Tag Archives: parables

Letting Go for Lent

Van Gogh’s painting of The Sower

Sing a song of sowing, of carrying the seed

A song of hopeful planting, to meet a future need,

Sing a song of letting go, and falling to the ground,

Of burying that feels like loss, still waiting to be found

These are the opening words of a lyric I wrote for Redemption Song, a play about the story of Ruth and Naomi, but they have come back to me as I turn my thoughts to the late Lent that starts this month. It seems fitting that Lent, a season for ‘letting go’ should coincide with spring, a season for sowing seed. Perhaps we should see our Lenten observance as the ‘letting go’ of a Sower of Seed, and not just the ‘giving up’ of an Abstemious Pharisee. If there are things we choose to do without, perhaps we should let them go into God, drop them as seeds, into the good ground of His Love, so as to receive them back at his hand, in another form and another season. This is what Jesus did for his forty days in the wilderness. He let go, and said ‘no’ to the temptation to make stones into bread, to make a private feast in the desert. But God took the seed of what he had ‘let go’ and it bore fruit a hundred fold when he broke bread in that same wilderness and shared it with five thousand. God gave him back what he gave up, but in a newer and better form, made possible by that first letting go.

And that was true of the deepest letting go of all. When it comes to Holy Week and Passiontide we shall see Jesus let his whole life go into God; “into thy hands I commit my spirit” he says from the cross. But that Good Friday ‘letting go and falling to the ground’, that ‘burying that felt like loss’ was the prelude to a glorious finding, and giving back on Easter Day.

Perhaps we can so ‘let go’ our lives into God this Lent that we may find that God has let his life go into us too, has planted his Love, His Son, as a spring-sown seed, to grow in our lives from Easter and Beyond.

Oh and by the way the lyric I mentioned above is from a song, also simply called Redemption, which I hope will appear on my next cd. Meanwhile the full lyrics are here and you can hear an early ‘mix’ of the whole song  here, or by clicking on the ‘play’ button below.

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Filed under christianity, imagination, Music, paintings, Songs

los tres amigos; a tale of three villanelles

Los Tres Amigos, or A Tale of Three Villanelles

I was recently asked by two friends to judge a friendly villanelle competition.

Davey Talbot (yes, he of http://www.PoemaDay.org) had written a splendid meditative piece touching on Norman Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It, whilst Michael Ward (yes, he of http://www.planetnarnia.com/) had put together a wonderfully ebullient series of scriptural allusions (somewhat in the manner of Herbert’s ‘Paradise’) and puns on fish!

The poems were written as an ordination gift to their mutual friend, Andrew Cuneo, who has just become a priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

I received and admired them both, but what was I to do? The river poem and the fish poem succeeded in such different ways I hardly had common criteria for comparison.

Here are their poems and my response. Perhaps our readers can make their own judgment, or better still make their own poetic response:

I Fish The Big River
after Norman Maclean

by Davey Talbot

I fish this big river,
Always flowing westward.
More men will come after.

I’ve walked every acre,
Memorized its nature.
I fish this big river.

It’s bluest come winter
After it has rested.
More men will come after.

Its life is in color.
The brown trout run is good.
I fish the big river.

Beer waits in the water
At a shallow bank-head.
More men will come after.

Its current is grammar;
Under the rocks are words.
I fish the big river.
More men will come after.

Ichthus

or

Whale Catch Sole Catch Pike Catch Plaice

by Michael Ward

‘There’s a catch? To convince you that I am divine
I must prove it?’ He said, {Matt 12:39
‘Except for a wail I will give you no sign.’

We are dab-hands at fishing: why should we incline
To net people instead? {Matt 4:18ff
‘There’s a catch to convince you that I am divine.’

We’re five thousand famished; you tell us to dine
On two herrings? They’re red! {Mark 6:30ff
‘Except for a soul I will give you no sign.’

How long must we flounder around in the brine
If you know where to head? {John 21:1ff
‘There’s a catch to convince you that I am divine.’

You eat broiled fish? This is way out of line:
On a pikestaff you bled! {Luke 24:42
‘Except for a pike I will give you no sign.’

You’re pulling me right off this nice perch of mine:
Cut the twitch on your thread!
‘You carp and have scales on your eyes, I divine. {Acts 9:18
‘Except for a place I will give you no sign.’ {John 14:3

Well, Gentlemen, I have thought long and hard. These are two very fine poems, very different and yet in many ways complementary.

The current of Davey’s poem carries his vivid images which are left haiku-like to do their own work and grow to symbols in the reader’s mind, and I especially like the clarity and simplicity of its movement between colours, between blue and brown; it goes and flows as it should, like the river.

Michael’s poem by contrast is the fish; lithe, compact, muscular, – constantly flashing and jumping in the play between its own possibilities, a net of Herbertian wit that brings in a fine catch of whale, dab, herring, sole, flounder, pike, perch, carp, and plaice. (Pike was a nice glance at Herbert’s cask “which on the cross a pike did set again abroach”.) Anyone who loves the Logos – two natured, one personned, – will love the pun, the power of words to be two at once.

This two-at-oneness brings me to the nub. How am I to choose? Each of these poems is successful but in completely different ways. Davey’s is organic, flowing from within; Michael’s is fine wit struck from without. Davey’s is the river and Michael’s the fish. Can we have one without the other?

Unable in my own powers to choose, I decided to consult my Muse. Having invoked Her, I put to Her this formal question: “Which should come first, the fish or the river?”

Gentleman, here is her reply, and I hope you will both be pleased with it:

Which Comes First, the Fish or the River?

by Malcolm Guite

Since every gift comes down from the All-Giver,
How can I choose between the Giver’s gifts
Or say which should come first, the fish or river?

He scatters first, and then calls us to gather,
To lavish on his work our smaller crafts
And sail our praise upstream, back to the Giver.

He gives His gifts when we are met together,
Not in our splits, our schisms, and our rifts:
We cannot prize the Fish and not the River,

Divide the two and say ‘which would you rather?’
We float through time on fragile little rafts,
But time and life alike flow from the Giver.

Away upstream, it all flows from the Father:
The stream is His own Spirit, giving gifts;
His Son, our brother, joins us in the River.

He is our ‘both-and’ God, not ‘or’, or ‘either’;
He gives full measure: steady, heady draughts!
The Giver must come first, always the Giver,
We prize alike His gifts: both Fish and River.

So, as I interpret Her gnomic utterance, I think that’s first prize to the Maker, who gave each of you such conspicuous poetic talent, and a joint second prize, to each of you, sub-creators, through whom the logos-fish and spirit-river are at work in complementary ways.

Malcolm

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