“Something wicked this way comes.” I have always thought that this phrase is elegant – alarming and scary for sure, but elegant nonetheless. Compare it to “Here comes something wicked” or any other more mundane turn of the phrase. The line is original to Macbeth: “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”, spoken by by the witches (Act 4, Scene 1). The line is a very striking piece of verse, not only because of it phrasing, but also because of its ominous announcement of an approaching evil, some monster coming into the moment. In its hearing Macbeth has no idea that he is the monster that is coming, or rather becoming.
On his way home from a battle that he has won, Macbeth, national hero and cousin of the king, is confronted by three witches, who tell him a few things about what the immediate future will bring him, and add that he is going to be king. When their minor predictions come true an ambition, so deeply buried in his mind that he hasn’t been aware of it, comes to the surface: to be king.
He knows that for it to happen the king would have to die and also that he would have to do something about Malcolm, the king’s son and natural heir. He tries to shove the idea aside but can’t, and he writes to his wife, Lady Macbeth, telling her about his encounter with the witches. Lady Macbeth takes the idea up and when he arrives home with the news that the king is coming to stay the night she persuades her husband to murder him.
With the help of his wife Macbeth murders King Duncan, and from that moment on things change. He does become king but paranoia begins to affect him and he takes extreme measures, including more murders, to cover up his crime and keep his hold on power. He very quickly descends into a state of pure evil, and Shakespeare saturates the text with images of evil, hell, violence, darkness, associated with him.
Many people are more familiar with the phrase from Ray Bradbury’s dark fantasy novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” published in 1962.
So, what has got me thinking about all this in the light of today’s gospel? It is powerful, well-known opening words from John 3:16
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
Something wonderful this way comes… and it has been coming from before there was a beginning.
The Cappadocian Fathers, early churchmen of the 4th and 5th centuries, spoke of the inner life of the Trinity, before the world was. The nature of Trinity is three and where there are three, and each loves the others and attends fully to the others with all their being, you have a love that is not only inclusive, but one that pours oneself completely into the others. This is love – ever giving one’s self way from a fountain fullness of love pouring forth in love. But such a whirling dervish of dynamic love cannot be contained within. The Cappadocian Fathers wrote that this fountain fullness of love, intrinsic to the internal life of the Trinity is a perichorisis, a divine dancing in and out of each other that whirls and swirls until it explodes into Creation— giving life. An internal love of Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, moving outward, creating the world in love, structuring all life to find its ultimate destiny in love.
Our world was created in a divine fountain fullness of Love pouring out from the inner life of the Trinity. It is our beginning and our ultimate destiny…. the problem is the in-between. I wonder if the three witches from Macbeth had been in the Garden of Eden, if they would have stared Adam and Eve in the eye and announced, “Something wicked this way comes.” They probably would never guess they were the monster coming into the world.
The Annunciation to Mary was God’s response to all that befell the human race. “Something wonderful this way comes.” That same refrain underlies and ascends from all the accounts of Jesus – his miracles, healings, teachings, and his demonstration of love to all. The Resurrection of Christ bespeaks of the unstoppable “wonderful” that this way comes. Not even the most wicked of wicked, Death, can stop this divine wonderful.
And it is relentless and will not rest until the love offered is love accepted. Indeed, something wonderful this way comes.