Category : Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for the Feast Day of C S Lewis

O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give thee thanks for Clive Staples Lewis whose sanctified imagination lighteth fires of faith in young and old alike; Surprise us also with thy joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Apologetics, Church History, Church of England, Poetry & Literature, Spirituality/Prayer

For Veterans Day 2020–The Poem For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

(1st Things) John Wilson–Walker Percy’s Questions

You might be saying, about now, that it’s all too common to fetishize “questioning” and belittle solid faith. I agree. But the assertion about white evangelicals goes well beyond that; it’s a dehumanizing caricature. And that is what made me think of Percy’s essay:

Why do young people look so sad, the very young who, seeing how sad their elders are, have sought a new life of joy and freedom with each other and in the green fields and forests, but who instead of finding joy look even sadder than their elders?

Around the end of this year, my friend Dan Taylor (that’s Daniel W. Taylor to you, bud) has a novel coming from Slant Books, The Mystery of Iniquity. It’s a terrific book. Dan (who taught at Bethel University in Saint Paul for decades) has “questions”; he also has faith. The same is true, as Joseph Ratzinger observed in his superb Introduction to Christianity, of “unbelievers,” who wonder whether they are wrong.

“Questioning,” of course, isn’t evenly distributed. Those of us less beset by “questions” than some others have no reason to brag, nor can we assume it will always be thus. Which reminds me of another of Percy’s questions: “Why does it make a man feel better to read a book about a man like himself feeling bad?”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Language, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(LH) The Most Important Poem of the 20th Century: On T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” at 100

Robert Crawford: Though I do understand why people often see—and hear—“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” as inventing modern poetry in English, I think The Waste Land does so more comprehensively. It’s as if this poem can give anything—a cry, a list of place-names, a snatch of conversation, a Sanskrit word, a nursery rhyme, an echo—an almost infinite and carrying resonance that brings with it unforgettable intensity. Ezra Pound who, prior to editing The Waste Land,  had just been editing an English translation of an avant-garde collage-style French poem by Jean Cocteau, helped give the poem its intensity; but the words were Eliot’s.

As I’ve argued in Young Eliot, Pound’s editing was highly ethical in that he did not add or substitute words of his own; he just honed what Eliot had written. Eliot had learned from Pound’s bricolage style, but where Pound went on to go on and on and on, Eliot (with Pound’s editorial help) learned as a young poet just when to stop. That’s a great gift. So the poem exemplifies at once the way in which poetry can incorporate all kinds of diverse materials; yet it also constitutes a supreme example of poetic intensity. It’s quite a combination—and one from which innumerable poets (from Auden to Xu Zhimo and from MacDiarmid to Okigbo and beyond) have learned.

David Barnes: Basil Bunting famously compared Ezra Pound’s Cantos to the Alps: a poet ‘would have to go a long way around’ if they wanted to avoid them. I don’t know if The Waste Land is quite like that. Certainly, poetry was not the same after The Waste Land; at the same time, it’s perhaps more difficult to trace the influence of the poem than it is with Pound’s experimentations. In some ways, it’s quite difficult to go forward after The Waste Land, as it’s a poem that seems to have said it all. I sometimes wonder if The Waste Land hasn’t had more of an influence on the modern novel.

Read it all.

Posted in History, Language, Poetry & Literature

(Church Times) Mark Vernon–‘The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis: How great books shaped a great mind’ by Jason M. Baxter

At one level, this is an accessible study of the academic obsessions of the famous Christian apologist and author of the Narnia stories. But, at another level, it is something far more radical. Baxter examines how Lewis’s thought and imagination are profoundly shaped by writers from Plato and Boethius to Dante. But, in so doing, he gradually reveals Lewis to be a bold re-interpreter of Christianity, in ways that might even help to remake the Christian vision.

Lewis felt at home in the medieval world, and his scholarship on its literature shows how the world-view between then and now has changed, from the experiencing of the cosmos as a divine theophany to the examination of the cosmos via mechanical abstractions, rendering it ripe for domination. Baxter offers a rich account of the nuance with which Lewis describes this latter-day fall.

But he also reveals some of the far-reaching consequences of Lewis’s analysis. Consider the relationship between reason and myth. Lewis realised that the two weren’t opposites, but merged as reason reached its limits.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Church History, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(TLS) Cultivating his garden: Re-reading The Lord of the Rings at a time of crisis

Over the next thirty years I thought little of Tolkien’s trilogy, until one day, in the middle of the pandemic, I received a phone call. I had a sudden foreboding and only when I saw that it was from my mother in Derry did I answer. Both of my parents had tested positive for Covid-19. I tried to reassure her with clichés and statistics, but she was having none of it. “Your father is very ill. I’m worried. He doesn’t sound right. He’s lying upstairs with a fever. He won’t close the window and the curtains are blowing out over the street for everyone to see.” My father was a former bodybuilder who still went to the gym. He had no underlying conditions. He was in good health and several years from retirement. He worked outside as a gardener-groundsman for the council. In the pit of my stomach I knew he would never be well again.

