The Evangelists were all given their symbols. Of course you will realise at once that in heaven a symbol is a reality, and real beings, real angels, were at once and for ever appointed to the job. I watched the first three. Mark’s, who was given the name of Mark to add to his existing name and used it at once with great enthusiasm, was a lion, a huge forceful beast. As he stepped up to his new job, the most marvellous wings grew from his back – tawny like his coat, and huge like his personality, fur-feathered.
Luke was a huge patient ox, a domestic beast, gentle and very much the servant. He, too, at once grew wings, his always having something of the scent of hay about them. And Matthew was shaped like a man, with his great concern for justice, and that anger in him… No, of course all angels shaped like humans do not have wings – no, just think. Well exactly, the angels of the resurrection… But Matthew’s wings sprang into being. Oh, enviable wings, like the wings of a swan.
And then I became John. And I was aware of this huge disappointment. Because of course I already HAD wings. Eagles do. There was nothing new for me, and the others had become. I was just a great bird with goldy-brown wings. I heard Michael’s voice. We all knew Michael had had problems with his own becoming. ‘There are other ways of becoming, find yours,’ he said, as quietly as he could. And then I felt it. I felt goldenness. First a flush, and then it flamed up my whole being. I heard the sigh. The others saw, and knew. We all knew this was the right thing. Which is how I became, and how, to this day, I am copied in brass in churches. But (forgive me) the brass is never as bright as my living feathers, however they polish it.