Daily Archives: December 27, 2020

A Sonnet for 27th December: the Feast of St. John

The soaring glory of an eagle's flight

The soaring glory of an eagle’s flight

Two days after Christmas, on the 27th of December, the church keeps the feast of St. John the Evangelist. It is fitting that the Gospel writer whose prologue delves so deeply into the mystery of Incarnation, and whose words ‘The Word was made flesh’ are read at every Christmas Eucharist, should have his feast-day within the twelve days of Christmas.

In my sonnet sequence Sounding the Seasons I have gathered my sonnets for the four Evangelists into one sequence at the beginning. But here, in its proper place in the liturgical year, is my sonnet for St. John, the evangelist whose emblem is the Eagle. (for an account of the four emblems see here. I love John’s Gospel and you can hear the five talks I gave on Logos, Light, Life, Love and Glory in John’s Gospel via links on this page.)

Sounding the Seasons and my new book The Singing Bowl are both available from Amazon or on order from your local bookstore

As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

John

This is the gospel of the primal light,

The first beginning, and the fruitful end,

The soaring glory of an eagle’s flight,

The quiet touch of a beloved friend.

This is the gospel of our transformation,

Water to wine and grain to living bread,

Blindness to sight and sorrow to elation,

And Lazarus himself back from the dead!

This is the gospel of all inner meaning,

The heart of heaven opened to the earth,

A gentle friend on Jesus’ bosom leaning,

And Nicodemus offered a new birth.

No need to search the heavens high above,

Come close with John, and feel the pulse of Love.

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Preserve Us, Hide Us, Hold Us: A Response to Psalm 64

Whilst still in the midst of our Christmas sequence of postsI am nevertheless resuming the thread of my sequence of poems responding to the psalms – David’s Crown. We have come now to Psalm 64, which is a simple plea for protection:

  1. HEAR my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy.
  2. Hide me from the gathering together of the froward: and from the insurrection of wicked doers;

One of its underlying metaphors is that of archery; in verses 43 and 4 the psalmist feels as though he is the target of hidden archers – and we all know that feeling, to be suddenly struck and hurt from an unexpected quarter whether is is a physical mishap or an emotional ambush,- we cry out for help as the psalmist does and look for some way of shielding ourselves. But then the metaphor turns, and in verse 7 the psalmist asks for God himself to be the archer, this time shooting in our defence. All this has entered into my own contemporary poetic response tooth’s psalm.

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

LXIV Exaudi, Deus

Our hearts desire our risen lord and king,
And in our exile here we call to him:
‘Preserve us, hide us, hold us in the ring

Of your protecting love. For there are grim
Assailants round us, setting secret snares.
And when our lights are low, our vision dim

We tumble into trouble unawares
As this world’s traps and trappings snag our feet.
We stumble, all encumbered by its cares,

And soon the arrows pierce us; we retreat
From our first faith, we veer and compromise,
Despair of progress and accept defeat.

Hear us and rescue us. O Lord arise,
Shoot back for us with flaming darts of truth
And in your shining wisdom, make us wise’.

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Nativity by Scott Cairns

Image by Linda Richardson

Image by Linda Richardson

We return to Scott Cairns in my series of readings of the poems in my  Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word.The poem I have chosen for December 27th, is  Nativity, a beautiful reflection on an icon of the Nativity and how it draws us in. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above was created by Linda Richardson. Linda writes:

As I read this poem I discerned a kind of radiance and inwardness that fascinated me. Again there are glimpses of the Divine that may be missed if we are not attentive or prayerful. We lean in and see a “tiny God.. slip briefly out of time.. miss the point or meet there”.

In the image, I created a fissure in the virgin blue, and beyond that there is a brightness that cannot be touched. It is a secret brightness, obscure and transcendent and cannot be possessed by us. All of life is potentially prayer that deepens us and makes our ‘ordinary’ time more loving and creative. But prayer is not an intellectual activity but an activity of love where we learn to be near God and learn too, never to leave the holiness of his nearness as we go about our daily duties.

You can find 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 As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button

Nativity

As you lean in, you’ll surely apprehend

the tiny God is wrapped

in something more than swaddle. The God

is tightly bound within

His blesséd mother’s gaze—her face declares

that she is rapt by what

she holds, beholds, reclines beholden to.

She cups His perfect head

and kisses Him, that even here the radiant

compass of affection

is announced, that even here our several

histories converge and slip,

just briefly, out of time. Which is much of what

an icon works as well,

and this one offers up a broad array

of separate narratives

whose temporal relations quite miss the point,

or meet there. Regardless,

one blithe shepherd offers music to the flock,

and—just behind him—there

he is again, and sore afraid, attended

by a trembling companion

and addressed by Gabriel. Across the ridge,

three wise men spur three horses

towards a star, and bowing at the icon’s

nearest edge, these same three

yet adore the seated One whose mother serves

as throne. Meantime, stumped,

the kindly Abba Joseph ruminates,

receiving consolation

from an attentive dog whose master may

yet prove to be a holy

messenger disguised as fool. Overhead,

the famous star is all

but out of sight by now; yet, even so,

it aims a single ray

directing our slow pilgrims to the core

where all the journeys meet,

appalling crux and hallowed cave and womb,

where crouched among these other

lowing cattle at their trough, our travelers

receive that creatured air, and pray.

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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