Tag Archives: thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: a sonnet

thanksgivingThere is no feast of Thanksgiving in either the British national or church calendars, but it seems to me a good thing for any nation to set aside a day for the gratitude which is in truth the root of every other virtue. So on the eve of  an American Thanksgiving, which I know may be difficult for many families as it brings to the surface tensions arising from the election and its result, I am re-posting here  an Englishman’s act of thanksgiving for one another and for all our interconnectedness as human beings. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the play button if it appears or on the title.

I composed this as part of a friendly competition with some American poets to compose Petrarchan sonnets on the theme of Thanksgiving. Check this excellent sonnet from my friend the academic and poet Holly Ordway. You will see that we have both been influenced by the ideas and language of CS Lewis’s fellow inkling Charles Williams.

This sonnet comes from my sequence Sounding the Seasons published by Canterbury Press The book is available from Amazon in the UK  and in North america from Steve Bell here, or Amazon US. Since we don’t keep thanksgiving I have made it part of a mini-sequence of three centred on the feast of All Saints, which we have recently celebrated. The image that follows the poem is by Margot Krebs Neale


Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving starts with thanks for mere survival,
Just to have made it through another year
With everyone still breathing. But we share
So much beyond the outer roads we travel;
Our interweavings on a deeper level,
The modes of life embodied souls can share,
The unguessed blessings of our being here,
The warp and weft that no one can unravel.

So I give thanks for our deep coinherence
Inwoven in the web of God’s own grace,
Pulling us through the grave and gate of death.
I thank him for the truth behind appearance,
I thank him for his light in every face,
I thank him for you all, with every breath.

Image by Margot Krebs Neale

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A Quartet for Mary

The Theotokos of vladimirOn September 8th many churches across the world, both Catholic and Anglican, keep the feast of the Blesed Virgin Mary, fulfilling the scripture that says “All generations will call me blessed”, remembering the one who bore our saviour for us, who was full of grace.

It is true that some Christians have disagreed with one another bitterly about her, but equally, in every age and every church she has been, for many Christians, a sign of hope, an example of prayer, devotion and service, and an inspiration.

In a strange way, which I will write about one day, she was a sign of hope to me even before I was a Christian, and it was something numinous and beautiful in the paintings and poetry she has inspired that helped lead me to her Son.

I thought for this feast day, I would offer a quartet of sonnets in her honour, gathering together  the four sonnets about her which are part of my wider collection ‘Sounding the Seasons’. They take us, from the Annunciation and her ‘yes’ to the angel, through the Visitation, with its beautiful magnificat, to the birth of Jesus, and then to her presence with him on the via dolorosa and at the foot of the cross.

As always you can hear the poems by clicking the ‘play’ button if it appears, or clicking on the title.

Annunciation

We see so little, stayed on surfaces,

We calculate the outsides of all things,

Preoccupied with our own purposes

We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings,

They coruscate around us in their joy

A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled,

They guard the good we purpose to destroy,

A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.

But on this day a young girl stopped to see

With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice;

The promise of His glory yet to be,

As time stood still for her to make a choice;

Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred,

The Word himself was waiting on her word.

 


The Visitation

Here is a meeting made of hidden joys

Of lightenings cloistered in a narrow place

From quiet hearts the sudden flame of praise

And in the womb the quickening kick of grace.

Two women on the very edge of things

Unnoticed and unknown to men of power

But in their flesh the hidden Spirit sings

And in their lives the buds of blessing flower.

And Mary stands with all we call ‘too young’,

Elizabeth with all called ‘past their prime’

They sing today for all the great unsung

Women who turned eternity to time

Favoured of heaven, outcast on the earth

Prophets who bring the best in us to birth.

 

Theotokos

You bore for me the One who came to bless

And bear for all and make the broken whole.

You heard His call and in your open ‘yes’

You spoke aloud for every living soul.

Oh gracious Lady, child of your own child,

Whose mother-love still calls the child in me,

Call me again, for I am lost, and  wild

Waves suround me now. On this dark sea

Shine as a star and call me to the shore.

Open the door that all my sins would close

And hold me in your garden. Let me share

The prayer that folds the petals of the Rose.

Enfold me too in Love’s last mystery

And bring me to the One you bore for me.

Jesus meets His Mother

This darker path into the heart of pain
Was also hers whose love enfolded him
In flesh and wove him in her womb. Again
The sword is piercing. She, who cradled him
And gentled and protected her young son
Must stand and watch the cruelty that mars
Her maiden making. Waves of pain that stun
And sicken pass across his face and hers
As their eyes meet. Now she enfolds the world
He loves in prayer; the mothers of the disappeared
Who know her pain, all bodies bowed and curled
In desperation on this road of tears,
All the grief-stricken in their last despair,
Are folded in the mantle of her prayer.

