“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32, from the Gospel reading for Tuesday in Holy Week)
What is there in my heart that you should sue
so fiercely for its love? What kind of care
brings you as though a stranger to my door
through the long night and in the icy dew
seeking the heart that will not harbour you,
that keeps itself religiously secure?
At this dark solstice filled with frost and fire
your passion’s ancient wounds must bleed anew.
So many nights the angel of my house
has fed such urgent comfort through a dream,
whispered “your lord is coming, he is close”
that I have drowsed half-faithful for a time
bathed in pure tones of promise and remorse:
“tomorrow I shall wake to welcome him.”
The Gospel Reading for Monday in Holy Week is John 12:1-11
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.
Malcolm Guite blogs at https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/
The Poet thinks about the donkey
On the outskirts of Jerusalem
the donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
he stood and waited.
How horses, turned out into the meadow,
leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
clatter away, splashed with sunlight.
But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.
Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.
I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.
Mary Oliver from her book Thirst.
1 Our God, our Help in ages past,
our Hope for years to come,
our Shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal Home.
2 Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is Thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.
3 Before the hills in order stood
or earth received its frame,
from everlasting Thou art God,
to endless years the same.
4 A thousand ages in Thy sight
are like an ev’ning gone,
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.
5 Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the op’ning day.
6 Our God, our Help in ages past,
our Hope for years to come,
be Thou our Guide while life shall last,
and our eternal Home!
Written by Isaac Watts and published in 1719, the hymn is a paraphrase of Psalm 90. It’s a particular favorite of mine and especially appropriate as we think about the coming year.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-belov’d imprisonment,
There He hath made Himself to His intent
Weak enough, now into the world to come;
But O, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars and wise men will travel to prevent
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe.
—John Donne, Nativity from La Corona (1610)