Tag Archives: love

Holy Week: Maundy Thursday

courtesy of https://lanciaesmith.com

So many gospel themes find their focus on Maundy Thursday, so many threads of connection flowing to and from this deep source of love and vision, in the foot washing, and in the last supper.

The meditation in this sonnet, is centred on the ancient idea of the four elements of earth, air, water and fire, for it struck me as I contemplated the events of Maundy Thursday, both the foot-washing and the first communion, that all these elements of the old creation are taken up by Jesus and transformed in the making of the new. Jesus is both the fully human companion cleansing his friends with a gentle touch, sharing his last supper with them, showing the fullness of his love, and he also the Word, God in his full creative and shaping power, the One in and through whom everyone in that room, and every element of the world is sustained in the beauty and particularity of its being. What we witness in the birth of the sacraments is both a human drama and a divine act of new creation. Although we cannot be in church to receive the familiar sacrament of this night, it may be, that if our eyes and ears are open we will sense Christ’s all-transforming presence even through the ordinary elements of the place where we are.

This sonnet, and the others I have been posting for Holy Week are all 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 . The book is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of these 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.

Thanks to Lancia Smith for the image

You can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button

Maundy Thursday.

 

Here is the source of every sacrament,

The all-transforming presence of the Lord,

Replenishing our every element

Remaking us in his creative Word.

For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,

The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech,

The fire dances where the candles shine,

The waters cleanse us with His gentle touch.

And here He shows the full extent of love

To us whose love is always incomplete,

In vain we search the heavens high above,

The God of love is kneeling at our feet.

Though we betray Him, though it is the night.

He meets us here and loves us into light.

 

12 Comments

Filed under imagination

Holy Week, Wednesday The Anointing at Bethany

https://lanciaesmith.com

John 12 1-8,  tells us of how Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus. I love this intense and beautiful moment in the Gospels, The God of the Cosmos enters as a vulnerable man into all the particular fragility of our human friendships and intimacy. I love the way Jesus responds to Mary’s beautiful, useless gesture and recognises it as something that is always worth while, something that will live forever, for all the carping and criticism of Judas, then and now.

I feel a special poignancy in this gospel moment amidst the isolation of our present crisis, because it celebrates the touch and intimacy which so many of us are having to go without. My poem opens with the injunction ‘come close’ and yet the mantra of our time is ‘keep apart’. All the more then, as we are social distancing, must we seek intimacy with God, the intimacy he offers us in Christ.

This sonnet, and the others I will be posting for Holy Week are all 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. The book is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of these 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.

I’m grateful to Lancia Smith for the image above. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button

The Anointing at Bethany

Come close with Mary, Martha , Lazarus
So close the candles stir with their soft breath
And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
Lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
In quietness and intimate encounter
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
Is broken open for the world’s true lover,

The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
Here at the very centre of all things,
Here at the meeting place of love and loss
We all foresee, and see beyond the cross.

6 Comments

Filed under imagination

Lent with Herbert Day 17: Bliss

After pausing for St. Patrick’s Day, we resume our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, Today we complete Herbert’s beautiful ascent back into joy, a joy which is all the more secure and real because it has passed through and transmuted sorrow. Herbert signals this in a single line:

Softness and peace and joy and love and bliss

The final step on Herbert’s ladder of ascent, which we have been climbing together these last five days, is Bliss. It may seem odd to be contemplating Bliss amidst all the sorrow and fear that surrounds us in this present crisis, but this is precisely the time when we need to lift our eyes to the Heavens, and contemplate that full and final bliss for which we are made. Herbert knew this well and of course his generation had to deal with several severe plague seasons, withdrawing from the fulness of their usual lives and sequestering themselves away, but such a time of crisis is just when faith deepens and just where the poetry comes from!

Like joy, bliss is almost impossible to write about, to put into words, it is beautiful, fleeting, not to be seized or grasped, or even sought, but only received as a sudden gift. As Eliot says of the experience ‘Quick, now, here, now, always/ a condition of complete simplicity’. In my poem I tried to evoke my own experience through particular glimpses and moments and to be true both to its brevity and its promise. For even the smallest moment of bliss seems to promise something more. As I came to compose the poem I found myself remembering one of Milton’s rare uses of this beautiful word in his Ode On Time, lines he wrote to be engraved on a clock. The poem begins ‘Fly envious Time till thou run out thy race’ but the lines that went to my heart, and which I was remembering when I wrote this poem were:

Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss;
And Joy shall overtake us as a flood,

I loved that juxtaposition of the eternal and the personal, the infinite and the intimate, and I hope something of that comes across in my poem too.

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

Bliss

Softness and peace and joy and love and bliss,

Love made this way, and lifts us up each stair,

Our maker knows that we were made for this:

The utter bliss that Heaven loves to share.

We glimpse it sometimes in another’s eyes,

We taste it sometimes on the tongues of prayer

It takes us wholly, takes us by surprise,

But grasping it, our arms clasp empty air.

 

Our bliss has vanished with a word of promise,

A sweet come-hither wave that offers more,

Each ecstasy has been a farewell kiss

That left us weeping on the hither shore.

Yet every passing moment whispers this:

Eternity shall love us into bliss.

Blake Jacob’s Ladder ‘Love made this way and lifts us up each stair’

4 Comments

Filed under christianity, Poems

Lent with Herbert Day 16: Love

On our Lenten Journey through Herbert’s poem Prayer, using the sonnets in my new book After Prayer, we continue Herbert’s beautiful ascent back into joy, a joy which is all the more secure and real because it has passed through and transmuted sorrow. Herbert signals this in a single line:

Softness and peace and joy and love and bliss

Yesterday’s sonnet reflected on joy, and today it is the turn of love.