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Mothering Sunday: a sonnet

…for those who loved and laboured…

Continuing in my series of sonnets for the Church Year I have written this one for Mothering Sunday. It’s a thanksgiving for all parents, especialy for those who bore the fruitful pain of labour, and more particularly in this poem I have singled out for praise those heroic single parents who, for whatever reason, have found themselves bearing alone the burdens, and sharing with no-one the joys of their parenthood.

I am grateful to Oliver  Neale for his thought-provoking work as a photographer, and, as always, you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button, or on the title

Mothering Sunday

 

At last, in spite of all, a recognition,

For those who loved and laboured for so long,

Who brought us, through that labour, to fruition

To flourish in the place where we belong.

A thanks to those who stayed and did the raising,

Who buckled down and did the work of two,

Whom governments have mocked instead of praising,

Who hid their heart-break and still struggled through,

The single mothers forced onto the edge

Whose work the world has overlooked, neglected,

Invisible to wealth and privilege,

But in whose lives the kingdom is reflected.

Now into Christ our mother church we bring them,

Who shares with them the birth-pangs of His Kingdom.

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Thanksgiving: a sonnet

thanksgivingThere is no feast of Thanksgiving in either the British national or church calendars, but it seems to me a good thing for any nation to set aside a day for the gratitude which is in truth the root of every other virtue. So on the eve of American Thanksgiving, I am re-posting here  an Englishman’s act of thanksgiving. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the play button if it appears or on the title.

I composed this as part of a friendly competition with some American poets to compose Petrarchan sonnets on the theme of Thanksgiving. Check out this Excellent Sonnet from my friend the academic and poet Holly Ordway. You will see that we have both been influenced by the ideas and language of CS Lewis’s fellow inkling Charles Williams.

This sonnet comes from my sequence Sounding the Seasons published by Canterbury Press The book is available in North america from Steve Bell here, or Amazon here. Since we don’t keep thanksgiving I have made it part of a mini-sequence of three centred on the feast of All Saints, which we have recently celebrated. The image that follows the poem is by Margot Krebs Neale


Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving starts with thanks for mere survival,
Just to have made it through another year
With everyone still breathing. But we share
So much beyond the outer roads we travel;
Our interweavings on a deeper level,
The modes of life that embodied souls can share,
The unguessed blessings of our being here,
The warp and weft that no one can unravel.

So I give thanks for our deep coinherence
Inwoven in the web of God’s own grace,
Pulling us through the grave and gate of death.
I thank him for the truth behind appearance,
I thank him for his light in every face,
I thank him for you all, with every breath.

Image by Margot Krebs Neale

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Seven Whole Days: The Complete Set

Let There Be Light

Let There Be Light

Unending blue wherein we long to fly

Unending blue wherein we long to fly

Barley Sheaves grow golden in the field

Barley Sheaves grow golden in the field

The lucid moon and sun

The lucid moon and sun

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I posted my new sequence of prayer-roundels, giving thanks for the days of creation, one day at a time. It may be that some people would like to read or use them as a single sequence, either for private devotion or as part of a service focussed on God’s goodness in creation, so I am putting them all together as one sequence in this post for those who would like to use them in this way. These poems will be gathered together with others in ‘Parable and Paradox’ my next book of poetry, to be published by Canterbury Press in the summer of 2016. If you would like to use these poems or print them in a church bulletin/order of service feel free to do so, but if they are printed please add that they are used with the author’s permission and that they will be available in a book from Canterbury Press in 2016. You might also include the web address of this blog. Thank you. You can hear me red the poems by clicking on the roman Numeral or the ‘play’ button

Seven Whole Days

 

Seven whole days, not one in seven,

I will praise thee   George Herbert

 


I

Let there be light as I begin this day

To draw me from the darkness and the night,

To bless my flesh, to clear and show my way

Let there be light

 

Strong in the depth and shining from the height,

Evening  and morning’s interplay,

Blessing and enabling my sight.

 

Lighten my soul and teach me how to pray,

Lighten my mind and teach me wrong from right,

In all I do and think and see and say

Let there be light.

 

 


II

The firmament, the vast curve of the sky

The breath and weave of every element

Unending blue, wherein we long to fly,

The firmament.

 

Your Love has pitched the heavens like a tent

And delved the depth where hidden treasures lie,

From whose rich womb our life has its ascent.

 

Out of those depths I hear my spirit cry

As height and depth give praise with one assent

To that great form that orders low and high;

The firmament.

 

 


III

 

The earth will yield her still-unfolding seed,

And barley sheaves grow golden in the field,

The vineyard and the fruit trees, all we need

The earth will yield.

 

A soft wind sends the summer through the weald,

In valley folds the sheep and cattle feed.

