If you have been hanging around The Consolations of Writing for a while, you might have noticed that I love using the church’s liturgical year as inspiration for my writing.
Well, this interest has been going for some years now – six, in fact – and I’ve decided to put together the best of my poems as a new book, “The Swelling Year: Poems for Holy and Ordinary Days”.
You’ll hear more about it over the next year, at this site, on the Facebook page and at the newly launched website for the book project. Check it out if you haven’t already at theswellingyear.com.
and I nodded,
not knowing at all what she meant, for I
was not, nor have ever been, Catholic.
How then, I wondered, was my reading taste catholic?
The word, at the time, meant Mary and popes,
not expansive, far-reaching, inclusive. Now I
give my old teacher’s words new meaning:
yes, catholic in reading, in writing, because
bodies matter, and ritual
and beauty are core;
bread and wine, and brokenness,
should inhabit the fibre of the Christian page.
Faith is not, should never be, prose.
So Mauriac and Merton, Marion and Nouwen
shall show me the way to paint Christ
in rich praise.
Behold all that are asleep, awake and rise to sing praise…
(From Psalm 148, Midnight Prayer liturgy, Syriac Orthodox Church)
Could we have seen it coming?
Was our slumber too deep?
Midnight’s for sleeping, yet You do not sleep,
nor did You sleep
as boundaries changed and names were rearranged.
You did not sleep as serpents hatched their eggs.
As feet kicked against the goads, awake, You rose.
Do You sleep?
We lie now as wide-eyed at midnight as at midday,
yet every praise that You ordain spells death to faithful lips.
And waken us to see the grace
that lies here with us,
Even as a picture graven or painted is but a dead representation of the thing itself, and is without life, or any manner of moving; so be the works of all unfaithful persons before God. They do appear to be lively works, and indeed they be but dead, not availing to the eternal life.
(Thomas Cranmer, Homily of Good Works Annexed Unto Faith)
Our hearts, contrite, turn upwards in faint faith.
Though fallen far from grace, we now return,
As ash to ash and dust into the urn;
We lift our prayers in hope of turning wrath
And walk again this old, well-trodden path.
Your men and women, strong through every turn –
Of faith that purifies still as it burns –
Remind us of Your long-forgotten truth:
That in our hearts we cannot reach Your heights
Nor hope to find You through sheer dint of will
Can only fabricate our own despair;
And yet You call the humble and contrite,
To seek Your mercy while it lingers still,
And offer up our broken, common prayer.