ashwednesday: ocean (Default)
"Welcome, happy morning!"
Age to age shall say.

Months in due succession, days of lengthening light,
Hours and passing moments praise Thee in their flight.
Brightness of the morning, sky and fields and sea,
Vanquisher of darkness, bring their praise to Thee.

Then said he to them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even to death: tarry you here, and watch with me. Matthew 26:38

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.Mark 1:3

On Good Friday I went to Notre Dame for the three o'clock service, as is traditional. It was different to what I have been used to back in England; I would usually expect a reading of the Passion, but instead we had the fourteen stations of the Cross, and there was a veneration of the Crown of Thorns rather than of the Cross - and this went on throughout the service rather than at a fixed point, so there were people walking up the aisle constantly. The cathedral was packed, and there were still tourists milling about. But for all this it was an extraordinarily lovely service. Priests spoke in five languages - six if you count the sung Latin - so that there were at least some parts of the service that everyone, in the international context of Notre Dame, could understand, and the music was exceptionally lovely.

I have not had a very successful Lent. I began with good intentions, but the days seemed to slip away from me, and I gave over hardly any time to the proper sort of devotions. Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Good Friday is a fine time for repentance; I always find myself sorrowing over my many failings. It's acting on that feeling which is difficult. I need to find a way to keep God in the forefront of my life. Because I am always welcome, and that in a way is one of the causes of my bitterest regret - when I turn back to God, I find Him, and yet I let myself slip away because keeping in sight of God is hard work, work of ashes and stones as much as of joy.

I always cry on Good Friday. I am moved quite easily to tears, and Good Friday always gets to me, of course. I nearly completely lost it this year, though. I had that aching dragging feeling in my chest of wanting to sob, not merely shed a couple of tears. Don't do a Margery Kempe, I told myself sternly. No one wants to see that. I may want to cry each year, but what makes me want to weep varies. This year it was the reading from Mark that reports on Christ's agony in the garden of Gethsemane. My soul is sorrowful even to death... Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.

Not what I will, but what you will.

This is one of the most painful parts of the Passion, in some ways more than the Crucifixion. That Christ knows that death is coming for Him, and He is afraid, and He is grieving for the life He is about to lose. He asks God to take this cup from Him. He may be God, but he is also Man, and He is not ready. But at last He says not what I will but what you will.

There's a fatalistic sort of brand of Christianity that talks about handing everything over to God, that says "it's God's will" as if one's own actions make no difference to the course of things, a passive handing over of responsibility to God. That's not what is happening here. Christ makes an active choice to hand over His life to God, not because that is what He wants or what is easiest, but because it is right. It is an act of extraordinary faith. And yes, Christ is God, and so He knows what is to come; but He is also a man, and whatever He knows as God must have been, in the exhaustion of His perfectly human body, difficult to see. The enormity of the present overshadows even the knowledge of the eternal.

The reason I've never got on very well with the pantheon of virgin martyrs is that they always presented as bearing their suffering calmly, completely confident that they are going to heaven. Some of them even seem to seek out martyrdom, in a way that young men and women today strap explosive devices to their bodies for the glory of Allah. Let me show You, Lord, let the suffering of my body be a gift, let me die for Your glory they seem to say, eager for the passionate embrace of death. This isn't how Christ faces death. Christ knows that it will hurt, and he is afraid - of bodily pain, of the humiliation He will face, of knowing that one of his closest friends will reject Him, that people who have adored Him will cheer at his execution. His death is not glorious. The Crucifixion is such a significant part of our cultural consciousness that it's easy to forget this - to see Christ crucified in our minds as art, images of his perfect, beautiful suffering from Diego Velazquez to Salvador Dali. But it was a squalid, painful, humiliating way to die. It was a grotesque spectacle for onlookers, and was a punishment reserved for the worst sort of criminals. It could take days under a hot sun, insects attracted to your sweat and blood and piss and shit, watching crowds jeering, and if somehow you were still alive after a few days someone would smash the bones of your legs to encourage asphyxiation. Of course Christ was afraid. He had the privilege of knowing that this would pass, that it would be worthwhile, but His human heart was afraid. I think I love Him more for that than almost anything save His love for us, because I know that He knows how hard it is to be human, how hard it is to do the right thing.

