Tag Archives: Advent Antiphons

Come to the Launch of Waiting on the Word

Waiting on the Word

I am happy to announce that my new book Waiting On The Word is published by Canterbury Press this coming Monday. It is a companion volume to ‘The Word in the Wilderness’, my anthology of poetry for Lent, Holy Week and Easter, so if you enjoyed that I hope you will enjoy this. Waiting on the Word gives you a poem, and an opening out and reflection on that poem for every day from Advent Sunday, through to Christmas and beyond to the feast of Epiphany and the coming of the Wise Men.

Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter, but sadly Advent has been swallowed up in the rush, the busyness and pressure to consume that dominate the Christmas Season. This book offers you the chance to step back and set a little time, about five minutes, each day to awaken your soul and kindle your imagination to prepare for and contemplate the great and joyful mystery which Christmas celebrates. I have chosen great poems from the past, by poets like Christina Rosetti, George Herbert, and Edmund Spenser, but I have also included some wonderful poems by distinguished contemporary poets like Scott Cairns and Luci Shaw. I have also included some of my own poems, some which may be familiar, like my sonnets on the Advent Antiphons, and some which are entirely new and have not been published before. After each poem I have written a brief reflection to help readers appreciate the depths of the poem itself and also to offer some thoughts and meditations on what it means to read that poem in our own day and age. I hope you enjoy it.

To launch the book into the world there will be a free event at Otley Hall, the beautiful, but easily accessible Elizabethan moated grange in Suffolk, and I would be glad if any readers of this blog could join me there for wine and cheese, some readings from the book and from my other poems, and a chance to meet and chat, and, if you wish, to buy a signed copy at a discount. Full details are below. For those who cannot make this event I have also listed below the other events between now and Advent at which you will be able to hear me read and buy a copy of the book. The book will of course also be available, from the end of this month, from the Publisher, Canterbury, from Amazon, and to order from your local Bookshop. I will be posting some little extracts from the book on this blog over the course of September and October.

You are invited to the Launch of

Waiting on the Word

an anthology of poems and reflections for

Advent, Christmas and Epiphany

At Otley Hall, Hall Lane, Otley, Ipswich, IP6 9PA

Thursday September 3rd, 6:30-8pm

This free event will include poetry readings, refreshments, and an opportunity to by signed copies at a discount

Contact Events@otleyhall.co.uk for bookings and further details

Otley Hall

Otley Hall

Further events:

Friday 23rd of October 4pm Poetry reading at Sarum College Bookshop

Saturday 5th of December An Advent reflective afternoon with poems from Waiting on the Word starts 2pm at St. George’s Church, Hatley St. George

Sunday 6th December 12:30 ‘Sunday Forum’ at St. Paul’s Cathedral

an introduction to and readings from Waiting on the Word


Filed under imagination

O Emmanuel: A Seventh Advent Sonnet, and a Hidden Message

So we come, on the 23rd of December, to the last of the Seven Great O Antiphons, which was sung on either side of the Magnificat, O Emmanuel, O God with us. This is the antiphon from which our lovely Advent hymn takes its name. It was also this final antiphon which revealed the secret message embedded subtly into the whole antiphon sequence. In each of these antiphons we have been calling on Him to come to us, to come as Light as Key, as King, as God-with-us. Now, standing on the brink of Christmas Eve, looking back at the illuminated capital letters for each of the seven titles of Christ we would see an answer to our pleas : ERO CRAS the latin words meaning ‘Tomorrow I will come!”

O Emmanuel

O Rex

O Oriens

O Clavis

O Radix

O Adonai

O Sapientia

I have also tried in my final sonnet to look back across the other titles of Christ, but also to look forward, beyond Christmas, to the new birth for humanity and for the whole cosmos, which is promised in the birth of God in our midst.

As always you can listen to the antiphon and sonnet if you wish by pressing the play button or clicking on the poem’s title

These Antiphons and some of their accompanying sonnets have inspired a great piece by Steve Bell, the song O Emmanuel on his new CD Keening for the Dawn  (you can hear the song O Emmanuel from this page do give it a listen if you can. You can also hear it on soundcoud Here


I have gathered these and other sonnets into a new book called Sounding the Seasons; Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year published by Canterbury Press. It is also available on Amazon or by order from your local bookshop.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus nosterO Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God
O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.


