Eucharistic Meditation

Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert (1593–1633)

Mikko Louhivuori In Memoriam

Mikko Louhivuori

This morning, my uncle Rev. Dr. Mikko Louhivuori, was called into glory following a lengthy and painful illness. In the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead, I re-post this magnificent stand against the Christ-emptied power of death.

Holy Sonnet X

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne (1609)

Commemoration of George Herbert

george_herbertToday, the Anglican church commemorates my favourite poet, George Herbert. To mark the occasion, I share one of his fine creations:

IESU

IESU is in my heart, his sacred name
Is deeply carved there: but th’other week
A great affliction broke the little frame,
Ev’n all to pieces: which I went to seek:
And first I found the corner, where was I,
After, where ES, and next where U was graved,
When I had got these parcels, instantly
I sat me down to spell them, and perceived
That to my broken heart he was I ease you,
And to the whole is I E S U.

The Journey Of The Magi

One of my favourite Epiphany poems, by T.S. Eliot. I learned last night from John Drury that its famous opening lines are lifted virtually verbatim from this sermon by the great Lancelot Andrewes.

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Source: http://allpoetry.com/The-Journey-Of-The-Magi

Aaron

Holinesse on the head,
Light and perfections on the breast,
Harmonious bells below, raising the dead
To leade them unto life and rest.
Thus are true Aarons drest.

Profanenesse in my head,
Defect and darknesse in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest,
Poore priest thus am I drest.

Onely another head
I have, another heart and breast,
Another musick, making live not dead,
Without whom I could have no rest:
In him I am well drest.

Christ is my onely head,
My alone onely heart and breast,
My onely musick, striking me ev’n dead;
That to the old man I may rest,
And be in him new drest.

So holy in my head,
Perfect and light in my deare breast,
My doctrine tun’d by Christ, (who is not dead,
but lives in me while I do rest)
Come people; Aaron’s drest.

George Herbert (1593–1633)

Death, Thou Shalt Die!

In grateful memory of F.M., our dear sister in Christ, who fell asleep in the Lord in the early hours of this morning.

Holy Sonnet X

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne (1609)

The Full, Final Sacrifice

One of my favourite 20th Century English anthems is Gerald Finzi’s Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice (Here’s a Spotify link, and here’s a YouTube link, both performed by the outstanding choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge). I have sung it a few times and listened to it many times more. But, in a way that is very typical of many choral singers, I have only paid partial attention to the words.

Well, for slightly complicated reasons, I decided to delve into the words recently. And I found out that Finzi took as his text selected (and re-arranged) extracts from a long paraphrase of Thomas Aquinas’ “Lauda Sion Salvatorem”, as well as from a paraphrase of Aquinas’ “Adoro Te” by the 17th century English metaphysical poet Richard Crashaw (c. 1613–1649).

What a find!

Crashaw was son of a noted puritan theologian, but ended up converting to Catholicism. We can only assume that “Lauda Sion” comes from the latter period.

I offer a longer extract from Crashaw, which I’m hoping might be included in a forthcoming collection of hymns, set to a completely new tune. More on that project another time.

XI.
So the life-food of angells then
Bow’d to the lowly mouths of men!
The children’s Bread, the Bridegroom’s Wine;
Not to be cast to dogges, or swine.

XII.
Lo, the full, finall Sacrifice
On which all figures fix’t their eyes:
The ransom’d Isack, and his ramme;
The manna, and the paschal lamb.

XIII.
Iesv Master, iust and true!
Our food, and faithfull Shephard too!
O by Thy self vouchsafe to keep,
As with Thy selfe Thou feed’st Thy sheep.

XIV.
O let that loue which thus makes Thee
Mix with our low mortality,
Lift our lean soules, and sett vs vp
Con-victors of Thine Own full cup,
Coheirs of saints. That so all may
Drink the same wine; and the same way:
Nor change the pastvre, but the place,
To feed of Thee, in Thine Own face. Amen.

 

Love

Wonderful lines from George Herbert, on the eve of Trinity 2 (Luke 14:15-24)

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

Denial

[I was reminded of this, one of my all-time favourite poems, by today’s Gospel reading, Luke 18:1–8.]

When my devotions could not pierce
Thy silent ears;
Then was my heart broken, as was my verse:
My breast was full of fears
And disorder:

My bent thoughts, like a brittle bow,
Did fly asunder:
Each took his way; some would to pleasures go,
Some to the wars and thunder
Of alarms.

As good go any where, they say,
As to benumb
Both knees and heart, in crying night and day,
Come, come, my God, O come,
But no hearing.

O that thou shouldst give dust a tongue
To cry to thee,
And then not hear it crying! all day long
My heart was in my knee,
But no hearing.

Therefore my soul lay out of sight,
Untuned, unstrung:
My feeble spirit, unable to look right,
Like a nipped blossom, hung
Discontented.

O cheer and tune my heartless breast,
Defer no time;
That so thy favors granting my request,
They and my mind may chime,
And mend my rime.

George Herbert (1593–1633)

Epiphany Eliot

Here’s a treat for the Epiphany season: a recording of T.S. Eliot reading his Journey of the Magi. There is something wonderful about the grimness of the seemingly tangential reality of the journey, the pointed pun, and the focus on … oh, hear and read it yourself. It helps to understand that focus to know that this poem was written not long after Eliot’s conversion to Christianity.

Click here to go to the Poetry Archive.