Christmas 3: Follow Me (For the Feast of St John the Evangelist)

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
(John 21:20-21)

Some followed to the cross, some to their tombs,
some were stoned, some were flayed,
some beheld the lions’ roar…

And others followed into cells
with ageing eyes in the dying light.
Some grew old to the ring of words
more bounteous than all the world.

Some saw, some hoped
but never saw.
All were held, transformed by Life –
what was, what is, what ever is,
is still to be, what waits.

The day remains, and we remain,
yet nothing is the same.

Christmas 3: Beloved

As well as being the day when my true love sent me three French hens, the third day of Christmas traditionally remembers St John the Evangelist, who contrasts with Stephen the martyr for being the only one of the apostles not be martyred. He also saw the glories ahead revealed to him when imprisoned for following Jesus, and was perhaps the best theologian of the Incarnation in the New Testament. Today’s poem takes as its inspiration an old Gregorian chant for the Feast of St John, as well as the reading for the day, 1 John 1:1-4.

Beloved

On the Lord’s Day, in rapture,
the beloved disciple
beheld Him in glory
who once walked beside Him.

And did he recognise Him,
that beloved disciple?
So changed into glory
was this one like a brother.

Now a glorious saviour,
that disciple’s Beloved
called the prisoned to rapture,
in renewing of all things.

Did he think of the meals shared,
that beloved disciple?
Did he think of the dust and
the waters of washing?

Remember the glories,
O beloved disciples,
When walking where Christ trod,
When fading, no rapture.

Remember, beloved,
the eyes that beheld Him.
Await His swift coming;
tune ears to His feet.

Illuminated Manuscript, Gospels of Freising, c.1340

20 Contemplations #18: Anointing

albrecht-durer-christ-entering-jerusalem1
Albrecht Dürer, “Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem”

In your majesty ride out victoriously
for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness…
God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.
(Psalm 45:4a, 7b)

Do not be deceived. He comes in meekness
now to expose the proud. He sleeps among
the donkeys and cattle now; soon the throng
of pilgrims will see Him ride, not in weakness,
but in true majesty. Do you seek this
or to be told that you are never wrong?
He will ride again; it will not be long,
and you will not dismiss His forgiveness.
Who you reject tonight will call to account
when He rides in all the glory of day.
His light beckons us in the eastern sky,
yet many despise its slow, meek way.
Look to the wise. Bow before the child;
there is room for your mess and your doubt.

2o Contemplations #17:

Silent Harmony Painting by Wassily Kandinsky; Silent Harmony Art Print for sale
Wassily Kandinsky, “Silent Harmony”

…the music seems to come out of the silence like the colors come out of the night…
(Olivier Messiaen)

After such a climax, what reflection?
Light refracts from His glory; sun and moon
bow. Let all mortal flesh keep silent. Soon,
very soon, we shall see His intention
erupt in purposed rapture. Explosion
of brightness dancing will colour His tune:
now mauve, now gold, now rose, now violet-bloom,
more radiant than mind’s widest conception.
So stop. Silence best befits a king
when all our lips are broken, our tongues split.
Let the Word be our only word. Let Light
illuminate the dark of our speaking.
What crowns we weave for Him can never fit;
all space dances around Him, bursting, bright.

 

Litany, Rossetti and Cardiphonia-style

In preparing to lead the service at my church this Sunday – looking at Revelation 10-11:14 – I’ve found myself reading some of Christina Rossetti’s devotional commentary on Revelation, Face of the Deep. If you’re looking for a systematic unpacking of a complex book, probably don’t go to Rossetti, but if you want to read some beautiful prayers, poems and reflections by a deep woman of faith, then it’s well worth a read. Here, as a taster, is a fusion of some of her best prayers, modernised slightly to be more easily read today.

I’ve also just discovered this gem of an album from the great folks at Cardiphonia, a collection of songs based around Charles Wesley’s hymns for the Great Litany. It’s not quite the obvious fit for reading Rossetti, but I’m finding it a comforting and inspiring listen.

 

Litany from Revelation 10-11

Adapted from Christina Rossetti, Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse

You who were poor until your baptism was accomplished:

Pity us, accomplish your will in us.

You who finished the work your father gave you to do:

Pity us, finish your work by us and in us.

You who said, “It is finished,” in the ending of your agony:

Pity us, bring us to a good end.

Yes, Lord most pitiful, pity us. Amen.

O merciful Lord Jesus, grant that now your rebuke might enlighten and enkindle us, so it will not consume us.

You who once made yourself as a man in whose mouth was no reproof, rebuke us, but with justice, not in your anger, or you would bring us to nothing.

You who became a reproof among your enemies and neighbours, save us from the reproof of the one that could consume us.

You who know our reproof, our shame and our dishonour, deliver us from our enemies, who are all in your sight.

O Christ, the saint of saints, who called us to be saints: in the day of destruction, save us. Christ our refuge, do not exclude us. Our redeemer, do not despise us. Our safety, do not deny us. Our Saviour, do not destroy us. Our brother, do not reject us. Our friend, do not forsake us. Our all in all, do not fail us. Amen.

Transfiguration Sunday

image

These are the words of the One who burns
with all the fire of the morning star,
who shines much whiter than the day
in tabernacle flame.

These are the words of the risen Son
who was, who is, will ever be,
the One who sees, who knows, who calls,
the first, the last, the king.

These are the words of the One who shone
bright, radiant, on the mountain top,
the one who climbed another hill,
and was crowned upon a tree.

These are the words to the bride who yearns,
who strays, who cries, who prays, who strives.
Hear the words that search through hearts:
hear, stand, and overcome.

The Bright-Shining Lord (After Ann Griffiths’ “I Saw Him Standing”)

I first discovered the amazingly visceral and love-saturated poetry of Ann Griffiths through my friend Erin who posted a couple of Rowan Williams’ translations on her blog a while back. The one that arrested me in particular was “I Saw Him Standing”, which you can read on Erin’s blog here. I’ve chosen it as an apt starting point for exploring Ann Griffiths’ work. Being male, it’s a little hard sometimes to copy her particular register of expressing love for Jesus, but I’ve done my best. I hope you all enjoy it.
 
The Bright-Shining Lord (After “I Saw Him Standing”)
 
The prince of love, he speaks in whispers,
whispers low to my heart’s deep voice.
Where deep calls to deep
in waterfalls, I stand, his breakers
crashing down around me with
their silent shuddering, the voice
of love amidst the thundering;
to me he calls.
 
No-one there is with eyes of such fire
seated upon his sapphire throne,
with radiance that shines my soul with its burning
and his brightness a bow in a rainy-day’s cloud.
Inexpressible, he is: how he blends such bright fury
with the gentlest whisper of his nail-scarred palms,
sparkling in glory over valleys,
the Son of Man.
 
Let the world have its dazzling allure and stories;
the eyes of this prince, this prince of love’s glory
shine truer than all of the world’s diamond lies.
He sits with the blind man and Zacchaeus, the road-side
his banqueting table, for Samaritans and me.
Sit with me, friends, at his morning-bright table
and we too will shine with him
eternally.