Advent Hymn

morningstar-markmallett-com

Photo: Mark Mallett

O Morning Star (Hymn)

O Morning Star, thou soon shall rise
attending dawn in eastern skies.
Draw then our eyes to thine ascent;
may we behold thee, innocent.

O Rose of Winter, blooming e’er,
thy foliage green, thy blossom fair,
thy seeds on many winds be blown
and in the humblest gardens sown.

O Savior, when at last we meet
thy gentle soul and wash thy feet,
heal thou the sick, lift up the poor,
and grant us peace forevermore.

Amen.

Give Us This Day

The_Flood_with_Noah's_Ark_Jan_Brueghel-the-Elder

The Flood with Noah’s Ark, Jan Brueghel the Elder

Give us this day our daily bread, by which, God,
I confess that I mean, “Prosper me,” and isn’t that
about my heart and not the things I have or have
not? “Let me own enough for generosity.”

Evangelists today assure me, “God wants you to
flourish.” They say, “God’s way is the way of
wealth.” So those of us who struggle simply took
the wrong fork some way back, distracted by the
scenery?

Benny Hinn cites Adam and his Eden, where
“the gold was good.” He speaks of Noah, claiming
that his ark of gopher wood might be worth scores
of millions now; and Abraham was rich indeed in
livestock and in gold and silver. Jacob, Joseph,
David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah “had
exceeding riches,” and to be like them, we only
need obey his covenant, says Benny Hinn.
For God rejoices when we prosper: “Let them shout
for joy, and be glad, those who champion my
righteous cause: yea, let them say continually,
‘Let God be magnified, who does rejoice in our
prosperity.’”

“Here is the key,” says Benny Hinn. “They were
obedient in giving! All were givers!” Solomon gave
“tons of gold to God,” as David did. “They knew
that if we don’t give, we don’t live.” They
understood that when we give, “we bring God on
our side.” And well might Benny Hinn advise, with
forty million dollars set aside.

Look around, says Benny Hinn, at what God gave
to us: “The glory of creation, life itself, the beauty of
the earth, the sunshine, so much more.” Yes,
so much more indeed!

But Benny Hinn came by his riches honestly, and
I begrudge him not one penny. No, my sin is
jealousy… and yet I can’t help noticing: when
Benny Hinn enumerates the luminaries of the Bible,
all those givers who received, he doesn’t mention
Jesus. Oh. Did Jesus Christ give “tons of gold to
God?” He had no gold or silver, sheep or cattle,
yet he was the one whom God called “my beloved
son.” And wasn’t he—was Jesus not—the most
obedient of all?

__________________

Benny Hinn quotations above are from the evangelist’s worldwide ministry solicitation, http://bit.ly/2qrTTaS.

Forgiven

The-crucifixion-Pietro Lorenzetti-1340s

The Crucifixion, Pietro Lorenzetti, 1340s

Poem for Good Friday

I wondered at another’s strength,
begrudged her victory despite the cost,
and was ashamed of being not as strong.

I contemplated Jesus on the cross
while I forgot the resurrection
and the lessons: gratitude, compassion;
and I walked away from grace, ashamed
of clinging to my body and not
making of it such an offering.

I shunned companionship, ashamed
of wanting it—a friend, an intimate
would be too soft a pillow for a
head that ought to bear a crown
of thorns instead—and with such cruel
thoughts, in solitude, I clawed my spirit
even as I prayed for God to spare me
suffering and loss

Where None Had Been

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The Baptism of Christ (detail), Masolino da Panicale, 1435

Poem for the Twenty-Eighth Day of Lent

Heaven wept so many tears
(the angel told us), there began
a waterfall, and streams appeared
where none had been.

Where none had been, there filled a lake
and angels gathered there to pray
for you; we grieved not for his sake—
He lives today.

Where none had been, now rivers run
of joy and sorrow, side by side:
sweet, healing streams of tears that come
from angels’ eyes.

Throughout the night the angels prayed
with him—Did you know he was near?—
until the first and bravest ray
of dawn appeared.

His soul (the angel said) is young
and curious. Upon his face
shine wisdom and compassion, love
and Heaven’s grace.

In this life or another, you
will know him; trust your intuition.
With him will go angels, too,
as they have done

through eons long passed out of sight
since God in love created him
to be a ray of holy light
where none had been.