Today I went to my local church. It was a lovely mass, although without a mass sheet I found it difficult to follow the readings (I really must buy a French mass book - most of the churches I've been to in Paris provide a mass sheet, but not all, and I get more out of it if I can read along with the French!). Two children were baptised - a first for me, because I've seen infant baptisms and adult baptisms but never the baptism of children aged around 7 or 8. I assume that their parents have recently joined the Church. They were solemn and sweet, and the priest was very kind, and it was just lovely to watch. And pouring out of church at the end there were so many bright faced people heading into the sunny Sunday morning. There was nothing spectacular for me about this mass, no moment of great revelation, and I was a bit headachey and the church was hot and I found it hard to make any prayers of note. I always want Easter to feel like a great shout, a ringing of the heavens as Christ conquers death. But today there was just an everyday sort of happiness in the church, and I thought: how easy it is for me, who always wants such storms of feeling in my faith, to ignore the quiet contentment offered by the knowledge that each year there will be another Easter, and another, and another, and each offers the promise that through God it is never too late to start over. And that if each year I need to start over, that is alright. The Resurrection offers us so many different points of contemplation, and I have focused on different ones every year, but this year it seems to me that God was saying quietly: all will be well. Not because we are passively turning over our judgement to God, or because we are blindly optimistic, but because we believe, despite the terrible suffering there is in the world, despite the hurt we do ourselves and each other, that we are worth saving. That we are all worth saving, and we are beloved.

Happy Easter.
ashwednesday: (spilled milk)
NOTE: THIS POST STARTS OUT AS A RANT ABOUT PERIODS THEN TURNS INTO SOME KIND OF CATHOLIC THING. JUST GO WITH IT. I posted this on my livejournal yesterday and it got a surprising number of comments, so let's stick it on Dreamwidth too.

I wish people would talk honestly and openly about menstruation. I don't mean in a "let's be positive about our bodies!" kind of way, or even in a "let's cut the blue-liquid tampon ad crap", but in the sense of actually talking about what the experience of menstruation is really like. Not just cramps, or menstrual disorders, but the whole everyday physicality of it, all the different things it does to your body. Girls get SO little education on what to expect.

There's such a taboo about talking about menstruation. Mostly it's about the blood, but it's not just that. Even people who are all cheerleadery about being open about the fact that yes, every few weeks we do tend to leak blood, shy away from talking about what else menstruation does. I mean, when you start your periods, unless you have a well-informed and willing-to-talk parent, how do you know that increased progesterone levels speed up peristalsis, so you might have to empty your bowels more often? Or that cramping doesn't just necessarily feature in the pelvic region but may radiate down the legs, the arms? That you might throw up because of your changing hormone levels? That the blood on day 1 may be completely different to on day 3 and day 5? That it smells different as well as looks different? No one really talks that much about the whole - shitting, pissing, pukingly physical side of periods. Things that aren't neatly enclosed by a floral-wrapped tampon and a handy box of Feminax. But it's nothing to be ashamed of. At the same time, you don't have to be all hearts-and-flowers about your period, using your blood to make (usually rather dreadful and terribly earnest) menstrual art. You can be grossed out and annoyed by your period, that's cool. I'm not saying let's all talk all the time about all the physical processes - I don't want to hear the ins and outs of people's bowel movements as a general rule, so why should that change now? But I do think it'd be healthy if there was more general awareness of how many things in one's life, physical and mental, menstruation affects.

with this in mind it seems hypocritical to cut, but someone might complain about BLOOD )

I was pretty annoyed, but it struck me this evening - as I rinsed out my knickers, good times - that really, I'm a lot better off than I used to be, given how painful my periods were in the past. I'm not really sure why in the last two or three years they've mellowed out a bit - it might just be age - but after 17 years of having periods I am glad for any slack I may get. This doesn't mean my periods aren't painful, far from it. I still take my prescription drugs, and my cramps are way too strong for a couple of regular ibuprofen to handle. But the agonising pain is rare nowadays, so I'm glad of that.

