Saturday, March 31, 2018

Christ as a Gardener

The boxwoods planted in the park spell LIVE.
I never noticed it until they died.
Before, the entwined green had smudged the word
unreadable. And when they take their own advice
again – come spring, come Easter – no one will know
a word is buried in the leaves. I love the way
that Mary thought her resurrected Lord
a gardener. It wasn’t just the broad-brimmed hat
and muddy robe that fooled her: he was that changed.
He looks across the unturned field, the riot
Of unscythed grass, the smattering of wildflowers.
Before he can stop himself, he’s on his knees.
He roots up stubborn weeds, pinches the suckers,
deciding order here – what lives, what dies,
and how. But it goes deeper even than that.
His hands burn and his bare feet smolder. He longs
To lie down inside the long, dew-moist furrows
and press his pierced side and his broken forehead
into the dirt. But he’s already done it –
passed through one death and out the other side.
He laughs. He kicks his bright spade in the earth
and turns it over. Spring flashes by, then harvest.
Beneath his feet, seeds dance into the air.
They rise, and he, not noticing, ascends
on midair steppingstones of dandelion,
of milkweed, thistle, cattail, and goldenrod.

-- Andrew Hudgins (1951- ), American poet and professor of English at the Ohio State University, from The Never-Ending, 1991.

Image: The Risen Christ as a gardener (see John 20:11-18) with Mary of Magdala, from a Limoges enamel.

Lenten Grace-- A Fitting Silence

I owned a slope full of stones.
Like buried pianos they lay in the ground...

As I piled them in the light
I began their music. I heard their old lime
rouse in breath of song that had not left me.
I gave pain and weariness to their bearing out.
What bond have I made with the earth,
having worn myself against it? It is a fatal singing
I have carried with me out of that day.
The stones have given me music
that figures for me their holes in the earth
and their long lying in them dark.
They have taught me the weariness that loves the ground,
and I must prepare a fitting silence.
--Wendell Berry, from "The Stones"

What does it take to move a stone?
When it is an effort to till the untillable,
creating a place where simple seed
can drop, be covered and sprout and thrive,
it takes muscle and sweat and blisters and tears.

What does it take to move a stone?
When it is a day when no one will speak
out of fear,
the silent will be moved to cry out
the truth, heard and known and never forgotten.

What does it take to move a stone?
When it is a day when all had given up,
gone behind locked doors in grief,
and two came to tend the dead,
but there was no dead to tend.

Only a gaping hole left
Only an empty tomb
Only a weeping weary silence
broken by Love
calling our name
and we turn to greet Him
as if hearing it for the first time.

--Emily Pilson Gibson, American poet, physician, and farmer from her blog Barnstorming

Lenten Grace-- Be Still and Know

I said to my mind, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; yet there is faith
But the faith and the hope and the love are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be light, and the stillness the dancing. 

~T. S. Eliot, from “East Coker” The Four Quartets

This in-between day
after all had gone so wrong
before all will go so right,
puts us between the rock
and the hard place:
all hope, love and faith is squeezed from us.

Today we are flattened,
dried like chaff,
ground to pulp,
our destiny with death sealed.

We lie still
like sprinkled spices
trying to delay
inevitable decay,
wrapped up tight
stone cold
and futile.
The rock is rolled into place
so we lie underneath,
crushed and broken.
We are inside,
our bodies like His.
We are outside,
cut off and left behind.
We cannot know about tomorrow,
we do not fathom what is soon to come:
the stone lifted and rolled away,
the separation bridged,
the darkness giving way to light,
the crushed and broken rising to dance,
and the waiting stillness stirring,
inexplicably, to celebrate new life.

-- Emily Polis Gibson, poet, physician, and farmer, March 30, 2013, from her blog Barnstorming

Photo: Sunset at Herradura, March 25, 2018

Easter Eve

At length the worst is o’er, and Thou art laid
Deep in thy darksome bed;
All still and cold beneath you dreary stone
Thy sacred form is gone;
Around those lips where power and mercy hung,
The dews of death have clung;
The dull earth o’er Thee, and thy foes around,
Thou sleep’st a silent corse, in funeral fetters wound.

Sleep’st Thou indeed? or is thy spirit fled,
At large among the dead?
Whether in Eden bowers thy welcome voice
Wake Abraham to rejoice,
Or in some drearier scene thine eye controuls
The thronging band of souls;
That, as thy blood won earth, thine agony
Might set the shadowy realm from sin and sorrow free.

