Our Mother-tongue Is Love; A Sonnet for Pentecost

A Pentecost Banner at St. Michael ‘s Bartley Green

Continuing in ‘Sounding the Seasons’, 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. I have been 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.

I am publishing this a few days before pentecost sunday in case anyone would like to copy it or make use of it in a Sunday Service.

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.

This sonnet is drawn from my collection Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press here in England. The book is now back in stock on both Amazon UK and USA and physical copies are shortly to be available in Canada via Steve Bell. It is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of this, and my other sonnets in church services and to copy and share them. If you can mention the book from which they are taken that would be great..


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

13 responses to “Our Mother-tongue Is Love; A Sonnet for Pentecost

  1. and what about Jesus – the son of man – the son of God, human and divine?

  2. Pingback: Sonnet for Pentecost | parishLife

  3. Jennifer Prior in Canada

    Malcolm, this sonnet has brought me pure joy and hope. Thank you so much.

  4. Reblogged this on Life in Hard Copy and commented:
    Prachtig gedicht voor Pinksteren!

  5. Thank you – I share your sonnets regularly as inspiration and food for thought. The last four lines of this seem to be so eloquent and poignant especially at this time – of remembrance, of places in this world where the Mother tongue is so much needed as man’s inhumanity to man is so evident. May we and all mankind indeed, be translated out of death to birth.

  6. Malcolm, your sonnets always hit the target and lift into God’s presence. Pentecost is no exception. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  7. Randy Groover


    Your ability to express so many ideas with such an economy of words is breath-taking!

    I have always considered Jesus to be the ‘new man’ that Adam failed to be, sort of a refutation of Adam’s sin. Likewise, I have always considered the fact that the apostles were able to speak languages they didn’t understand at Pentecost to be a refutation of the pride of the Tower of Babel. Would you agree?

  8. Pingback: Pentecost | stmaryswivenhoe

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