I am sitting in the Church of St. Michael in Southampton – presently deserted.
To my left is a large stained glass window above the main door that depicts
St Michael, leader of a hundred Angels in battle, slaying with his lance
the dragon-shaped leader of evil – a splendid picture for all its naiveté.
To my right, tucked away between the side door and the lady -chapel, is
a statue of a very different St. Michael, carved from the steely trunk of
a yew tree. His body has half emerged from the core of the tree. He is
supporting himself on his lance, twisting his head to look upward, displaying
both power and uncertainty. His mission is as yet unformed.
Both these pictures depict St Michael bringing good into the world.
In the stained glass picture it is by unremitting action, in the sculpture
it is by working deeply within the total situation, discerning what evil really
is in this world that he is entering. This quality of discernment lies at the
core of what is called in the Bible “Wisdom” - the capital letter used because
in many places Wisdom is presented as a kind of person. Action without wisdom
can be dangerous, and as our world becomes more complex, so Wisdom must reach