Where’er Thou roam’st, one happy soul, we know,
Seen at thy side in woe,
Waits on thy triumph—even as all the blest
With him and thee shall rest.
Each on his cross, by Thee we hang a while,
Watching thy patient smile,
Till we have learn’d to say, "Tis justly done,
"Only in glory, LORD, thy sinful servant own."

Soon wilt Thou take us to thy tranquil bower
To rest one little hour,
Till thine elect are number’d, and the grave
Call Thee to come and save:
Then on thy bosom borne shall we descend,
Again with earth to blend,
Earth all refin’d with bright supernal fires,
Tinctur’d with holy blood, and wing’d with pure desires.

Meanwhile with every son and saint of thine
Along the glorious line,
Sitting by turns beneath thy sacred feet
We’ll hold communion sweet,
Know them by look and voice, and thank them all
For helping us in thrall,
For words of hope, and bright examples given
To shew through moonless skies that there is light in Heaven.

O come that day, when in this restless heart
Earth shall resign her part,
When in the grave with Thee my limbs shall rest,
My soul with Thee be blest!
But stay, presumptuous—CHRIST with thee abides
In the rock’s dreary sides:
He from the stone will wring celestial dew
If but the prisoner’s heart be faithful found and true.

When tears are spent, and Thou art left alone
With ghosts of blessings gone,
Think thou art taken from the cross, and laid
In JESUS’ burial shade;
Take Moses’ rod, the rod of prayer, and call
Out of the rocky wall
The fount of holy blood; and lift on high
Thy grovelling soul that feels so desolate and dry.

Prisoner of Hope thou art—look up and sing
In hope of promis’d spring.
As in the pit his father’s darling lay
Beside the desert way,
And knew not how, but knew his GOD would save
Even from that living grave,
So, buried with our LORD, we’ll close our eyes
To the decaying world, till Angels bid us rise.

--John Keble (1792-1866), English priest, poet, and leader in the Oxford Movement

Image: Alabaster carving, Christ in the Tomb with Soldiers Sleeping, 14th century, found in Nottinghamshire

Blessing of St. Brigid on a home

May Brigid bless the house
wherein you dwell.
Bless every fireside,
every wall and door.
Bless every heart
that beats beneath its roof.
Bless every hand
that toils to bring it joy.
Bless every foot
that walks its portals through.
May Brigid bless the house
that shelters you.

Holy well of St. Brigid in County Clare.

On this day in 1994, we moved into our house.

The Lent Lilly

‘Tis spring; come out to ramble
The hilly brakes around,
For under thorn and bramble

About the hollow ground
The primroses are found.
And there’s the windflower chilly
With all the winds at play,
And there’s the Lenten lily
That has not long to stay
And dies on Easter day.

And since till girls go maying
You find the primrose still,
And find the windflower playing
With every wind at will,
But not the daffodil,

Bring baskets now, and sally
Upon the spring’s array,
And bear from hill and valley
The daffodil away
That dies on Easter day.

-- A. E. Housman (1859-1936)


Oh blessed body! Whither art thou thrown?
No lodging for thee, but a cold hard stone?
So many hearts on earth, and yet not one
Receive thee?

Sure there is room within our hearts good store;
For they can lodge transgressions by the score:
Thousands of toys dwell there, yet out of door
They leave thee.

But that which shows them large, shows them unfit.
Whatever sin did this pure rock commit,
Which holds thee now? Who hath indicted it
Of murder?

Where our hard hearts have took up stones to brain thee,
And missing this, most falsely did arraign thee;
Only these stones in quiet entertain thee,
And order.

And as of old, the law by heav’nly art,
Was writ in stone; so thou, which also art
The letter of the word, find’st no fit heart
To hold thee.

Yet do we still persist as we began,
And so should perish, but that nothing can,
Though it be cold, hard, foul, from loving man
Withhold thee.

--George Herbert (1593-1633), English priest and poet

Image: Andrea Mantegna, Lamentation over Christ, ca. 1475-1478

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Mother of God

THE threefold terror of love; a fallen flare
Through the hollow of an ear;
Wings beating about the room;
The terror of all terrors that I bore
The Heavens in my womb.
Had I not found content among the shows
Every common woman knows,
Chimney corner, garden walk,
Or rocky cistern where we tread the clothes
And gather all the talk?
What is this flesh I purchased with my pains,
This fallen star my milk sustains,
This love that makes my heart's blood stop
Or strikes a Sudden chill into my bones
And bids my hair stand up?

