Five Years

Five years ago, at half past ten:
Bell-peals! “Baptized in Christ!”
But in my fear – foundations weak –
His Grace not yet sufficed;

Five years ago, His hand – outstretched
to mine at Gates of Death –
urged “onward!”, yet did wait for me;
yes, Life did hold its breath.

Five years ago, I gave no sign;
I froze as Hell washed o’er
and glued me to my childhood seat,
to all I’d known before.

Five years ago, the paschal night
was one with all the past.
He lit the way to Adam: Old
to New, and First to Last.

Five years ago – bizarre exchange! –
God did propose a deal:
“I’ll show you how I rescued him
if you’ll trust me to heal.”

Five years are spinning by in blur!
O, Friends! O Anguished Cries!
Five seconds – at the most! – I’ve seen
with clear, unclouded eyes!

Five years are gone. Old Eve,
the Prophets, Kings, and Just
Ones wait for me to give reply,
impatient for my trust.

Five years have taught me only one
truth, held through burning tears;
which, namely, is: “the opposite
of love’s not hate, but fears.”

Five years have led to this, and this
alone: these are the times!
Not then, nor futures yet to come,
but now to heed the chimes!

Five years of Easter bells have rung
out, dearest Jesus Christ;
five years of fear are past; now I
can say: “His Grace sufficed”.

Thomas Sunday

Dear Name, so hallowed by the course
of human word and deed;
unworthy bearer, I, unsure,
to “Thomas” do accede.

Which, one, did grace a strong-willed son
who – hardy, rash, and brave –
declared “destruction though it be,
I’ll trail thee to the grave!”

And, two, adorned the Lord’s own day
which ends the Octave Week
of Him whose life has killed old death:
whose aid confirms the meek.

But thirdly, did alight on one
“dumb ox”, whose mind held sway;
glimpsed Ipsum Esse Subsistens,
yet humbly ground his hay.

Then, fourth, a tortured heart, at risk:
conflicted loyalty,
in death, pray’d for a murd’rous State,
and met True Royalty.

The fifth, it must be said – not strange,
giv’n those, before, thus crowned –
repeats the fourth in love; his blood,
too, drained upon the ground.

A sixth? A wondrous multitude
of mystics, martyrs, men
of India; identical
in praise of God. Amen!

A seventh’s needed to fulfill
the line of this one Saint;
well, what can one man do, dear Name?
In light of these, I faint!

But this great list of poets, priests,
and sinners made anew
is not exhausted yet — so I,
as “Thomas”, join the queue.

Bless God, my fellow baptized twins,
and pray for our dark days
when Summum Bonum is forgot:
that Truth might shine and blaze.

Conditor alme siderum

A Free Translation
of the
Vesperal Hymn for Advent

Conditor alme siderum

Eternal Maker of the Light,
the Loving Father, whose far rays
descend from timeless, cosmic nights
and brighten every creature’s ways;

aeterna lux credentium

Eternal Light of faithful souls,
whose Spirit falls like dew on climes
of ancient, arid, barren poles
so battered by the signs and times;

Christe redemptor omnium

Eternal Saviour of our chains;
our beauteous bail, redeeming all
who dare to hope that grace sustains
and does not execute the Fall;

exaudi preces supplicum

Eternal Vigil of the Earth,
do not be wary of our pleas;
attend when we cry out in dearth,
assaulted most when on our knees.

Qui condolens interitu

Who, suff’ring with the ruined ones
that came from dust and turned on back,
did graft your love to all the sons
of Abraham – the image cracked;

mortis perire saeculum

Who, suff’ring with entropic life
that you had called from naught to be,
fixed Deity unto its wife,
and joined the manger to the Tree;

salvasti mundum languidum,

Who, suff’ring with the sick and poor,
planned not to leave our dying age
alone, nor shiv’ring at the door,
but wrote the deed to lease its cage;

donans reis remedium.

Who, suff’ring with the blind and lame,
cast off your garments, gold and pure,
and ills were remedied; the same
may now give praise, who’ve found the cure.

Vergente mundi vespere,

As eve’ning drew its veil across
a world in final, sad decline;
and as the sun grew weak, at loss
to warm the grapes and cheer the vine,

uti sponsus de thalamo,

As eve’ning shadowed God’s foot-stool,
your charity could only take
your wisdom off, and look a fool:
a bridegroom drunk with love’s worst ache;

egressus honestissima

As eve’ning threatened all you held,
(Death, enemy with glut of hate
for all life’s scents that Adam smelled),
you went unto a garden gate;

Virginis matris clausula.