The first time my mother took him to the hospital, they sent him away with a mild painkiller. The second time he was raced off to a high-dependency unit, then intensive care. I received an ominous “come home” message. Heathrow airport was virtually empty. I grabbed a copy of The Lord of the Rings, thinking he might need distraction. The hospital doors were locked, however. As it turned out, he was well past the point of being able to read anything.

The first time they induced a coma, it almost felt like a relief. My father’s constitution was “as strong as an ox”, but he suffered complications (stroke, pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia). They talked about using him as a case study. Feeling powerless and bereft, I tried to colour his dreams, which appeared troubled, convulsive. I made playlists of his favourite music. I read, and recorded, long passages from literature – tales of sea voyages, the poetry of the Romantics, explorations of the wilds – for the nurses to play to him, in the hope that this would take him out of his confinement or ease his mind. At some point I turned to The Lord of the Rings. It was a different book to the one I’d read in childhood. Then I had skipped past the interminable journey scenes to get to the battles. Now I found myself doing the opposite, leaving out the orcs and dragons, and enjoying the scenes on foot with their wayfaring human tempo. Forced to excise the orcs, battles and much of the dialogue in my recordings, I focused on the hobbits’ progress from forest to mountain, marsh and cavern, and rediscovered some of the best nature writing of the midcentury….

Tolkien’s epic began as bedtime stories for his children, so it feels appropriate that I should now be reading The Lord of the Rings to my own son, who is as taken with the endpapers as I was, and stares enchanted at Middle-earth. You share these experiences with your children to help them make a map of their own world: neither to escape it nor, as I once feared, to lose it altogether, but to inhabit it more imaginatively, and fully.

Read it all.

Posted in Language, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(NYT) Hilary Mantel, Prize-Winning Author of Historical Fiction, Dies at 70

But it was a long and arduous road to reach those heights, beginning with a tough childhood. “I was unsuited to being a child,” Ms. Mantel wrote in a 2003 memoir, “Giving Up the Ghost.” She endured numerous health problems, leading one doctor to call her “Little Miss Neverwell.” The doctor was the first of many to fail to properly treat her.

Her illnesses later proved so debilitating that she could not hold down regular jobs, steering her to writing. But even then it was a writer’s life of fits and starts. Mainstream success did not come to her until she was well into her 50s….

In her 20s, Ms. Mantel was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition in which tissue similar to that lining the womb grows elsewhere. Around that time, a doctor ordered her to stop writing. Her response, described in her memoir, was typically forthright: “I said to myself, ‘If I think of another story, I will write it.’”

At 27, having had the endometriosis diagnosis confirmed, she had surgery to remove her uterus and ovaries, although that did not stop the pain. The complications from her illness made a normal day job impossible, she said.

“It narrowed my options in life,” she said, “and it narrowed them to writing.”

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Poetry & Literature

(R U) Terry Mattingly–The Last Rites For Elizabeth II

“Queen Elizabeth was one of those people in this mortal life who always thought ahead,” said David Lyle Jeffrey, distinguished senior fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. When preparing these rites, the queen was “clearly looking for prayers, Scriptures and hymns that made connections she wanted to make for her family, her people and the world. … I think she succeeded brilliantly.”

An Anglican from Canada, Jeffrey said the events closing the queen’s historic 70-year reign were an appropriate time to explore the “essence of her admirable Christian character.” Thus, the retired literature professor wrote a poem after her death — “Regina Exemplaris (An exemplary queen)” — saluting her steady, consistent faith. It ended with these lines:

She who longest wore the heavy crown

Knew but to kneel before the unseen throne

And plead her people’s cause as for her own,

And there to praise the Lord of All, bowed down,

More conscious of his glory than her high acclaim,

Exemplar thus in worship, in praise more worthy of the Name.

After the “Kontakion of the Departed,” Bishop David Conner, the dean of St. George’s Chapel, noted the importance of this sanctuary to Queen Elizabeth. She had worshipped in the Windsor Castle chapel as a girl, sometimes singing in the choir and taking piano lessons with organist Sir William Henry Harris. The queen included some of his music in the committal service.