- William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis

Maybe He looked indeed
much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
in those small heads that seem in fact
portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
a soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth
in a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
that he taste also the humiliation of dread,
cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
like any mortal hero out of his depth,
like anyone who has taken a step too far
and wants herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don't show how,
in the midnight Garden,
or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
he went through with even the human longing
to simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
not the hideous betrayals humans commit
nor the faithless weakness of friends, and surely
not the anticipation of death (not then in agony's grip)
was Incarnation's heaviest weight,
but this sickened desire to renege,
to step back from what He Who was God,
had promised himself, and had entered
time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
up from those depths where purpose
drifted for mortal moments.

-- Denise Levertov (1923-1997), English/American poet, from Evening Train, 1992, in The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov, 2013

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, the Passion series, (1633-1639)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


For what I did 
And did not do 
And do without 
In my old age
Rue, not rage 
Against that night 
We go into, 
Sets me straight 
On what to do 
Before I die —  
Sit in the shade, 
Look at the sky

--Samuel Menashe (1925-2011) found at

Photo: Peter considers his denial of Jesus, detail from the Passion-side walls of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Prayer in Infirmity

O most mighty and most merciful God,
who, though thou have taken me off my feet,
hast not taken me off my foundation, which is thyself;
who, though thou have removed me from that upright form
in which I could stand and see thy throne, the heavens,
yet hast not removed from me that light
by which I can lie and see myself;
who, though thou have weakened my bodily knees,
that they cannot bow to thee,
hast left me the knees of my heart,
which are bowed unto thee evermore;
as thou hast made this bed thine altar,
make me thy sacrifice,
and as thou makest thy Son Jesus Christ the priest,
so make me his deacon,
to minister to him
in a cheerful surrender of my body and soul to thy pleasure,
by his hands.

-- John Donne (1572-1631), English priest, essayist, and poet, from Devotions Upon Divergent Occasions, III, (1624)

Sunday, March 25, 2018


The Annunciation, George Hitchcock, 1887. My photo, taken at the Art Institute of Chicago;
information about this painting here.

Lakota Annunciation

Both of these are the work of modern iconographer Father John Giuliani.

The Ballad of Mary's Son

It was in the Spring
The Passover had come.
There was feasting in the streets and joy.
But an awful thing
Happened in the Spring –
Men who knew not what they did
Killed Mary’s Boy.
He was Mary’s Son,
And the Son of God was He –
Sent to bring the whole world joy.
There were some who could not hear,
And some were filled with fear –
So they built a cross
For Mary’s Boy.

--Langston Hughes (1902-1967), African American poet, novelist, and playwright, 1954

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Friday, March 23, 2018

Sonnet 33 (Full many a glorious morning have I seen)

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out! alack! he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.
     Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
     Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.

-- William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English playwright and poet

Thursday, March 22, 2018

in time of daffodils (who know

in time of daffodils (who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why, remembering how
in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so (forgetting seem)
in time of roses (who amaze
our now and here with praise)
forgetting if, remember yes
in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek (forgetting find)
and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me, remember me

-- e e cummings (1894-1962)

Musical setting of this poem by Stephen Sametz, sung by Chanticleer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Prayer of Abandonment into God

Softly as the dew-fall of heaven,
may the Holy Spirit come upon me
to aid me and to raise me,
to bind my prayer firmly
at the throne of the King of life.

God's will would I do,
my own will bridle;
God's due would I give,
my own due yield;
God's path
would I travel
my own path refuse.

All whom I love,
into Your safe keeping;
all that I am,
into your tender care;
all that will be,
into your perfect will.


-- from Celtic Daily Prayer, Book One: The Journey Begins, from prayers relating to Cuthbert of Northumbria (635-687), pp. 297-298. Cuthbert's feast day in today, March 20.

Image: Castle on Holy Isle of Landisfarne.

How wonderful, O Lord, are the works of Your hands! (First Day of Spring)

How wonderful, O Lord, are the works of Your hands! The heavens declare your glory, the arch of the sky displays Your handiwork.
The heavens declare the glory of God.

In Your love You have given us the power to behold the beauty of Your world, robed in all its splendor. The sun and the stars, the valleys and hills, the rivers and lakes-- all disclose Your presence.
The earth reveals God's eternal presence.

The roating breakers of the sea twll of Your awesome might; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air speak Your wondrous will.
Life comes forth by God's creative will.