As eve’ning fled the dawning morn,
your vestal palace shone in hues
of fire; the Herald-Angel, borne
by Providence, brought down the news.

Cuius forti potentiae

Incarnate King who came to teach;
pow’r shown in patience; meek and mild,
compelling none, requesting each;
mysterious, unexpected child!

genu curvantur omnia;

Incarnate King, whose arm is strong,
yet not to quell the Roman host:
but heal; and homage from the throng
will tell: “the weakest has the most”.

caelestia, terrestria

Incarnate King of earth and sky;
you reign on clouds and rule the tides;
from moths that flit between the rye,
to nebulae that pulse and glide.

nutu fatentur subdita.

“Incarnate King!” all creatures own,
as Master of the atoms’ course,
as Wisdom on the sapphire throne,
to whom we bow the head, in force.

Te, Sancte, fide quaesumus,

To you, All-Holy One, we ask
for full, illuminated faith
to see and welcome you, our Pasch:
The Seventh Day – and more, our Eighth.

venture iudex saeculi,

To you, the Judge who is to come,
we look for justice in the New
which supercedes old Satan’s thumb,
he under whom we struggle through.

conserva nos in tempore

To you, Conserving Balm put on
by fighting souls cut down, before
the age that is to come anon,
give healing poise on which to soar;

hostis a telo perfidi.

To you, the Captain of the Guard
of El-Shaddai’s most Inner Court,
we send petition for a hard,
and brutal strike on Hell’s cohort!

Sit, Christe, rex piissime,

Christ Jesus, Loving King of Man,
your holy name calls us apart
from fear, to seal the holy bann
of marriage to God’s deepest heart.

tibi Patrique gloria

Christ Jesus, all the Father is
except to be the Father, now
we glorify you, who are His,
rejoicing in our filial vow.

cum Spiritu Paraclito,

Christ Jesus, with the Spirit, God,
effulgent rays of comfort bled
into our hearts are shed abroad,
to Him whose glory you have led.

in sempiterna saecula. Amen.

Christ Jesus, glory be for ‘ere
to you who came to us in need;
which glory (gift from all) may ne’er
your Godhead be in want or need.

 

Sonnet XIX – Two Parties

The atheist can celebrate, but each
December’s hours are weak, before the feast
of incarnation; whence he wakes (oh beast!),
hung-over on the darkened morning’s beach.
A Christian — waiting, watching, full of trust —
himself takes up the opposite: the void
that Advent waits to fill is unalloyed.
For them a ball; for us, to wait. We must.
Then, having made our genuflection last,
— the duty that is requisite  — we’ll rise,
to greet the glorious God, and, I surmise,
receive Divinity’s embrace, who’ll blast:
“Let’s start the party, for this is the day
that I have made; rejoice now, as ye may!”

Sonnet XVIII – Advent

Immortal Jesus! Bright-Crowned Son! Come, stride
the cradle to the cross. On! Forward! Go
from weakness on to weakness, and thus show
your humble course, rejecting mortal pride.
Before the star had risen in the East,
when Earth was dark, when seasons did not strum
their music, you sealed your plan to come,
and live, incarnate: Greatest as the least.
So come, from highest cosmic glory’s throne!
The only lover of mankind! Come, Mild
One! Cloak the Loving Father in the Child,
and ransom all the little ones; your own.
Come back! Complete your reign! Begin
the end of death, that we may wake, your twin.

A Cross

A cross was placed before my face
today,
but I preferred (and said) “be fed”,
to “feed”;
and “better to be led”, than lead
the way.

It was no painful task to strain
my will,
but I preferred to freeze (at ease)
than strive;
“to love? no, fear!” and fear did thrive
with skill.

I could have been with Man. Though lean,
he’s stuffed;
but I preferred to satiate
alone,
with bloody “freedom”, on its own,
hand-cuffed.

That cross rushed down on me, a brush
with God,
who can’t prefer the golden molds
(they’re naught),
but humbler icons: better wrought,
if flawed.

Communion’s bonds of love, but spawned
by choice.
I must prefer my death to breath
that sighs
and, isolated, lets none cry
“rejoice”.