And I also thought, watching blood rinse away, how human I feel when I have my period, and that that's not altogether a bad thing. I've never been one of those women who get all IN TOUCH WITH MY INNER GODDESS over my period, and I shy away from the idea that menstruation = femininity, because there are, of course, many women who don't menstruate (and some men who do). Having a period doesn't put me in touch somehow with a mystical feminising power. But! I started thinking about - wait for it, kids - Jesus, and how maybe I can find spiritual connection through the processes of menstruation.

Back in the later middle ages, the body of Christ became a focus of particular devotion. People became fascinated by the physicality of Christ, and artists started focusing on his body - Christ as an infant, depicted with sweet folds of fat, with clearly delineated genitalia, sucking on his mother's breast; Christ as a crucified man, forehead and arms and side and feet bleeding. At this time there were a great many religious women who felt passionately connected to Christ's body. And there does seem, in some of these mystical writings, to be a connection between menstruation and Christ's wounds, a sense that the physical processes of medieval womanhood could be understood and in a way almost shared by Christ, who suffered in his body so terribly. Christ-as-Mother is not an outlandish concept to medieval mystics, and while Christ is never a woman, there can seem something liminal about his body. Perfectly human, Christ embodies lived experience, and medieval women, used to being criticised for being too much of the body anyway, seemed to find something very liberating in being able to both express their love for him through their bodies and believe that he shared in their bodily experiences. (There's a whole lot I could say about the sexiness of medieval spirituality, and how a sexualised element to mystical experience is quite common, but I'll save that for another time, if anyone's interested...)

Anyway, thinking of all this made me wonder about ways I can try to appreciate the processes of my body better as an act of faith. I'm not going to suddenly get all holy about menstruating, reverently wrapping up used sanitary towels and saying an Our Father over them before putting them in the bin (jaysis wept!), but I think this might be a useful thing for me to think about. Suffering is such a terrible mystery, and I've been back to thinking about it as a philosophical problem since reading The Sparrow. I know I'm never going to have an answer about it. But I wonder if thinking about the Crucifixion a bit more may help.
ashwednesday: medieval tapestry (Tapestry desire)
Today a dear friend of mine announced her engagement. I am very happy for her and her intended! Also, she is one of my few Catholic friends, which means I can get a God-mention into my congratulations without it seeming creepy. Thinking on her marriage made me turn to The Song of Songs, one of the most beautiful books of the Old Testament.

Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!
“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”
My lover belongs to me and I to him.
He says to me:
“Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm;
For stern as death is love,
relentless as the nether world is devotion;
its flames are a blazing fire.
Deep waters cannot quench love,
nor floods sweep it away.”

This is one of the suggested readings for a Catholic wedding. People often misunderstand the Church's teaching on sexual love. (I'm not interested today in debating the Church's position on homosexual relationships; anyone who knows me knows how I feel about this, and I'd rather this not be sidetracked.) No less auspicious and, one would assume, conservative group than the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has this to offer about the appropriateness of this passage:

It is a love poem describing two young lovers discovering the beauty of their created bodies, and their desire to share it in love and mutual fidelity. Parts of the book express erotic love. The gift of sexuality is affirmed and portrayed without apology. There is radical equality with both lovers desiring to share in it with equal intensity. Love is seen as a communion of souls.

(Love as radical, sexuality as unashamed. Take that, naysayers!)

I am particularly taken with this translation of the text - stern as death is love. Often that "stern" is rendered "strong", which gives this text a more romantic and straightforwardly optimistic reading. Love conquers all. Here, however, the "stern" renders love into something more complex. Love is serious; love is as severe as death, as transformative. It is a shock to the body. It transfigures. It can be implacable. In these ways it is similar to death. But that "as" also sets it up as a contrast, a counterpoint. Death is a conqueror, but so is love. Love is fierce. Death takes us all, but love wins. Love does conquer all. That does not mean that love overcomes all obstacles; it means that the ability to love, that emotion which makes us as close to the divine as we can as mortals get, means we do not have to be debased by them. We do not have to be conquered. There are so many things in our world that kill us or disfigure us - in our hearts and souls as well as bodies - but our capacity to love is, I think, a reminder that there is nothing that cannot be forgiven. That may not seem like much consolation in a barren time; the greatest truths are often bald, and the comfort they offer is of a severe sort. Love is stern. Love is a gift that is difficult to use.