“We are bound to call to mind,” said Conner, “someone whose uncomplicated, yet profound Christian faith bore so much fruit … in a life of unstinting service to the nation, the Commonwealth and the wider world, but also, and especially to be remembered in this place, in kindness, concern and reassuring care for her family, friends and neighbors.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Billy Collins The Laniard–A Poem I come back to Again and Again

Take the time–it is well worth it.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Language, Poetry & Literature

Wednesday food for Thought from Marilynne Robinson–‘There Is More Beauty Than Our Eyes Can Bear’

“It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance – for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light …. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? …. Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave – that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.”

–Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Posted in Poetry & Literature, Theology

Walt Whitman Reads “America”: What May be the Only Surviving Recording of the Beloved Poet’s Voice

Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

Read and listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Poetry & Literature

Harriet Beecher Stowe on her Feast Day

Have not many of us, in the weary way of life, felt, in some hours, how far easier it were to die than to live?

The martyr, when faced even by a death of bodily anguish and horror, finds in the very terror of his doom a strong stimulant and tonic. There is a vivid excitement, a thrill and fervor, which may carry through any crisis of suffering that is the birth-hour of eternal glory and rest.

But to live,–to wear on, day after day, of mean, bitter, low, harassing servitude, every nerve dampened and depressed, every power of feeling gradually smothered,–this long and wasting heart-martyrdom, this slow, daily bleeding away of the inward life, drop by drop, hour after hour,–this is the true searching test of what there may be in man or woman.

When Tom stood face to face with his persecutor, and heard his threats, and thought in his very soul that his hour was come, his heart swelled bravely in him, and he thought he could bear torture and fire, bear anything, with the vision of Jesus and heaven but just a step beyond; but, when he was gone, and the present excitement passed off, came back the pain of his bruised and weary limbs,–came back the sense of his utterly degraded, hopeless, forlorn estate; and the day passed wearily enough.

Long before his wounds were healed, Legree insisted that he should be put to the regular field-work; and then came day after day of pain and weariness, aggravated by every kind of injustice and indignity that the ill-will of a mean and malicious mind could devise. Whoever, in our circumstances, has made trial of pain, even with all the alleviations which, for us, usually attend it, must know the irritation that comes with it. Tom no longer wondered at the habitual surliness of his associates; nay, he found the placid, sunny temper, which had been the habitude of his life, broken in on, and sorely strained, by the inroads of the same thing. He had flattered himself on leisure to read his Bible; but there was no such thing as leisure there. In the height of the season, Legree did not hesitate to press all his hands through, Sundays and week-days alike. Why shouldn’t he?””he made more cotton by it, and gained his wager; and if it wore out a few more hands, he could buy better ones. At first, Tom used to read a verse or two of his Bible, by the flicker of the fire, after he had returned from his daily toil; but, after the cruel treatment he received, he used to come home so exhausted, that his head swam and his eyes failed when he tried to read; and he was fain to stretch himself down, with the others, in utter exhaustion.

Is it strange that the religious peace and trust, which had upborne him hitherto, should give way to tossings of soul and despondent darkness? The gloomiest problem of this mysterious life was constantly before his eyes, souls crushed and ruined, evil triumphant, and God silent. It was weeks and months that Tom wrestled, in his own soul, in darkness and sorrow. He thought of Miss Ophelia’s letter to his Kentucky friends, and would pray earnestly that God would send him deliverance. And then he would watch, day after day, in the vague hope of seeing somebody sent to redeem him; and, when nobody came, he would crush back to his soul bitter thoughts,that it was vain to serve God, that God had forgotten him. He sometimes saw Cassy; and sometimes, when summoned to the house, caught a glimpse of the dejected form of Emmeline, but held very little communion with either; in fact, there was no time for him to commune with anybody.

–Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Posted in History, Poetry & Literature, Race/Race Relations

Poetry for Pentecost–Suddenly by R S Thomas

From here:

Suddenly after long silence
he has become voluble.
He addresses me from a myriad
directions with fluency
of water, the articulateness
of green leaves: and in the genes,
too, the components
of my existence. The rock,
so long speechless, is the library
of his poetry. He sings to me
in the chain-saw, writes
with the surgeon’s hand
on the skin’s parchment messages
of healing. The weather
is his mind’s turbine
driving the earth’s bulk round
and around on its remedial
journey. I have no need
to despair; as at
some second Pentecost
of a Gentile, I listen to the things
round me: weeds, stones, instruments,
the machine itself, all
speaking to me in the vernacular
of the purposes of one who is.