In Your goodness You have made us able to hear the music of the world. The raging of the winds, the whisperings of the trees in the wood, and the precious voices of loved ones reveal to us that You are in our midst.
A divine voice sings through all creation.

--Nature prayer from Gates of Prayer: The New Union Prayer Book, Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1975, p. 651.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Self- Acquaintance

Dear Lord! accept a sinful heart,
Which of itself complains,
And mourns, with much and frequent smart,
The evil it contains.

There fiery seeds of anger lurk,
Which often hurt my frame;
And wait but for the tempter's work,
To fan them to a flame.

Legality holds out a bribe
To purchase life from Thee;
And Discontent would fain prescribe
How Thou shalt deal with me.

While Unbelief withstands Thy grace,
And puts the mercy by,
Presumption, with a brow of brass,
Says, "Give me, or I die!"

How eager are my thoughts to roam,
In quest of what they love!
But ah! when duty calls them home,
How heavily they move!

Oh, cleanse me in a Saviour's blood,
Transform me by Thy power,
And make me Thy beloved abode,
And let me roam no more.

-- William Cowper (1731-1800) English poet

Photo: Figure on the Passion side facade of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona.


The Garden called Gethsemane
In Picardy it was,
And there the people came to see
The English soldiers pass.

We used to pass - we used to pass
Or halt, as it might be,
And ship our masks in case of gas
Beyond Gethsemane.

The Garden called Gethsemane,
It held a pretty lass,
But all the time she talked to me
I prayed my cup might pass.

The officer sat on the chair,
The men lay on the grass,
And all the time we halted there
I prayed my cup might pass.

It didn't pass - it didn't pass
It didn't pass from me.
I drank it when we met the gas
Beyond Gethsemane!

--Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), English novelist and poet, written 1918


He was a plain man
and learned no latin.

Having left all gold behind
he dealt out peace
to all us wild ones
and the weather.

He ate fish, bread,
country wine and God's will.

Dust sandaled his feet.

He wore purple only once,
and that was an irony.

--Luci Shaw (1928- ) from Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation, 2006

Saturday, March 17, 2018

On Raglan Road

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion's pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay -
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that's known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay -
When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day.

--Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967), originally titled "Dark Haired Miriam Ran Away," in 1948

This poem was set to music by Luke Kelly of The Dubliners; here is a cover by Joan Osbourne and the Chieftains, from the album Tears of Stone (1999).

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

-- William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet and nationalist

Friday, March 16, 2018

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines 
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

--William Cowper (1731-1800), English poet

Painting: Jesus Calming the Storm, Lu Hongnian, 20th century Chinese
Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Sunlight upon Judah’s hills!
And on the waves of Galilee;
On Jordan’s stream, and on the rills
That feed the dead and sleeping sea!
Most freshly from the green wood springs
The light breeze on its scented wings;
And gayly quiver in the sun
The cedar tops of Lebanon!

A few more hours, – a change hath come!
The sky is dark without a cloud!
The shouts of wrath and joy are dumb,
And proud knees unto earth are bowed. 
A change is on the hill of Death,
The helmed watchers pant for breath,
And turn with wild and maniac eyes
From the dark scene of sacrifice!

That Sacrifice! – the death of Him, –
The Christ of God, the holy One!
Well may the conscious Heaven grow dim,
And blacken the beholding Sun.
The wonted light hath fled away,
Night settles on the middle day,
And earthquake from his caverned bed
Is waking with a thrill of dread!

The dead are waking underneath!
Their prison door is rent away!
And, ghastly with the seal of death,
They wander in the eye of day!
The temple of the Cherubim,
The House of God is cold and dim;
A curse is on its trembling walls,
Its mighty veil asunder falls!

Well may the cavern-depths of Earth
Be shaken, and her mountains nod;
Well may the sheeted dead come forth
To see the suffering son of God!
Well may the temple-shrine grow dim,
And shadows veil the Cherubim,
When He, the chosen one of Heaven,
A sacrifice for guilt is given!

And shall the sinful heart, alone,
Behold unmoved the fearful hour,
When Nature trembled on her throne,
And Death resigned his iron power?
Oh, shall the heart – whose sinfulness
Gave keenness to His sore distress,
And added to His tears of blood –
Refuse its trembling gratitude!

--John Grenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), American Quaker poet, 1834

Photo: Sewanee Memorial Cross over looking the Cumberland Plateau, Tennessee