Filed under christianity, Meditation, Poems

A Hidden King; My Sixth Advent Sonnet

December the 22nd brings us to the sixth great ‘O’ antiphon, O Rex Gentium. This Antiphon calls on Christ as King, yet also calls him corner stone and pictures him getting his hands dirty and shaping us with clay, wonderfully incongruous combination!  But he is the king who walks alongside us disguised in rags, the true Strider! In this Sonnet I also reflect on on how God shapes us through all that happens to us in our living clay. He hasn’t finished with us yet!  You can hear the antiphon and poem by clicking on the play symbol or on the title of the poem. for an excellent series of reflections on Christ as our maker and shaper, why not check out Diana Glyer’s Clay in the Potters Hands? There is more about the antiphons to be found at UmilitaI am grateful to the photographer Margot Krebs Neale for the image that follows the poem.

Like the other Advent sonnets, this one is now collected and published in my larger sonnet sequence Sounding the Seasons, from the Canterbury Press, also available from Amazon etc.

These Advent sonnets have also been taken up and transformed into song on Steve Bell’s wonderful new Album Keening For The Dawn

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one, 
Come and save the human race,which you fashioned from clay

O Rex Gentium

O King of our desire whom we despise,
King of the nations never on the throne,
Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone,
Rejected joiner, making many one,
You have no form or beauty for our eyes,
A King who comes to give away his crown,
A King within our rags of flesh and bone.
We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise,
For we ourselves are found in you alone.
Come to us now and find in us your throne,
O King within the child within the clay,
O hidden King who shapes us in the play
Of all creation. Shape us for the day
Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.

unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone


Filed under imagination, literature, Meditation, Poems

O Oriens: A Fifth Advent Sonnet

light on the venetian lagoon

to touch and brush a sheen of light on water

The 21st of December brings us to the fifth ‘great ‘O’ antiphon which calls on Christ as the ‘Oriens’, the Morning Star, the Dayspring. This antiphon comes as an answer to the sense of darkness and captivity in the fourth antiphon, O Clavis I find the idea of Christ as rising light in the East very moving, for he is Alpha, the ‘Beginning’. The Translation which gives ‘Dayspring’ for Oriens I especially love, both because ‘Dayspring’ suggests at one and the same time, both light and water, two primal goods in life which I love in combination, especially light reflected on water, and also because ‘Dayspring’ was the name of a ship my great grandfather built for Scottish missionaries and also the name of the little gaff cutter, from whose deck I saw the dawn rise after a long period of darkness. Many of these senses of ‘Dayspring’ are at play in the sonnet I have given below. I should also mention that the line from Dante means “I saw light in the form of a river’ another touchstone moment for me in the Paradiso As before you can either click the play button to hear the antiphon and sonnet, otr click the hyperlink on the title to go to my audioboo page and hear all the sonnets in turn. You can read more about the antiphons on Julia Holloway’s lovely site Umilita

This Advent sequence of sonnets is now part of my larger Sequence, Sounding the Seasons which goes right through the Christian Year from Advent to the Feast of Christ the King. You can obtain it directly from Canterbury Press, FromBlackwell’s or from Amazon, or order it in to your local bookstore.

The rather blurry picture above is a photo of a watercolour I was painting at the time I wrote the sonnet.

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes
in tenebris, et umbra mortis

O Dayspring,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Oriens

E vidi lume in forme de riviera Paradiso XXX; 61

First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced

The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.

Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace

In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling;
“Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream

For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking”.


Filed under imagination, literature, Meditation

Oh Clavis; A Fourth Advent Antiphon and Sonnet

Oh Clavis, Oh Key!

Of all the mystic titles of Christ, this is the one that connects most closely with our ‘secular’ psychology. We speak of the need on the one hand for ‘closure’ and on the other for ‘unlocking’, for ‘opening’, for  ‘liberation’. The same ideas are also there in the lines from O Come O Come Emmanuel that are drawn from this antiphon, which could easily be part of anybody’s work in good therapy:

“Make safe the way that leads on high,

and close the path to misery.”

I see this antiphon, and the sonnet I wrote in response  to it, as the ‘before’ picture that precdes the beautiful fifth antiphon O Oriens about Christ as the Dayspring and  when l wrote this sonnet I found that I had at last written something clear about my own experience of depression. I hope that others who have been in that darkness will find it helpful.

I am grateful to the photographer Margot Krebs Neale for the image. You can learn more about the antiphons from Julia Holloway’s wonderful site

These Advent sonnets are now gathered together in a larger cycle called ‘Sounding the Seasons’ and which takes you right through the church year from Advent to the feast of Christ the King. It is out now with Canterbury Press, available in various bookshops, from Amazon, or direct from Canterbury Press. You can also hear this sonnet recited as part of a song on Steve Bell‘s amazing new album Keening for the Dawn.

