I looked down at the shepherds. Transfixed; they had never heard anything so terrible or so wonderful. There had never been a sound like this on the earth before and each of us was privileged to bear our part, each specially chosen. I saw the flames of the Holy Spirit flicker over and around them, as she opened their minds to see us.
Well, yes, I do think in Hebrew, usually, although I can speak every tongue which is spoken anywhere in Time. I alone of the angels meet each mortal thing. That night, that astonishing night, we were all singing in Aramaic. I heard my voice, true and perfect and tuned up for human ears, sing the soprano line: ‘Glory, glory, glory. In the highest, in the highest.’ And my heart was breaking. Each one of us there that night had our significant part to play in his story. Rafael was over to the right, booming out in an impressive base: ‘His favour, his favour. His favour rests, rests, rests.’ Gabriel caught my eye. His own were filled with tears, though the tenor never quavered. He was thinking of the Annunciation, of the fragile courageous child even now nursing her own child.
And me? I was thinking back nine months too. I was thinking of that place where I, who can no longer enter Eternity, stood with the other three. A place outside Time and Eternity. The Spirit wrapped round us all. The Son was already emptying himself, and folding up, hiding from himself much that he was. He had already resigned his omniscience. His courage never faltered, but it was courage with fear. He could no longer remember forwards to see the whole course of the new life, though he still knew how it must end. ‘You will come for me?’ he queried, begged, ‘You will come for me in the end, when I need you. I know it cannot be when I want you, but you will make it when I have to have you? You will not let fear or reverence stand in your way?’
I was weeping. Later, Gabriel told me they had all wept, when he left, when he sprang off his Thrones. The Thrones, said Gabriel, had spilt great fiery tears, but he had gone joyously. I had given up Eternity to Become, to enter truly to myself. I knew that what he was doing now, hard as it was, was in a sense Becoming too. That he was most truly himself, here and now, as he begged me for assurance. ‘I will come,’ I promised, ‘I will come the first moment I can. I will help in every way I can.’ None of the four of us said: ‘Whatever it costs’ because we all knew it would cost everything we could, possibly, give.
I could hear his Thrones now, more instrumental than voice. Pride purred, yet somewhere you heard the longing. Each one of us, here tonight, had sacrificed for this moment, and that was why we sang as we did. It was the most glorious sound that Earth ever has or ever can know. These were the finest sounds of Eternity translated into time, and we sang out of our loss and longing. It was our gift, made to honour his gift.
I sang knowing one day I would come to his broken body and take his life. I have resigned Eternity to bring all moral things to Eternity. I have done that because my Master has need of me. My name is Azrael. You know me as Death.