Posted in Pentecost, Poetry & Literature

JRR Tolkien on why the Gospel is like unto but Better than a Fairy Tale

Probably every writer making a secondary world, a fantasy, every sub-creator, wishes in some measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it. If he indeed achieves a quality that can fairly be described by the dictionary definition: “inner consistency of reality,” it is difficult to conceive how this can be, if the work does not in some way partake of reality. The peculiar quality of the ”joy” in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a “consolation” for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, “Is it true?” The answer to this question that I gave at first was (quite rightly): “If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true in that world.” That is enough for the artist (or the artist part of the artist). But in the “eucatastrophe” we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater — it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world. The use of this word gives a hint of my epilogue. It is a serious and dangerous matter. It is presumptuous of me to touch upon such a theme; but if by grace what I say has in any respect any validity, it is, of course, only one facet of a truth incalculably rich: finite only because the capacity of Man for whom this was done is finite.

I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath. Every fairy tale we tell has at it’s root a core element of the ultimate story but the thing which makes the gospel so compelling is that it like a fairy tale sounds too good to be true but unlike a fairy tale is true.

“It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be “primarily” true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the “turn” in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien on Fairy Stories, cited by yours truly on this past Sunday’s Pentecost sermon.

Posted in Church History, Pentecost, Poetry & Literature, Theology

More Poetry for Memorial Day: Tomas Tranströmer’s The Half-Finished Heaven

From here:

Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even the ghosts take a draught.

And our paintings see daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.
Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature, Sweden

More Poetry for Memorial Day–Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

In Flanders Fields for Memorial Day 2022

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

In thanksgiving for all those who gave their lives for this country in years past, and for those who continue to serve; KSH.

P.S. The circumstances which led to this remarkable poem are well worth remembering:

It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915 and to the war in general. McCrea had spent seventeen days treating injured men — Canadians, British, French, and Germans in the Ypres salient. McCrae later wrote: “I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.” The next day McCrae witnessed the burial of a good friend, Lieut. Alexis Helmer. Later that day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the field dressing station, McCrea composed the poem. A young NCO, delivering mail, watched him write it. When McCrae finished writing, he took his mail from the soldier and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the Sergeant-major. Cyril Allinson was moved by what he read: “The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” Colonel McCrae was dissatisfied with the poem, and tossed it away. A fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915. For his contributions as a surgeon, the main street in Wimereaux is named “Rue McCrae”.

Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

Christ the Bird and the Play of Hope: An Anglo-Saxon Poem for the Feast of the Ascension

One thing this poem does have in common with the ‘Advent lyrics’ of Christ I is that it’s an extraordinarily sophisticated theological meditation on its Biblical theme, rendered in the traditional language of Anglo-Saxon poetry but drawing on learned interpretations of the subject by the Church Fathers. The poem begins by describing the delight of the angels at Christ’s return to heaven, contrasting their joy with the grief of the disciples at parting from Christ, and giving his words of comfort to his followers:…

“Rejoice in your hearts! I will never leave you;
I will always remain with you in love,
and give you strength and dwell with you
for ever and ever, so that through my grace
you will never want for anything good…
I will dwell with you
from henceforth as a comforter, and keep you in peace,
a steadfast strength in every place.”

Posted in Ascension, Church History, Poetry & Literature

(NYT) Ada Limón Makes Poems for a Living

In her most recent book, she said, she was interested in things that can go on without her — the book has four sections, each named for a season.

The collection is dedicated to her stepfather, Brady T. Brady, who is one of her early readers, along with a small group of poets including Jennifer L. Knox and Matthew Zapruder. Brady went from high school to fighting in the infantry in Vietnam, and never studied poetry. But his guidance of her writing has been valuable since she was a child, Limón said. Once, when she was 15, she called him at work to read a poem she’d written.

“I started reading it in this very poetic voice, and he was like: ‘Wait, no,’” she said. “‘Just read it to me like you’re telling me something.’ And I read it that way, in my natural voice, and then he could hear it.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, Language, Poetry & Literature

(CT Pastors) Ryan Diaz–Wendell Berry Taught Me to Preach

“Live a three-dimensioned life.”

There is nothing worse than preaching disconnected from everyday life. Theological abstractions do very little for the thirsty souls in our pews, and any theology disconnected from life, story, and place are antithetical to the Incarnation. Jesus’ incarnation is not just the taking on of human shape but rather is Jesus’ full entrance into the state of human affairs through which the eternal Word makes himself present in time and space (John 1:14).

