and salt to the table beside the candle, said the blessing to the Lord, and motioned for him to sit at the husband’s place.

    As time passed, Zadkiel got used to waking at the sounds of the woman praying the Morning Prayer over the bread, and the sound of songbirds celebrating the sky and the cool warmth of the rising sun. He felt a deep longing he couldn’t explain, a sweet and bitter wound in his heart. He had heard of the Mighty One, the Lord of heaven and earth that the birds sang to for each new day, and he could feel Time pause as the woman called the Blessing down over the table. This was a knowing that brought him peace.  

    Every day, year in and year out, Zadkiel worked and learned, digging, planting, harvesting, and watching over the children as they grew in the turning of seasons. He was always caring, soothing and guiding. He had learned the prayers that blessed every time and every doing, every coming and going, and had learned from the woman to trust in what could not be seen and listen to that which had no words. He had become one they called wise, and people came to ask him questions that no other could answer. None were turned from his home, had to grieve alone, or left this life without dreaming of the Promise in his comforting presence.

   One winter night, when the candle’s flame paled in the cold, and the frost cracked in the trees, the woman took to bed and gathered Zadkiel and the children to her. A white shimmering light flowed in through the door and Zadkiel felt the fear of a deeper night clutch at his heart.

    Dumah stood in the small room, smiling at the woman with a smile so beautiful that the pain disappeared from her face and she smiled as she did at her first love. Zadkiel pushed between Dumah and the woman and held forth his hand to stay the great Angel.

   ‘ Zadkiel’, Child of Adam’, Dumah cried, ‘you have become greater than all of God’s Angels by keeping His love in your heart even when it wounded you, and following His voice when you could neither see nor hear. You have been righteous with no thought of profit or gain. You have been at the beds of the sick and the dying, and given food from your own table to the hungry. You have been faithful when nothing from your hand returned that faith, and hoped where no hope was to be seen’.

     ‘Yet this one last thing, yield to me that which is to you most precious, trust that also I am Merciful, as once they called you.  Welcome God’s deepest wound, the wound of love; know God now for who he is, The Holy Immortal One, The Holy Merciful One’. The candle flamed higher and stronger, the shadows filling with light. Zadkiel fell to his knees in grief.

     And Dumah gathered the woman gently in his arms and rose towards the night sky in a shimmering pure light. And the Voice said, ‘Blessed above all the Angels in heaven are you Child of Adam, for you bear the burdens of all Creation with the Anointed One, and are the place of my glory, my love, and my mercy’. Selah


David Russell OFS  Fyn