Daily Archives: December 8, 2020

Hard Questions: A Response To Psalm 58

Psalm 58 asks us some hard questions:

  1. ARE your minds set upon righteousness, O ye congregation: and do ye judge the thing that is right, O ye sons of men?

In my poetic response to the psalm I take this opening verse as a prompt for self examination and to bring before God the gap between my practice and my prayer. As always you can hear me read the psalm by clicking on the play button or the title.

These poems will all be gathered together and published on January 30th under the title David’s Crown. I am just working on the proofs now and there is already an amazon page for the book if you wish to pre-order it Here

LVIII Si vere utique

And even here I’ll sing, for day is dawning,
Although I know some of my deeds are dark.
The psalmist asks hard questions, and the yawning

Gap between my prayer and practice, work
And words, has been exposed in scripture’s light.
Where have I set my mind?  How do I shirk

The good work he has given me? The right
Way is always open, do I follow?
Or do I stop my ears? Or make some slight

Progress at a snail’s pace, my hollow
Protestations shown for what they are
Even as I make them? Come and hallow

My poor ground again, come and repair
The ruin of my efforts to do well,
The breach between my practice and my prayer.

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Kenosis by Luci Shaw

Kenosis image by Linda Richardson

Kenosis image by Linda Richardson

Here is the next poem in my series of posts for Advent,  in which I read each day’s poem to accompany my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, alongside a series of reflective images kindly provided by Linda Richardson

Today’s poem is Kenosis by Luci Shaw. You can click on the title or the ‘play’ button to hear me read it and you can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle.

Linda shares the following reflection on today’s art work:

The temptation as an artist is to illustrate a theme, but here is the problem: figurative painting grounds us in the human experience but the poem we read today, whilst rooted in the imagery of human experience, is transcendent because it points us to the divine nature of the new born child.

There are monks who celebrate the Christmas child as The Little Word, a title made even more tender, coming as it does from men who live such unsentimental and austere life. Malcolm tells us that the word infans means, literally, ‘without speech’, and so my approach to this work had to go beyond pictorial sentimentality. I wanted it to transcend speech and form as far as I could because receiving God in the form of a helpless baby is untranslatable in terms of human experience.

I painted the surface with thin washes of paint, rubbing it down between each coat, like sanding or planing wood. I wanted the surface to have quietness and transparency. On the top of this surface, in the finest pen, I drew delicate white tracery lines suggesting the softest threads of wool (from a sheepfold) that might swaddle an infant. In the top left corner I painted a lighter area, again rubbing it down to help us see through it. It hints at a doorway, alluding perhaps to Christ who is the door, who knocks at our door and who himself, ‘hung..a door’.

As we come to this most beautiful of poems, all we can do is receive the vision and be stilled by its inner peace. ‘Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.’ (Psalm 131.)


Kenosis

In sleep his infant mouth works in and out.

He is so new, his silk skin has not yet

been roughed by plane and wooden beam

nor, so far, has he had to deal with human doubt.

He is in a dream of nipple found,

of blue-white milk, of curving skin

and, pulsing in his ear, the inner throb

of a warm heart’s repeated sound.

His only memories float from fluid space.

So new he has not pounded nails, hung a door

broken bread, felt rebuff, bent to the lash,

wept for the sad heart of the human race.

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

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Filed under imagination