Our preparation and our preaching need to be rooted in a “three-dimensioned” life. Our preaching must drink from the well of story and place, a fount that feeds and is fed by the local congregations we serve. The apostle Paul did his theology within the context of local communities. His articulation of eternal truth was flavored and shaped by the soil in which it was planted. This doesn’t mean that the temporal trumps the eternal; instead, it is an invitation to anchor the infinite in a local habitation, a space where the gospel intersects with daily life.

I started writing sermons in coffee shops when my wife and I first got married and lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn. What began as a practical decision eventually led to a profound spiritual practice. The gossip at the table across the room, the community board filled with flyers, and the brief chat with the barista all help remind me who these messages are for. By beginning our preparation in the presence of people, we start to write for them and not ourselves. We learn to see the gospel at work in places and ways we could never have imagined locked up in our studies.

Read it all.

Posted in Language, Ministry of the Ordained, Poetry & Literature, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture

For her Feast Day–Up-Hill from Christian Rossetti

From there:

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

Posted in Church History, History, Poetry & Literature

Resurrection by John Donne

From here:

Moist with one drop of thy blood, my dry soul
Shall (though she now be in extreme degree
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly,) be
Freed by that drop, from being starved, hard, or foul,
And life, by this death abled, shall control
Death, whom thy death slew; nor shall to me
Fear of first or last death, bring misery,
If in thy little book my name thou enrol,
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrefied,
But made that there, of which, and for which ’twas;
Nor can by other means be glorified.
May then sin’s sleep, and death’s soon from me pass,
That waked from both, I again risen may
Salute the last, and everlasting day.

Posted in Church History, Easter, Poetry & Literature

An Easter Carol

Tomb, thou shalt not hold Him longer;
Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right.
Faith and Hope triumphant say,
Christ will rise on Easter-Day.

While the patient earth lies waking,
Till the morning shall be breaking,
Shuddering ‘neath the burden dread
Of her Master, cold and dead,
Hark! she hears the angels say,
Christ will rise on Easter-Day.
And when sunrise smites the mountains,
Pouring light from heavenly fountains,
Then the earth blooms out to greet
Once again the blessed feet;
And her countless voices say,
Christ has risen on Easter-Day.

Up and down our lives obedient
Walk, dear Christ, with footsteps radiant,
Till those garden lives shall be
Fair with duties done for Thee;
And our thankful spirits say,
Christ arose on Easter-Day.

–Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

Posted in Church History, Easter, Music, Poetry & Literature

R S Thomas “The Answer” for Easter

From there:

Not darkness but twilight
In which even the best
of minds must make its way
now. And slowly the questions
occur, vague but formidable
for all that. We pass our hands
over their surface like blind
men feeling for the mechanism
that will swing them aside. They
yield, but only to re-form
as new problems; and one
does not even do that
but towers immovable
before us.

Is there no way
of other thought of answering
its challenge? There is an anticipation
of it to the point of
dying. There have been times
when, after long on my knees
in a cold chancel, a stone has rolled
from my mind, and I have looked
in and seen the old questions lie
folded and in a place
by themselves, like the piled
graveclothes of love’s risen body.

Posted in Easter, Poetry & Literature

JRR Tolkien for Easter–Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?

Sam believes that Gandalf has fallen a catastrophic distance and has died. But in the end of the story, with Sam having been asleep for a long while and then beginning to regain consciousness, Gandalf stands before Sam, robed in white, his face glistening in the sunlight, and says:

“Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?”

But Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”

“A great shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from bed… “How do I feel?” he cried.” Well, I don’t know how to say it. I feel, I feel” –he waved his arms in the air– “I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!”

— J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), The Return of the King

Posted in Easter, Eschatology, Poetry & Literature, Theology

Easter by George Herbert

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined1 thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Read it all.

Posted in Easter, Poetry & Literature

Gerard Manley Hopkins for Easter–Gather gladness from the skies

Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.

Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe.
Chaplets for disheveled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.

Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls alway
Make each morn an Easter Day.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Easter, Poetry & Literature

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that pierced died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not paper-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

–John Updike (1932-2009)

Posted in Holy Week, Poetry & Literature, Theology

Poetry for Easter–Resurrection by RS Thomas

Posted in Easter, Poetry & Literature

Easter Night

All night had shout of men, and cry
Of woeful women filled His way;
Until that noon of sombre sky
On Friday, clamour and display
Smote Him; no solitude had He,
No silence, since Gethsemane.

Public was Death; but Power, but Might,
But Life again, but Victory,
Were hushed within the dead of night,
The shutter’d dark, the secrecy.
And all alone, alone, alone,
He rose again behind the stone.

–Alice Meynell (1847-1922)

Posted in Holy Week, Poetry & Literature