He answered not a word

El Greco Christ

Sometimes I sit in front of you

and have nothing to say;

no word of confident proclamation,

no fine expression of devotion,

no compassionate intercession, well-crafted and sincere.

And sometimes it’s not just that I have no words:

I feel silenced by you.

Silenced by those steady eyes

that fix me in their challenge,

their probing questions,

that repeat the questions I’ve heard you ask before;

‘will you follow?’

‘can you drink?’

‘will you stay awake?’

‘do you love?’

Well, let me try on you that trick you pulled on Pilate,

answering not a word.

I can do that too.

I can meet your questions with a silence of my own!

And so I sit. Defiant. Pleased.

And still you look

and in your silence bid me open my mouth

and say but one word – your name.


And I do so,

and in that word I see that you seek

not an answer but a response,

not a knowing but a loving,

not the next thing but one thing.


El Greco’s Christ the Saviour of the World of c1600 is in the collection of the National Gallery of Scotland. Image from Wikimedia Commons.


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