Some more of my poetry for this seasons, including some new work is taken up into a new Ebook by Steve Bell called Advent, part of a series he’s started called Pilgrimage Its beautifully presented and includes songs, visual art and video as well sat Steve’s prose and my poetry. You can find out how to download and enjoy it here

As before there should be a play button just before the poem for  you to hear the antiphon sung and the poem read aloud. Alternatively you can click the hyperlink on the poem’s title and listen to it on my audioboo page.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Clavis

Even in the darkness where I sit
And huddle in the midst of misery
I can remember freedom, but forget
That every lock must answer to a key,
That each dark clasp, sharp and intricate,
Must find a counter-clasp to meet its guard,
Particular, exact and intimate,
The clutch and catch that meshes with its ward.
I cry out for the key I threw away
That turned and over turned with certain touch
And with the lovely lifting of a latch
Opened my darkness to the light of day.
O come again, come quickly, set me free
Cut to the quick to fit, the master key.


Filed under imagination, literature, Meditation, Poems

Launde Abbey on Saint Lucy’s Day

Launde Abbey on St. Lucy's day

Launde Abbey on St. Lucy’s day

I am leading an Advent retreat here at Launde Abbey, a beautiful place hidden away in the soft folds of Leicestershire. This morning, on Saint Lucy’s day, whose brief brightness is dedicated to the martyr saint who found the true dayspring and whose name means light, I walked in the abbey grounds. As I watched the bright low winter sun rise dazzling through the bare bleak leafless trees and light at last the Abbey’s sunken rose garden this sonnet came to me.

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

Launde Abbey on St. Lucy’s day


St. Lucy’s day is brief and bright with frost,

In round cupped dew ponds shallow waters freeze,

Delicate fronds and rushes are held fast,

The low sun brings a contrast to the trees

Whose naked branches, dark against the skies

And fringed with glory by the light behind,

In patterns too severe for tired eyes,

Burn their bright beauty on the weary mind.

Saint Lucy’s sun still bathes these abbey walls

And in her garden rose stalks stark and bare

Shine in a frosty light that yet recalls

The glory of the summer roses there.

Though winter night will soon surround us here,

Another Advent comes, Dayspring is near.

And fringed with glory by the light behind

And fringed with glory by the light behind


Filed under imagination, literature

O Radix: A Third Advent Reflection and Sonnet

O Radix Jesse

O Radix Jesse

Over the course of Advent I am posting again the seven ‘Great O’ advent Antiphons together with my verse reflections on them. Today we come to the third Advent Antiphon, O Radix! This prayer calls on Christ as the Root, an image I find particularly compelling and helpful. The Antiphon Prayer, whose text I give below, is referring to the image of he ‘tree of Jesse’ the family tree which leads to David, and ultimately to Christ as the ‘Son of David’, but for me the title Radix, goes deeper, as a good root should. It goes deep down into the ground of our being, the good soil of creation. God in Christ is, I believe, the root of all goodness, wherever it is found and in whatsoever culture, or with whatever names it fruits and flowers. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit said Christ, who also said, I am the vine, you are the branches. I have tried to express some of my feelings for Christ as root and vine more elliptically in my song The Green Man, but here I do it more directly in my sonnet on the third Advent Antiphon. Once again you should be able to hear it by clicking on the play button before the poem or by clicking on the link in the title of the poem. I am grateful to Margot Krebs Neale for the beautiful picture that follows the sonnet. These Advent sonnets are now gathered together in a larger cycle called ‘Sounding the Seasons’ and which takes you right through the church year from Advent to the feast of Christ the King. It is out now with Canterbury Press, available in various bookshops, from Amazon, or direct from Canterbury Press. You can also hear this sonnet recited as part of a song on Steve Bell‘s amazing new album Keening for the Dawn.

Some more of my poetry for this seasons, including some new work is taken up into a new Ebook by Steve Bell called Advent, part of a series he’s started called Pilgrimage Its beautifully presented and includes songs, visual art and video as well sat Steve’s prose and my poetry. You can find out how to download and enjoy it here


O Radix

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, standing
as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer

O Radix

All of us sprung from one deep-hidden seed,

Rose from a root invisible to all.

We knew the virtues once of every weed,

But, severed from the roots of ritual,

We surf the surface of a wide-screen world

And find no virtue in the virtual.

We shrivel on the edges of a wood

Whose heart we once inhabited in love,

Now we have need of you, forgotten Root

The stock and stem of every living thing

Whom once we worshiped in the sacred grove,

For now is winter, now is withering

Unless we let you root us deep within,

Under the ground of being, graft us in.

Picture by Margot Krebs Neale

Picture by Margot Krebs Neale


Filed under christianity, literature, Meditation, Poems