Oh Clavis; A Fourth Advent Antiphon and Sonnet

Oh Clavis, Oh Key!

Of all the mystic titles of Christ, this is the one that connects most closely with our ‘secular’ psychology. We speak of the need on the one hand for ‘closure’ and on the other for ‘unlocking’, for ‘opening’, for  ‘liberation’. The same ideas are also there in the lines from O Come O Come Emmanuel that are drawn from this antiphon, which could easily be part of anybody’s work in good therapy:

“Make safe the way that leads on high,

and close the path to misery.”

I see this antiphon, and the sonnet I wrote in response  to it, as the ‘before’ picture that precdes the beautiful fifth antiphon O Oriens about Christ as the Dayspring and  when l wrote this sonnet I found that I had at last written something clear about my own experience of depression. I hope that others who have been in that darkness will find it helpful.

I am grateful to the photographer Margot Krebs Neale for the image. You can learn more about the antiphons from Julia Holloway’s wonderful site

These Advent sonnets are now gathered together in a larger cycle called ‘Sounding the Seasons’ and which takes you right through the church year from Advent to the feast of Christ the King. It is out now with Canterbury Press, available in various bookshops, from Amazon, or direct from Canterbury Press. You can also hear this sonnet recited as part of a song on Steve Bell‘s amazing new album Keening for the Dawn.

Some more of my poetry for this seasons, including some new work is taken up into a new Ebook by Steve Bell called Advent, part of a series he’s started called Pilgrimage Its beautifully presented and includes songs, visual art and video as well sat Steve’s prose and my poetry. You can find out how to download and enjoy it here

As before there should be a play button just before the poem for  you to hear the antiphon sung and the poem read aloud. Alternatively you can click the hyperlink on the poem’s title and listen to it on my audioboo page.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Clavis

Even in the darkness where I sit
And huddle in the midst of misery
I can remember freedom, but forget
That every lock must answer to a key,
That each dark clasp, sharp and intricate,
Must find a counter-clasp to meet its guard,
Particular, exact and intimate,
The clutch and catch that meshes with its ward.
I cry out for the key I threw away
That turned and over turned with certain touch
And with the lovely lifting of a latch
Opened my darkness to the light of day.
O come again, come quickly, set me free
Cut to the quick to fit, the master key.

5 Comments

Filed under imagination, literature, Meditation, Poems

5 responses to “Oh Clavis; A Fourth Advent Antiphon and Sonnet

  1. Enda.McDonagh@spcm.ie

    Dear Malcolm Guite, I am a Roman Catholic Priest who has been fortunate enough to be receiving your blogs and poems for a couple of months without quite understanding how I was so fortunate. Thank you very much for the light and comfort they have given and thank you above all for that wonderful book ‘Faith, Hope and Poetry’ I was a friend (among thousands) of Seamus and still miss meeting him although I read him regularly. No need to acknowledge this. Wishing you a peaceful and blessed Christmas. Enda Mc Donagh

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Enda
      Thank you for this encouraging comment. Its a blessing that though it is no longer possible to meet Seamus in the flesh those astonishing poems still continue to live and grow in our minds. Im glad you like F H and P it was very much a book written from the heart and it is so encouraging to find that it speaks to the heartbif others. As Newman says Cor ad cor loquitor

      Have a good Christmas
      Malcolm

  2. Julie

    Reblogged this on Anglican, Plain: My Life and the History of the World and commented:
    Malcolm Guite may be the best sonnet writer of our age. His Advent cycle of the “O” antiphons distills the spirituality of the this ancient cycle of prayer.

  3. Pingback: Part Two: Medieval and Modern Suffering | Along the Beam

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