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.


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

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

  1. Hugh Ellis

    Wonderful! Love this. Bless you dear brother. Your words and the spirit behind them always move me.

  2. Really loved the sonnet and your reading of it — both apparently simple, but perfectly right in word choice, tone, etc.
    There is only one thing you might want to revise: the phrase “wind beneath m y wings is part of the chorus of an American popular song, so it felt either cliched or jarring, at least to me, and I had to overcome that to immerse myself in the sonnet.


    • malcolmguite

      Thanks. I didn’t know about the popular song when I composed this but several other people have commented on it too. But the sonnet is already published and out there as it is, so I think it’s past changing. I think the line works well within the context of the poem, and is only weakened by this random association with a song I didn’t know, so I’ll just leave it and hope that the sonnet outlasts the song!

  3. Pingback: Monday, May 16th | public theology

  4. Valerie

    This sonnet hit the centre of my heart and I praised as I also cried. I work with a Bible translation organization whose desire is to see every nation have the Word of God in their heart language. There are so many who don’t yet have it. But, of course! The language is Love!

  5. auntiewp

    Malcolm, Thank you for this. I am steeped in research on colonial history and the impact on First Nations in New Zealand, America and Canada. I need this reminder today. And I have a request. May I quote this in my dissertation? The topic is on re-claiming culture to be fully Indigenous and fully Christian. I think Steve Bell will speak for me. Then again, that may be a bad idea. Cheers, Wendy Peterson

  6. Gracious of you. Thank you. wendy

  7. Pingback: Ode to Joy | Kerry's loft

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