If all the Church would thus besmirch
the Faith
by losing Love, I’d heed the Creed
no more,
and, ripping it in two, deplore
that wraith.

Sonnet XVII – Defender

Defend, O Lord, this little hill,
this inner field where wars are fought,
this Agincourt of dauntless will,
this Flanders evil empires sought.
Despite not, God, this tiny fort,
this long-held bunker of my faith,
this outpost of the lowest sort,
this oft-contested no-man’s-land.
Descend, my Christ, a charging horse!
O Light Brigade, let battle ring!
O Fusilier, come reinforce
your soil, which gladly greets its King.
Depart, O foes, from Jesu: Lord,
Redeemer, wielding Grace’s sword.

Gems

O placid king of lush horizons green!
As sons, adopted to your royal house,
we lift our hands in that pacific mien
adorned with diadems: your holy Spouse.

All jewels which you, Lord, can furnish, here
are shining from her countenance; enticed
by Him whose flowing robes are our great weir
of shiv’ring men: our glimm’ring joy, O Christ.

Can this great emerald bear mortal praise?
No earthly meadow surely would suffice
to show that mystery; the burning blaze
New Adam kindled when He paid the price.

O that high, wondrous ruby on the crest!
What human fire, consuming all, displays
such blood-red hue? Ah, only your pierced chest,
enduring blackened darkness for three days.

And lapis lazuli is there! A lake
of living water, flowing without cost
from your great Wisdom, for our thirst to slake
and hearts to cleanse, and never to exhaust.

Beholding Topaz ’round your forehead’s peak,
we know the glowing furnace of your love;
the golden mouth of which all virtues speak,
which spoke, and formed the radiant stars above.

A lustrous pearl, atop the apex, high!
In it we hear the echoed angels’ song,
apostles’ prayers, chants of love, a sigh
of longing from the white-robed, baptized throng.

We see, reflected, in your deathless face,
our whitewashed sorrows: colourless, in pain,
which bleached your glory for our fallen race;
yet, risen evermore, you shine again.

In you, our gentle Christ – and in the Bride
you’ve called through water’s purifying flood –
the gems who gleam like that which pierced your side
are all of us, in you, full-washed with blood.

To you, our risen and ascended God
– before all things, the first of many sons –
with Father and the Holy Spirit, laud
and glory be from your bright little ones.

Sonnet XVI – Andrew

While swooners strummed and Western bands so sweetly played,
and sweat of brow was earned in lechery, not hope,
A Rev’rend, gentle man in Africa has prayed
for child enslaved and adult sentenced to the rope.
He’s sacrificed a thousand lives to give them Christ,
and he is better for it  (oh my Lord, how much!)
for we have chased our love to “progress”, highly-priced,
but him? the kingdom of our God belongs to such.
If we would find a way to back off from the edge,
to stop our world’s last leaping at the precipice,
we must look far from Home, our prouder bets to hedge;
yes, back to those we thought we’d taught all blessedness.
His skin is black, but beautiful his striving soul;
his kin shall whisper “Faith” to us, whose hearts are coal.

In Winter

I cannot grasp the reasoning
why Winter’s thought a loss,
and not Year’s Boast!
Why not “the sweetest seasoning
on dripping, slow-cooked roast”?
For God has given us an os,
well-fed, in Winter.

From what is clearer comfort drawn:
removal of the skin
in summer-tide,
or layered clothing, quick to don,
‘fore chill can freeze our hide?
For God has loved, not left to Gwyn;
well-warmed, in Winter.

Look forward not to shiver’s hate,
nor shoveling that fluff
(which can be ill,
admittedly); but scorn the bait
which threatens rage, so shrill,
at God’s snow: white and wondrous stuff,
well-trudged in Winter.

As Autumn fails and orange retreats,
as red is routed fast,
go not to mourn
nor cloak yourself beneath the sheets!
Go well, by boot adorned,
for God’s great lights are long to last,
well-lit, in Winter.

Can company quell heat, or shield
from all-encumbering
and humid air?
But walk with friends through snow-clad field,
a land well-worth the glare;
and God’s well-met (if lumbering),
well-known, in Winter.

In tavern, fireside, public house,
with warm-cream ale and beer
and stout by hearth,
fear not to be with kin and spouse,
rejoicing well in mirth,
for God made vines (and hops!) to cheer
man’s heart, in Winter.