The Church’s year begins anew this weekend. Advent marks the beginning of our journey.
Waiting through birth.
Ministry through Jerusalem pilgrimage.
Crucifixion to Resurrection.
Ascension to Holy Spirit.
Church to the Reign of Christ
only to begin again
My blog begins with this Church year. A collection of musings, poems, images for pondering, praying and enjoying.
The Burning Babe
by Robert Southwell, SJ
As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”
With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day
by Denise Levertov
Because in Vietnam the vision of a Burning Babe
is multiplied, multiplied,
the flesh on fire
not Christ’s, as Southwell saw it, prefiguring
the Passion upon the Eve of Christmas,
but wholly human and repeated, repeated,
infant after infant, their names forgotten,
their sex unknown in the ashes,
set alight, flaming but not vanishing,
not vanishing as his vision but lingering,
cinders upon the earth or living on
moaning and stinking in hospitals three abed;
because of this my strong sight,
my clear caressive sight, my poet’s sight I was given
that it might stir me to song,
There is a cataract filming over
my inner eyes. Or else a monstrous insect
has entered my head, and looks out
from my sockets with multiple vision,
seeing not the unique Holy Infant
burning sublimely, an imagination of redemption,
furnace in which souls are wrought into new life,
but, as off a beltline, more, more senseless figures aflame.
And this insect (who is not there—
it is my own eyes do my seeing, the insect
is not there, what I see is there)
will not permit me to look elsewhere,
or if I look, to see except dulled and unfocused
the delicate, firm, whole flesh of the still unburned.
“Advent 1966” By Denise Levertov, from To Stay Alive, copyright 1971 by Denise Levertov. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Source: To Stay Alive (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1971)
by Rae Armantrout
In front of the craft shop,
a small nativity,
mother, baby, sheep
made of white
and blue balloons.
Pick out the one
that doesn’t belong.
close to nothing
everything has come.
Source: Poetry (June 2009).
by R. S. Thomas
Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great rôle. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.
R. S. Thomas, “Kneeling” from Not That He Brought Flowers. Copyright © 1968 by R. S. Thomas. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Ltd.
Source: Collected Poems 1945-1990 (Bloodaxe Books, 1993)
2The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. 3Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 5O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!