Lent: Enough 1

Hold tight. Hold me tight:
what coverings I have sought,
     what fig-leaves,
cannot disguise my nakedness.
My shame burns garments – yet
You clothe in righteousness.
            Hold tight.
Hold me tight; You are enough,
yet I am afraid, and turn
to fig-leaves when rightly I should
   bathe myself in You.
O Lamb, my joy, my garment of blood,
               hold tight.
         O hold me tight.

J.S. Bach / Ich habe genug, BWV 8 (Herreweghe): https://youtu.be/XopQG0Gjgmo

Lent: The Wait, the Weight 1

Waves drag, anchor fails –
my God my God why

In this torpor, what lifts?
The heart, bird-like, hovers –
an albatross, a vulture?
Yet a dove dives deep and holds;
it coos what cannot be cried.

My God my God why
– too heavy for words, yet hands can be raised,
barely, above the waves.
This is enough. Moan, wail, cry.
Words are not needed where the Spirit has flight.

Trust, and open your drowning arms.

Learning Bach

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Moments of success are rare:
arpeggio-dances, impossible harmonies,
the sound as simple as the wind
yet execution like a fear -
fingers always forgetting how,
only ever stumbling on
success. Evasive moments of
perfect beauty capture souls
yet pass with sudden fumbles and
flustering confusion when
the movement of the hands cannot
so perfectly attune the spheres
as in the neat, transcribed intent.
Still, when all's aligned,
however brief, the sound
sings and motions, like
silence, like heart,
mouth, deed and life in tune,
the dance exact.
The joy remains.

Epiphany: To an unknown painter

Unknown 16th century German painter, Wikimedia Commons
Unknown 16th century German painter, Wikimedia Commons

Too regal:
There were no drapes to hail Him king,
no cherubim in the background, aloft,
casually decking the scene, mid-song.

Yet this is right: if there were crowns,
they would be laid at His feet; and knees,
if wise, would know to bend.

We foresee the pious, in the corners, turned
toward their future king; and a long journey figured
in streets and hills, and horses mounting them.

The light’s far off, yet faces seem illumined.
Only the darker ones lack light: an error, this.
Epiphany brightens most the faces least expected here.

Not contained: the cost, the snorts of Herod,
the proud reflex to kill. All this smarts, demands
pensive faces show contrition to be brought here.

Is there room for us? We have no robes, King.
And yet, if cattle may rest above the frankincense,

we may also bow and drink Your light.

Esurientes implevit bonis (After J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in E-flat)

image

Two women who knew the truth of a God who exalts the humble were Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel. Both were unlikely mothers, one a virgin, the other barren and ridiculed by her husband’s other wife, Penninah. When Mary heard the news that she was bearing the saviour of the world in her womb, she looked to the song sung by Hannah, the barren mother, a thousand years earlier, to express the topsy-turviness of God’s act of grace expressed in Jesus.

This poem is inspired by Bach’s setting of Mary’s prayer, a beautiful piece which my fiancée (also called Hannah) performed tonight at St Paul’s Cathedral. The movement that inspired it is the setting of these words: “He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away.” In his setting, Bach uses two recorders, an instrument used also in his Brandenburg Concerto No.4 to express the lifting up of the humble. I hope my simple words tonight can express something of this exalting grace.

Watch a performance of Bach’s piece

Esurientes implevit bonis

Look: humble Hannah is full;
Penninah goes away hungry.
Grace interweaves a broken fabric;
stillness sings with gentle voice
and fills the earth with noise.

O magnify: the humbled proud
listen as the faintest voice
is heard most resonant, the seed
most small at first soon yields a field
of plenty in this day.

Psalm: Lilies (The Cornucopia of Heaven)

Lilies and peonies by Guiseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) Wikimedia Commons
Lilies and peonies by Guiseppe Castiglione (1688-1766)
Wikimedia Commons

After Antonio Vivaldi, “Le Quattro Stagioni – La Primavera: II. Largo”

 Creator God, whose praise and power are proclaimed by the whole creation: receive our morning prayers, we pray…

(A Prayer Book for Australia)

Consider         how the lilies open –

Watch them enter     into light…

Solomon

in all his        splendour

was not robed like these.

Consider,    also           fleeting sparrows:

not gathering,                  not  daring night.

Watch sparrows                    dance

across these flowers –

watch as dew           sings praise.

O sing, and be                        in quiet hours

witnesses       of lily-joy..

Consider how            the lilies       open –

watch, and praise Him

in light…