Advent 6: Benedictus

They shall not live who have not tasted death.
They only sing who are struck dumb by God.
(Joyce Kilmer, “Poets”)

And so Zechariah became one of the poets,
hymning the God of Israel with new voice,
for those who have most wept will most rejoice,
while others full of grace who did not know it
could never pen a hymn if life depended.
Grace rarely makes such strict demands of us;
the sweetest song can fall without a fuss
straight on a childless priest, his life upended
with the hope of joy, while the one with seven sons
goes home to richest blessing without song.
The one struck dumb will pen an epic long
before the the news can reach the minstrel’s ear,
and grace will always find alert the ones
who’ve lost their voice and now have ears to hear.

Palm Sunday

I have been there in the festal throng,
the waving of palms,
the shouting of Psalms:
Hosanna – the highest – hosanna.

And I have felt the surge of pride
to see my king, as prophesied,
come in, triumphantly, astride
his Zechariah-steed, and I
confess that I have hoped to find
what, in the end, was more than I
had ever bargained for.

I’ve been there, too, by the fireside,
warming my hands and telling lies.
I too have hidden in the night,
afraid of my king’s disgrace.

Messiah: my soul is a fruitless figtree.
When you come to your temple, I will wither
at the sight of your certain summer.
Cast off my false foliage, and let me dwell
in your shade when you return.

XRR220230
Felix Louis Leullier – Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Open

And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.
(Luke 1:64)

No good unless used for you:
only death, only a swallowing tomb.
No sweet grapes from a rotten vine;
no figs budding from a cursed tree.
When speaking, we curse; when silent, bones waste…
Until the words, He is risen. Why seek
the living among these yawning tombs?
Run. Tell the mourners.
Doubt has died.
This tongue has life to speak.

Luke 1: Zechariah and Mary

Portrait de Zacharie et d'Elisabeth - James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum, Wikimedia Commons)
Portrait de Zacharie et d’Elisabeth – James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum, Wikimedia Commons)
No surprise, perhaps,
    that the impossible’s not
a boundary    for the one who lit stars
and sculpted the mountains,           watered –
drew water from –    our rock.

Yet unexpected now, this figure
in temple,       in dreams,
beholding and saying
what’s seldom been said, more seldom believed:

The barren with child?
     A new way prepared?
        The virgin a mother?
           The hearts of the parents
                turned to their children,
        and souls taught to thirst after justice?

Behold –
these microscopic miracles of everyday grace:
Life folded in             zygotic life,
            faith found in anguish,
the courage of obedience,
speechlessness turned
to vocal trust,

     all caught up in
the moment of saying,
       “I am His servant.
    Let it be so with me.”

Lent 29: Wednesday of Fourth Week

Detail from Rembrandt van Rijn, "Christ Driving Money Changes from the Temple"
Detail from Rembrandt van Rijn, “Christ Driving Money Changes from the Temple”

The blind, the lame, are let inside;

the cursed now are blessed.

The king in triumph rides upon

a humble donkey’s colt.

 

The temple tables overturned,

the mind thrown into chaos,

prophecies are rendered true

in ways that chill our hearts.

 

The unexpected king burns bright

with anger at the sham.

He knows the depths of truest Law

and dies to see it kept.