I will praise thee,
In my heart though not in Heaven
I can raise thee George Herbert
These familiar words of George Herbert’s have inspired me to write a poetry sequence, a little round of roundels, seven prayer-chants, for the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest. Genesis Chapter One has a beautiful, liturgical antiphonal feel, with its repeated refrains of ‘ and the evening and the morning were..’, and the strong Litany of the great ‘And God said…’ phrases. Reading this chapter always feels more to me like stepping into a rich and mysterious service of worship than reading a plain narrative, and as with each ‘day’ the ‘congregation’ grows, as more is created, so the praise heightens and deepens. One of my ‘fathers in God’, Lancelot Andrewes, began his morning prayer each day of the week with thanksgiving for whatever was created and assigned to that day in Genesis. In what follows I have taken a leaf out of Andrewes book, but also tried to fashion prayers that anyone could use, prayers that could be part of the morning prayer for the day each is set, or prayers that could be gathered together in a single service, perhaps using the days of creation to celebrate God’s goodness in the created order and to deepen our sense of stewardship of the delicate and beautiful world in which he has placed us.
And now the Canadian artist Faye Hall has made a beautiful sequence of 63 paintings responding to my Seven Whole Days Sequence and we have published it as a book, which you can purchase from her web site here or, in the uk from Amazon Here
If you’d like to see the book, here is a little video preview:
You can see these paintings for yourself at the MHC Gallery in Winnipeg from 16th March to 5th of May. I will be at the gallery on 15th April for a special book signing and launch event, full details here
So I shall post one of the prayer-poems in this sequence each day, on the day it is written for, starting on Sunday, for of course, as most Christians will know, Sunday is the first day of the week, the day of creation, the day of resurrection, the new creation. It became for Christians ‘The Lord’s Day’, but in the book of Genesis Saturday is the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord. Each day I will give you the verses from Genesis to which my poem is a prayerful response and then the poem itself. Faye has kindly allowed ne to include with each poem one or two of the paintings from the book, to give you a taste of it! So here is today’s poem, as always you can hear me read it by clicking on the ‘play’ button or on the Roman Numeral which is its title.
These poems were originally published in ‘Parable and Paradox’ Canterbury Press in the summer of 2016
Seven Whole Days
Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee George Herbert
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Let there be light as I begin this day
To draw me from the darkness and the night,
To bless my flesh, to clear and show my way
Let there be light
Strong in the depth and shining from the height,
Evening and morning’s interplay,
Blessing and enabling my sight.
Lighten my soul and teach me how to pray,
Lighten my mind and teach me wrong from right,
In all I do and think and see and say
Let there be light.