A Sonnet for Ash Wednesday

Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s Cross

I resume the thread of Sounding the Seasons, the sonnet sequence I have been posting here, and which s also available as a book from Canterbury Press, with this sonnet for Ash Wednesday. As I set about the traditional task of burning the remnants of last Palm Sunday’s palm crosses in order to make the ash which would bless and sign our repentance on Ash Wednesday, I was suddenly struck by the way both the fire and the ash were signs not only of our personal mortality and our need for repentance and renewal but also signs of of the wider destruction our sinfulness inflicts upon God’s world and on our fellow creatures, on the whole web of life into which God has woven us and for which He also cares. So some of those themes are visted in this sonnet. As we go through Lent I will post sonnets reflecting on each of the three temptations of Christ in  the wilderness, as well as for Mothering Sunday and the Feast of the  Annunciation which also falls in Lent. As before I am grateful to Margot Krebs Neale for the remarkable commentary on these poems which she is making through her photographs. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the Play Button

Ash Wednesday

Receive this cross of ash upon your brow,
Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s cross.
The forests of the world are burning now
And you make late repentance for the loss.
But all the trees of God would clap their hands
The very stones themselves would shout and sing
If you could covenant to love these lands
And recognise in Christ their Lord and king.

He sees the slow destruction of those trees,
He weeps to see the ancient places burn,
And still you make what purchases you please,
And still to dust and ashes you return.
But Hope could rise from ashes even now
Beginning with this sign upon your brow.

Beginning with this sign upon your brow


Filed under christianity, literature, Poems

10 responses to “A Sonnet for Ash Wednesday

  1. Remarkable and inspiring. Blessings for Lent and I look forward to following you.

  2. Pingback: But Hope could rise from ashes even now… « The Small Rain

  3. A beautiful sonnet written in classical style, so eloquently catches the mood of repentance and moving forward in Christ. Have also subscribed to your blog, looking forward to reading more. May inspire me to update my own blog once in a while.

  4. Pingback: Creative bits of Liturgy for Ash Wednesday 2013 | Because God Calls

  5. Leanne Hill

    As I read your introduction to this amazing sonnet, I was reminded of the cleansing power of the fire used to create the ashes….

  6. I so enjoy the rhyme and rhythm of your words – less common in poetry these days, and effortful, I find, but you make it seem quite natural – and how it lends force to the meaning!

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks. I think that form, rhyme and rhythm are both beautiful in themselves and a helpful way of embodying a poem’s meaning, but as you say they have been marginalised in modern poetry I’m trying in my own small way to bring them back

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