In memory of Monty Fey 1936-2011

Only Yesterday

Christ_Handing_the_Keys_to_St._Peter_by_Pietro_Perugino-1481-2

Christ Handing the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter, Pietro Perugino, 1481-1482

A Prayer for the Third Day of Lent

There are too many children in Heaven today,
and on the earth too many friends with broken
hearts and empty arms. Shadows lie too broad
and fade too soon as night falls early on a
wailing world.

Dear God, when will the grieving end? When can
we once again hear bright, clear laughter, songs
of innocence and curiosity, voices yet to deepen,
and not wonder if those voices will be hushed
before they mellow and grow wise?

The faces in the crowd are stiff and cynical,
uninclined to open to a stranger’s smile. We have
too much to carry now—suspicion, wariness, the
armored layers of our souls, which yesterday
were covered only with a scarf against the odd
chill wind. Spare us, God, the weight of
vengeance, far too heavy to be borne by mortals
such as we.

Where are whimsy, merriment, and joy today?
Do they patter with the feet of children on the
crowded streets of Heaven? Can’t you see we
need them here, before our sorrow palls the
feeble sunlight that remains?

Dear God, what would you have us do with all
the love we bear for those who have been torn
away? Might it find its way to someone whose
uneasy spirit even now turns poisonous? Can we
make, amid the flood of pain and anger, islands of
humanity where troubled hearts can lay their
beds?

Amen.

Little Things

Antonio-da-Correggio-The-Nativity-c-1529-1530

Antonio da Correggio, The Nativity, c. 1529-1530

A tiny flame is all you need
to build a fire; a tiny seed
becomes a great and mighty tree;
a tiny babe, Divinity.

One little thought grows wings to fly
across the wide, unbroken sky.
One little child who wonders why
can change the world; and you and I

can take one step, and then one more,
until we climb, and then we soar.
A little breach becomes a door
to worlds no one has seen before.

The grandest things begin so small.
A tiny babe, the one we call
the Christ, will lift us when we fall,
for he was born to save us all.

Three Kings

Byzantine depiction of the Three Magi in a 6th-century mosaic at Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo

Byzantine depiction of the Three Magi in a 6th-century mosaic at Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo

The planet sighed, then held its breath,
while in the town of Bethlehem
a virgin bore a baby boy.
A star appeared, much brighter than
its sisters in the galaxy.
Three Zoroastrians began
a journey, guided by the light.
They traveled night and day from distant
eastern lands, it’s said—and to
Jerusalem at first they came
and told King Herod when they had
espied the star. Who were these men?
Magicians? Kings? Of royal birth?
Some say that they were Balthasar
from Ethiopia, and with him,
noble Melchior from Persia,
Gaspar, king of India.
Tradition tells us that they knelt
in meek obeisance to the babe.
They gave him gold and aromatic
frankincense and myrrh, as if
to say, As spreads the fragrance of
these oils, so shall thy love, O holy
child.
And they adored him, did
these men who journeyed ‘neath the star;
they worshiped him while shepherds knelt
and angels sang; and all their riches
were as naught beside the glory
of the newborn Prince of Peace.
We call the day that they arrived
Epiphany—God manifest.

What did they know, these mighty kings,
to undertake the perils of
a journey from a far-off land?
What did they see upon his brow
and in his mien—Mary’s son—
and what was whispered on his breath?
Did they know then that he had come
to free the prisoners of fear
and save the world from sin and death?

Dear God, we shall adore him too,
the baby boy in Bethlehem.
Three kings set out to see the Christ;
shall we do less than these good men?

Amen.

Ring the Christmas Bells

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Ring the Christmas bells, ring in Emmanuel
today. A child is born in Bethlehem amid the
creatures in the stable. Humble his
surroundings, yet he comes to rule the hearts of
people ‘round the world. Are you afraid?
Give to the holy one your fears. And do you
weep? Give him your tears; he makes of them
your baptism. Return to purity, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in the victory
of joy and peace. A child is born in Bethlehem,
and creatures give him homage. Kings adore
him; precious are the gifts they bring. Now sing
for him a lullaby; sing him to sleep. Sing this:
Sweet Jesus, God among us, Lord Emmanuel.
So innocent is he, yet he accepts our sin and
our distress. Return to bliss, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in the hope of
better days to be. A child is born in Bethlehem,
a world transformed his gift to you and me.
He is the Morning Star; the very sun bows
down to him, and through his tender mercy
what was old and weary now is new again.
Give him your tears, and they become your
baptism. Return to innocence, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.

It Is Finished

All that perishes is done, its temporality
expired, its finite span come to an end.
Love dawns, and darkness runs for cover,
scattering to its mysterious retreats,
its caverns damp and chill and inhospitable to all
except the twisted denizens of night. But light
now floods the caves and crevices, and darkness
has no place to hide.

