A poem by way of greeting on this golden winter afternoon. Happy Christmas!
Remembering that it happened once,
We cannot turn away the thought,
As we go out, cold, to our barns
Toward the long night’s end, that we
Ourselves are living in the world
It happened in when it first happened,
That we ourselves, opening a stall
(A latch thrown open countless times
Before), might find them breathing there,
Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,
The mother kneeling over Him,
The husband standing in belief
He scarcely can believe, in light
That lights them from no source we see,
An April morning’s light, the air
Around them joyful as a choir.
We stand with one hand on the door,
Looking into another world
That is this world, the pale daylight
Coming just as before, our chores
To do, the cattle all awake,
Our own frozen breath hanging
In front of us; and we are here
As we have never been before,
Sighted as not before, our place
Holy, although we knew it not.
A poem by Wendell Berry, from his Sabbath collection.
This one is for me a new discovery. It is very mysterious and very beautiful and whilst usually used on December 23rd, I’m striking out and offering this prayer for the 24th.
“O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud? Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem. Filiae Ierusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.”
O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before thee was any like unto thee,
nor after shall there be.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why do you marvel at me?
What you behold is a divine mystery!
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.
our King and Law-giver,
desired of the nations and their salvation,
come and save us, Lord our God.
Rich, solemn, winter-perfect Lumina Voices . . .
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the Nations for whom we long,
the corner-stone who makes of both one,
come and deliver us
whom you made from clay.
[For more interestingness on Japanese Jomon figurines, see here.]
splendor lucis æternæ,
et sol justitiæ:
veni, et illumina
sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
Rainbow in the Egg Nebula
O Morning Star,
splendour of eternal light
sun of justice,
come and illumine
those seated in darkness
and the shadow of death.
Image: The Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
Old Door (Image by OK)
O Key of David,
and Sceptre of the house of Israel,
who opens and no one shuts,
who shuts, and no one opens,
come and free from prison
we who sit in darkness
and the shadow of death.
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
Autumn Roots, Image by OK
O Root of Jesse,
who stands as an ensign to the peoples,
at whom kings stand silent and whom the gentiles seek,
come and free us,
delay no longer!
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the Law on Sinai, come to redeem us with outstretched arm!
Unsayable, you chose to speak one tongue
Unseeable, you gave yourself away,
The Adonai, the Tetragramaton
Grew by a wayside in the light of day.
O you who dared to be a tribal God,
o own a language, people and a place,
Who chose to be exploited and betrayed,
If so you might be met with face to face,
Come to us here, who would not find you there,
Who chose to know the skin and not the pith,
Who heard no more than thunder in the air,
Who marked the mere events and not the myth.
Touch the bare branches of our unbelief
And blaze again like fire in every leaf.
A poem from ‘Sounding the Seasons’ by the wonderful Malcom Guite
(which you should listen to as well, here):
Garden Path – image by OK
These are beautiful!
O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiæ.
O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner: come to teach us the way of truth.
And here it is sung by male voices.
I like the Latin. I don’t know Latin, but I like the strangeness and elegance of the look and the sound of it. I attend to it in a way not dissimilar to the way I attend to Japanese.
Sometimes being on the outside looking in is a way of keeping things fresh.
I am so rarely ‘in time’ to post happening things but some kind soul out there in the internet wilds posted this poem a few days ago and I love it so I’m sharing it with the lot of yiz. From one of my heroes, the poem:
He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.
© Rowan Williams