25th January: The conversion of St. Paul!

Image by Margot Krebs Neale

This sunday, the 25th of January, is the day the Church keeps the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. However often it is told or re-told, it is still an astonishing story. That Saul, the implacable enemy of Christianity, who came against the church ‘breathing threats and slaughter’, should be chosen by God to be Christianity’s greatest proponant and apostle is just the first of a series of dazzling and life-changing paradoxes that flow from Paul’s writing. At the heart of these is the revelation of God’s sheer grace; finding the lost, loving the violent into light, and working everything through the very weakness of those who love him. Here’s a sonnet celebrating just a little of what I glimpse in the great apostle.

This poem and my other sonnets for the Christian year are published together by Canterbury Press as Sounding the Seasons; seventy sonnets for the Christian Year.’ You can get this book in the UK by ordering it from your local bookshop, or viaAmazon, and I am vey happy to say that both this and my other poetry book The Singing bowl are now available in North America from Steve Bell who has a good supply in stock. His page for my books is HERE

As always you can hear the poem by clicking n the ‘play’ button if it appears, or on the title of the poem.


An enemy whom God has made a friend,

A righteous man discounting righteousness,

Last to believe and first for God to send,

He found the fountain in the wilderness.

Thrown to the ground and raised at the same moment,

A prisoner who set his captors free,

A naked man with love his only garment,

A blinded man who helped the world to see,

A Jew who had been perfect in the law,

Blesses the flesh of every other race

And helps them see what the apostles saw;

The glory of the lord in Jesus’ face.

Strong in his weakness, joyful in his pains,

And bound by love, who freed him from his chains.

Caravaggio: The Conversion of St. Paul


Filed under christianity, Poems, Theology and Arts

9 responses to “25th January: The conversion of St. Paul!

  1. Deirdre Bryant

    Thank you for once again sharing your insight in accessible poetic form.

  2. “Last to believe and first for God to send…”
    May we all take courage from that line. Lovely words!

  3. Barbara Wilkinson

    I notice on the spoken version the last line is :
    “And bound by love he frees us from our chains” … and written it is:
    “And bound by love, who freed him from his chains.
    Two endings, quite different in meaning, yet when seen together lead to an interesting shift of thought.

    • malcolmguite

      Yes i changed the end, after recording, as i thought it more true, (and also more Pauline!) To say that it is Love himself who sets us free rather than our own efforts tho the fiirst ending is also true in that for many people reading Paul is indeed a liberating experience!

  4. Pam Southam

    I especially like the lines — ‘An enemy whom God has made a friend’
    and ‘A blinded man who helped the world to see.’
    A lovely poem, full of meaning! A great painting by Caravaggio too!

  5. Randy Groover

    I think that paradox is a major integrating theme of the Bible. Your poem captures the many paradoxes in Paul’s life perfectly. Amazing! I love it!

  6. If the world would follow god , he would take us very far.

    Check me out : https://masterdok.wordpress.com/

  7. bonniebeldanthomson

    Please change my email address to bonbelthom@gmail.com (and please delete the @rogers account)Thank you.I do love receiving these posts.Bonnie

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Bonnie. I’m not actually able to do that but you can do it by just putting your new email address into the ‘subscribe by email/follow box on the blog page

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