Any poet responding to Herbert’s use of the word Love, is immediately confronted by the fact that Herbert himself has written perhaps the greatest ever poem on the Divine Love that meets us in Christ, a poem in which Christ is simply named Love. After Herbert’s masterpiece Love (III) with which he ends his great sequence The Temple, there is, in one sense, nothing more to be said. So in responding to the word Love in my own sequence, it seemed to me that the only thing I could do was to begin with Herbert’s poem, and simply join in the moment of welcome with which it opens. ‘Love Bade me welcome’ says Herbert, and so in my poem I create an archway through which my reader and I can walk to receive that welcome and respond to it, perhaps a little shyly, a little hesitantly, as Herbert did. You might like to re-read Herbert’s poem before you read mine!

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

Love

Love took George Herbert’s hand and now takes mine,

The same quick eyes, the same wry, welcome smile,

The same spear-pierced and always-healing heart.

He turns to me and, taking bread and wine,

He spreads a table in the desert, while

I hesitate and draw back, stand apart,

Afraid, as always, of committed love.

But I have come too far to turn away,

Though Joy has vanished, she has led me here.

‘So come’, says Love, ‘there’s nothing left to prove,

And nothing that you need to do or say,

I am that perfect love that casts out fear,

Sit with George Herbert here, then taste and see

And find that all your loves are found in me.’

supper-at-emmaus_caracci

 

5 Comments

Filed under christianity, Poems

A Sonnet for St. Valentine

Why should this martyr be the saint of Love?

Why should this martyr be the saint of Love?

Here is a sonnet I composed in honour of the original St. Valentine. I notice some FB posts implying that as an early Christian martyr he has nothing to do with Romantic Love and should be dissociated from it. I believe that on the contrary there is every reason why he should be the patron saint of Love and this sonnet explores why.

As always you can hear the poem by clicking on either the title or the ‘play’ button. This poem is published in my most recent collection ‘Parable and Paradox’

St Valentine

Why should this martyr be the saint of love?

A quiet man of unexpected courage,

A celibate who celebrated marriage,

An ageing priest with nothing left to prove,

He loved the young and made their plight his cause.

He called for fruitfulness, not waste in wars,

He found a sure foundation, stood his ground,

And gave his life to guard the love he’d found.

 

Why should this martyr be our Valentine?

Perhaps because he kept his covenant,

Perhaps because, with prayer still resonant,

He pledged the Bridegroom’s love in holy wine,

Perhaps because the echo of his name

Can kindle love again to living flame.

10 Comments

Filed under imagination

A Sonnet for Petertide.

 

The 29th of June is St. Peter’s day, when we remember the disciple who, for all his many mistakes, knew how to recover and hold on, who, for all his waverings was called by Jesus ‘the rock’, who learned the threefold lesson that every betrayal can ultimately be restored by love. It is fitting therefore that it is at Petertide that new priests and deacons are ordained, on the day they remember a man whose recovery from mistakes and openness to love can give them courage. So I post this poem not only for St. Peter but for all those being ordained this weekend and in memory of my own ordination as a priest on this day 28 years ago.

This poem comes from my collection Sounding the Seasons published by Canterbury Press. You can also buy it on Amazon Uk or US or order it in any bookshop.

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

St. Peter

Impulsive master of misunderstanding

You comfort me with all your big mistakes;

Jumping the ship before you make the landing,

Placing the bet before you know the stakes.

I love the way you step out without knowing,

The way you sometimes speak before you think,

The way your broken faith is always growing,

The way he holds you even when you sink.

Born to a world that always tried to shame you,

Your shaky ego vulnerable to shame,

I love the way that Jesus chose to name you,

Before you knew how to deserve that name.

And in the end your Saviour let you prove

That each denial is undone by love.

11 Comments

Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems

A Sonnet for Trinity Sunday

20110619-000808.jpg

Continuing my cycle of sonnets for the Church year, here is one for Trinity Sunday which I am posting the day before, in case people would like to make use of it tomorrow.

By coming to us as the Son, revealing to us the Father, and sending to us the Spirit, Jesus revealed the deepest mystery; that God is not distant and alone, but is three in one, a communion of love who comes to make His home with us.

The Rublev Icon, above, shows the Three in One inviting us to share in that communion. If, as I believe, we are made in the image of God, as beings in communion with one another in the name of that Holy and Undivided Trnity whose being is communion, then we will find reflections and traces of the Trinitarian mystery in all our loving and making.

As usual you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears or on the title of the poem.

Readers who are interested in my use of the word ‘coinherent’ will find out more by watching the video of my talk about the British theologian Charles Williams, a friend and fellow inkling of CS Lewis which can be found here.

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 . 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..

Trinity Sunday

In the Beginning, not in time or space,

But in the quick before both space and time,

In Life, in Love, in co-inherent Grace,

In three in one and one in three, in rhyme,

In music, in the whole creation story,

In His own image, His imagination,

The Triune Poet makes us for His glory,

And makes us each the other’s inspiration.

He calls us out of darkness, chaos, chance,

To improvise a music of our own,

To sing the chord that calls us to the dance,

Three notes resounding from a single tone,

To sing the End in whom we all begin;

Our God beyond, beside us and within.

 

9 Comments

Filed under imagination