It is finished. Now everything begins, and
what now is, what has begun, is born of love
and cannot die. Remember this, in winters
that descend untimely, blighted by disease
or grief, when pain extinguishes anticipation,
faith is tested and found wanting, hope is lost.
But hopelessness is finished, and despair died
on the cross.

Now everything begins, and we reside
in that eternal morning where the sun
forever rises, lavishing magnificent
abundance on the living—energy for
what we are and what we shall become.

Like seeds dropped carelessly among dry weeds,
for what seemed an eternity we waited, tiny
miracles of life and possibility. We waited
comfortlessly, frozen, numb below the crust
of earth where we’d arrived, not understanding
why or how, borne by which wind or for what
purpose. There we lay, absurdly small and
weak, without the power to exchange our
situation with what we aspired to be—the oak,
the grapevine, even (if we had no other choice)
the common milkweed—anything alive
and free. We waited, with our destinies
obscure, obeying the imperative of life, until
the earth around us warmed and softened,
waking our imaginations. Smothering in
darkness, blind but sensing that the equinox
had come and gone—the sun returned at
last and lengthening the days—how urgently
we longed to break our bonds and dance.
And still we waited, waited on, exhilarated,
frightened, eager to explore; we would have
chosen to emerge before our time, too soon
discarding our protection but for intuition’s
wise reluctance, warning of another killing
frost… and so we waited, waited on, until
we thought that we must climb out of the
grave or die. Denied, we grew impatient, tried
to plan how it would be, and doubted our
ability to push through the detritus of
innumerable seasons, layers of debris that
moldered as we slept—dead grass; damp,
matted leaves; entangled roots of ancient trees
compounded by neglect and entropy… a feast
for worms, perhaps… for us, a trap, impenetrable
by such means as we possessed, without
momentum, drained of will, and utterly unequal
to the task.

So suddenly the moment comes, we are astonished
by the ease of our ascent despite our lack of
preparation, effortlessly rising through the loam
into the gentle light while slender threads roam
underground, revealing infinite supply.  Around us,
pomegranate, lavender, mesquite, and rose bloom
copiously, bearing fruit and indiscriminately offering
their attributes to creatures winged or crawling, great
or minuscule. We have been here before, astride
the grand continuum, awakening in spring, disporting
gleefully on endless-seeming summer afternoons, then
wonderfully ripening, as if we had reserved our true
magnificence for this extravagant display, this final
surge of life before the cycle of decay begins.

But we shall not descend again. Nature now is
satisfied, her laws suspended. She requires nothing
further from us. It is finished, and there will be
no more winters. Without limit, light becoming life
eternally, joy flows in rivers; bliss crowns the forests,
fields, and groves; and we have just begun to live.

All is as the Gospel promised:

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.*

It has begun, will be—and we shine on. Amen.

_IT-IS-FINISHED-LAKESIDE___

* From the Canticle of Zechariah, Luke 1:78-79
“It is finished” (John 19:30)

Epiphany

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Adoration of the Magi, Sandro Botticelli, c. 1475

God, send forth your spirit upon us.

Had we not wandered from the hearth
where burned the flame that gave us sight
and warmed our bones—had we not gone
from home, and left the fire behind;
then, captured in the snares of night,
we had no recollection of
from which direction we had come
nor could we see the firelight—
Until we knew that we were lost,
we did not call for you, O God.

Had we not wandered from the stream,
believing that the food and drink
we carried would suffice for thirst
and hunger—when the wells were dry,
our flasks were empty, long since gone
our meager stores of bread and wine—
and those who would have guided us
we pridefully had left behind—
Until the skies refused to rain,
we did not call upon your name.

And still you came with angel hosts
and gave from Heaven’s bounty all
we needed—what we needed most:
the certainty that when we call
on you, already you have come
with love and grace to lead us home.

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Reading a Letter, Delphin Enjolras, 1857-1945

From Wikipedia: Epiphany—also Theophany or Three Kings’ Day—is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Moreover, the feast of the Epiphany, in some Western Christian denominations, also initiates the liturgical season of Epiphanytide. Eastern Christians, on the other hand, commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. The traditional date for the feast is January 6.

Colloquially, an epiphany is an “Aha!” or “Eureka!” moment, defined at merriam-webster.com as “an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.” The poem/prayer “Epiphany” above represents my own realization that only in darkness does light have meaning but the light is never withdrawn….