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Among the Vesper Spires

Felix and Dante moved on to stand in front of a tall red granite column. Four stone lions stood vigil at its base, like sentinels of Aslan. To the east, the west face of Westminster Abbey rose into the night—uplit and golden against the night.

Felix nodded toward the top of the column. “There’s the red cross knight Saint George slaying the dragon. But it was Michael— a greater messenger than that of a fairie queen—who most truly fought him, and cast him down to earth, where now he rages. And so,

For griefe thereof and divelish despight,
From his infernall fournace forth he threw Huge flames, that dimmed all the heavens light, Enrold in duskish smoke and brimstone blew.

“Look,” said Felix. “This column should show the dragon devouring Saint George. Although the West smiles and denies the dragon as fantasy, or else embraces the dragon as tame, the reality is no whimsy. They think he’s a plush toy, but he has seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. There’s nothing soft at all about him. He cuts and scars those who touch him—he corrupts them, and pours out their lifeblood for evil, for nothing. He’s a liar who holds out hope and comfort to the deceived without any intention of ever supplying them. He lures people to expend their lives chasing a mirage, only to die in bitterness, guilt, and regret. He feeds the pride of hell by devouring the sons of earth. When he fell, he swept a third even of the heavenly host out of the sky. Here below, the fiery dragon has set himself up to be worshiped surreptitiously, and he obscures what’s right with wrong. He is

Enwrapt in coleblacke clouds and filthy smoke,
That all the land with stench, and heaven with horror choke.

“He makes war on the saints, and conquers them. The number of those who’ll be slain for the word of God and the witness they’ve borne is not yet complete. And like Faust, the West delights in the worm-tongued nothings of the dragon’s illicit promises, though they know not from whence his voice comes. Though a remnant have eyes to see, most of the West don’t see the dragon. They think he doesn’t exist. But they have no discernment. They cannot see because they lie benighted within his very maw. But the countenance divine yet shines forth on these clouded hills in England and on every land. And soon, the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet.”
Felix and Dante sat down by the steps of the granite column, looking up at the golden-lit face of Westminster Abbey. They sat in silence for long minutes.
With his eyes still on the church, Felix said, “The days of peoples and nations are like a shadow that lengthens, and they wither away like grass.”
Several more minutes went by with not a word. Strangely, the silence was total—the City of Man somehow made no sound, as if the West were smothering in an existential bell jar of its own creation.
“I don’t see anyone here,” Dante said, looking around. “No one at all.”
“It is a multitude,” said Felix.
“Sleeping in their beds, surely,” Dante said, “but it’s strange not to see a single person in the heart of London, no matter the time of night. I can’t even hear anyone.”
“Listen closer,” said Felix.
As Dante and Felix sat before the vesper spires of a place where once a confession was written with great effort, the silence slowly gave way to a sea of strings and voices, harmonizing somberly— rising and falling with melancholy austerity.
“Where’s that coming from?” Dante exclaimed. “It sounds like it’s all around me.
Felix said,

O world invisible, we view thee;

O world intangible, we touch thee; O world unknowable, we know thee; Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

A haze of light, softly golden, began to move and shimmer— hanging over the streets, flowing along the sidewalks— murmurations of effulgence soaring among spires.

The angels keep their ancient places: Turn but a stone and start a wing!

ʼTis ye, ʼtis your estrangéd faces, That miss the many-splendored thing

A countless host of shining figures shimmered into view. Over ground and through the air, they burned with holy light. Harmony and melody blended in a symphony of beauty, order, and truth.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)

Cry—and upon thy so sore loss

Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder

Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

The above excerpt is from Among the Vesper Spires by Gregory Graybill. Published by Resource Publications, 2023. Used by Permission.

Gregory Graybill

Gregory Graybill (DPhil, Oxford) is a pastor who has published several works in the discipline of historical theology.

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