A Sonnet for Pentecost

A Pentecost Banner at St. Michael ‘s Bartley Green

Continuing in my cycle of sonnets for the Church Year this is a sonnet reflecting on and celebrating the themes and readings of Pentecost. Throughout the cycle, and more widely I have been reflecting on the traditional ‘four elements’ of earth, air, water and fire, considering how each of them expresses and embodies different aspects of the Gospel and of God’s goodness, as though the four elements were, in their own way, another four evangelists. In that context I was very struck by the way Scripture expresses the presence of the Holy Spirit through the three most dynamic of the four elements, the air, ( a mighty rushing wind, but also the breath of the spirit) water, (the waters of baptism, the river of life, the fountain springing up to eternal life promised by Jesus) and of course fire, the tongues of flame at Pentecost. Three out of four ain’t bad, but I was wondering, where is the fourth? Where is earth? And then I realised that we ourselves are earth, the ‘Adam’ made of the red clay, and we become living beings, fully alive, when the Holy Spirit, clothed in the three other elements comes upon us and becomes a part of who we are. So something of that reflection is embodied in the sonnet.

As usual you can hear me reading the sonnet by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears in your browser or by clicking on the title of the poem itself. Thanks to Margot Krebs Neale for the beautiful image which follows the poem.

I also have some good news to share. Yesterday I signed a contract with the Canterbury Press to publish all these sonnets for the church year in a single volume to be entitled Sounding the Seasons’. It should be out by Advent sunday in early December in time for the start of the new church year. I will post more about it in my next blog post and let all my readers here know how to get it as soon as it is available.


Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today  the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire,air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in  every nation.

Whose Mother-tongue is Love in every nation


Filed under christianity, Poems

5 responses to “A Sonnet for Pentecost

  1. Ooh yippee! So happy about the book and will look forward to buying it when it is available.

  2. beautifully written and congratulations on the book 🙂

  3. This is so excellent – love it. So much of the New Testament is the retrograde, or answer, to an Old Testament, (like the sermon on the “mount” seems the completion to the giving of the law on a mountain.) It seems like Pentacost is the answer to the tower of babel. The first being a separation of man by language, and pentacost being the sign of man’s unity in Christ, also signified by language. I think its great you put these ideas in a sonnet rather than a song. It’s difficult to keep this depth of thought locked up in a song.

  4. Such a pleasure to share in what God is breathing into you Malcolm. Thanks for sharing, you have a real gift here and I’m so pleased you are using it to bless others.

  5. Reblogged this on The Jog and commented:
    Pentecost is a very special festival. Malcolm Guite’s post here reminds us of the thoroughgoing blessing of God’s love embracing/infusing all the ‘four elements’ of earth, air, water and fire described by Malcolm as four evangelists. Adam is his answer to the question “where on earth?” Like it.

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