The shoreline shines, Your wonders are revealed,

 

The waters are unbound, the ocean freed

To thunder praise, in whose depths are concealed

Your mysteries. Your praise in word and deed

The earth will yield.

 

 


IV

Lights in the night, the lucid moon and sun,

The lesser and the greater share your light

And lift my heart to you when day is done,

Lights in the night.

 

And lonely souls are gladdened by the sight,

For those who dwell in darkness hope is born.

The scattered stars still tingle with delight

 

Treading the dance, the seasons in their turn

Salute the lights of heaven in their flight.

In our dark hearts your praises shine and burn;

Lights in the night.

 


V

 

With open wings a seagull skims the spray,

Sounding the depth below, a great whale sings,

Your Spirit moves amongst them as they play

With open wings.

 

Now open me to all your Spirit brings,

Move in me too as I begin to pray,

That love may ripple out in shining rings.

 

Speak to my soul through all you made this day,

Through all that swims and flies and swoops and swings,

And let your Spirit lift the words I say

With open wings.

 

 


VI

 

You made us new and beautiful today

Your Spirit softened us like morning dew,

Your Image shining from us through the clay,

You made us new.

 

You woke us and we knew ourselves in you

We walked together at the close of day

You trusted us and called us to be true.

 

When we forsook your love, and turned away

You came and sought us, where we hid from you

And on the cross, in darkness, on this day

You made us new.

 


VII

Blessing and rest, delight in everything

Sustained by your strong love and richly blest

This is the the gift you give, the day you bring

Blessing and rest.

 

This is indeed ‘the gladness of the best’,

From first lines in the east where linnets sing,

To where the last light lingers in the west,

 

You lift the cares to which I used to cling,

As you yourself descend to be my guest

And show me how to find in everything

Blessing and rest.

 

 

a seagull skims the spray

a seagull skims the spray

you made us new and beautiful today

you made us new and beautiful today

Where Linnets Sing

Where Linnets Sing

Blessing and Rest, Delight in everything

Blessing and Rest, Delight in everything

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Seven Whole Days: The Seventh Day; Blessing and Rest

Blessing and Rest, Delight in everything

Blessing and Rest, Delight in everything

Here is the last in my little round of seven Roundels for the primal week in Genesis Chapter One. Today we enter the Sabbath, the blessed rest in which God contemplates his own creation with delight and love and pronounces it good, a sabbath which he also graciously invites us to share with him. Sabbath is always a sheer gift whenever and wherever we keep it, a gift more and more need in our pressurised 24/7 world. So here is my roundel celebrating that blessing and rest. as before it is preceded by the verses in Genesis ( in this case chapter 2 verses 1-3) that inspired it and, as before, you can hear it by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the Roman Numeral. If you have enjoyed these poems and want to use them for a church or prayer group please feel free to do so. Feel free to reproduce them in a bulletin etc. but if you do so could you add that they will be published next year in my forthcoming book of poetry: Parable and Paradox, published by Canterbury Press. Tomorrow I will publish the whole sequence as a single post which may be more convenient for those who want to use them in services etc.

Chapter 2:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

VII

 

Blessing and rest, delight in everything

Sustained by your strong love and richly blest,

This is the the gift you give, the day you bring

Blessing and rest.

 

This is indeed the ‘gladness of the best’,

From first lines in the east where linnets sing,

To where the last light lingers in the west,

 

You lift the cares to which I used to cling,

As you yourself descend to be my guest

And show me how to find in everything

Blessing and rest.

Where Linnets Sing

Where Linnets Sing

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Seven Whole Days: The Sixth Day; Humanity

you made us new and beautiful today

you made us new and beautiful today

We come now to the Sixth Day in the Primal week of Genesis Chapter One, the day on which we are invited to contemplate the mystery of our own creation and of our being made in the image of God. Furthermore, because the  Sixth Day is a Friday, we are moved as Christians to think of God’s loving response to our fall, of how, as Newman put it, ‘ a second Adam to the fight, and to the rescue came’. I have tried to gather some of these thoughts into the little roundel which is my reflection on this day. As before I have given you the Genesis passage to which my poem is a response and also enabled you to hear me read the poem by either clicking on the ‘play’ button or on the Roman Numeral. These poems will be gathered together with others in ‘Parable and Paradox’ my next book of poetry, to be published by Canterbury Press in the summer of 2016.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.


VI

 

You made us new and beautiful today,

Your Spirit softened us like morning dew,

Your Image shining from us through the clay,

You made us new.

 

You woke us and we knew ourselves in you,

We walked together at the close of day,

You trusted us and called us to be true.

 

When we forsook your love and turned away

You came and sought us where we hid from you,

And on the cross, in darkness, on this day

You made us new.

You came and sought us where we hid from you

You came and sought us where we hid from you

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