Today begins ‘The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’, though it’s not so much a week of prayer as a change of heart that we need. I remember once saying to my mother, when she upbraided me for one of my (many) habitual failings, ‘Mum I’m gong to turn over a new leaf’. and she replied, quick as a flash, and with Mother wit: ‘It’s not the leaves, it’s the roots that want turning!’
We won’t turn again and grow together if we don’t turn together to the true source from which both we and our Gospel come: the Love at the heart of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Here is a playful Villanelle I wrote for my friend Michael Ward, that’s a call for us all to look upstream and acknowledge our common source. You can hear it, as always by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. The poem was originally a response to a fine, punning villanelle of his, and you can find that original context here. It was published last year in my new book of poems The Singing Bowl
Which comes first, the fish or the river?
Since every gift comes down from the All-Giver,
How can I choose between the Giver’s gifts
Or say which should come first, the fish or river?
He scatters first, and then calls us to gather,
To lavish on his work our smaller crafts
And sail our praise upstream, back to the Giver.
He gives His gifts when we are met together,
Not in our splits, our schisms, and our rifts:
We cannot prize the Fish and not the River,
Divide the two and say ‘which would you rather?’
We float through time on fragile little rafts,
But time and life alike flow from the Giver.
Away upstream, it all flows from the Father:
The stream is His own Spirit, giving gifts;
His Son, our brother, joins us in the River.
He is our ‘both-and’ God, not ‘or’, or ‘either’;
He gives full measure: steady, heady draughts!
The Giver must come first, always the Giver,
We prize alike His gifts: both Fish and River.