It is a great and terrible challenge to decide to love one person as your spouse for the rest of your life. It is only one form of love, but in many ways it is one of the most difficult. It is a choice that must be made again and again. Anyone who believes in Happily Ever Afters is misguided; happiness does not just happen, but is made through our choices, day by day. But this, I think, is a good thing. For fairytales have an ending written into that happily-ever-after. And so I wish my friend not a happily ever after, but a great start on a transformative adventure called We.
ashwednesday: ocean (Ocean to the granite shore)
A bitter Good Friday it is today, with rain lashing down from a leaden sky. The church was as cold as December through the hour and forty minutes of the service until at the very end the clouds broke and sunlight streamed through the emptying church - a sort of reversion, one would think, of the appropriate weather for Good Friday. Surely the sky should darken, the clouds roll in, as we exit in mourning for the crucified Christ? It seems a dark sort of Good Friday indeed, with the Vatican once again putting its foot in its mouth in a fairly spectacular fashion. There are so many dark clouds of late. And yet -

I have said a lot about this already this week, and once again T.S. Eliot does it better, anyway (though for a change I'm not quoting Ash Wednesday). He may have been an Anglican, but Eliot always seems able to turn to words the own fumblings of my own lazy Catholic heart. This strikes me today:

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away -
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

Good Friday is a day to be tested, not to be comforted. I think of the disciples, the agony of despair they must have felt, seeing Christ crucified, the sun pulled down from heaven as the earth fell dark. If they could bear that, what should we not be able to bear? That our hearts can be broken is a sign that our hearts love, and Good Friday is a day of love stripped of its pretenses, of its grace, a day when love is blood and death and a hope that is closer to agony than comfort. O Man. O God.

Perhaps then it is fitting that the sun came out after the service today, as we turned away from the cross, the empty tabernacle. This is only one ending.

I want my church to shine. But I understand that everything, from our institutions to our innermost beings, are seen through a glass, darkly. Arms outstretched, listening for the Word, and its echoing liturgy, I make my way forward, in bright hope.
ashwednesday: blossoms (Spring has sprung)
Note: this is Jesus Bizniz - if that makes you uncomfortable, do move along...

See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Zechariah 9:9-10

It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.
Pope Benedict's letter to Catholics in Ireland, 19 March 2010

"...He performed a sexual act on me. At that very moment he murdered my soul."
German victim of sexual abuse by a priest

I've been wanting to write about the paedophilia scandal which has once again reared its head in the press, but I have not been sure how to do it. I do not have anything to say that has not already been said about the terrible crimes that were committed against children by men who were trusted by those children and by those communities. There is little more monstrous than the abuse of children. How do I articulate the disappointment I feel in knowing that my Church covered up crimes against the vulnerable? Such things can make it harder to hold up one's head and pronounce oneself still proud to be a Catholic, even in the face of such evils. And yet I still have such faith in my Church. How can I reconcile this disappointment with my love?

click to continue reading )
ashwednesday: (Christmas tree)
And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing's small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And,–glancing on my own thin, veined wrist,–
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from Aurora Leigh.

In the Christmas carols that we sing at this time of year, Earth is so crammed with heaven that out of every verse tumble rejoicing angels, stars comet-bright streaking portents, men struck with visions. The presence of God is tangible, touchable. Those of us who are Christian believe that two-thousand-years-and-change ago, our God was physical. Our God was touchable.

There are really no words that adequately express the wonder of that. The Resurrection is a more solemn feast than the Nativity, but if the Resurrection is a deep and abiding Mystery, how great a miracle that God was ever made flesh at all. The Universe was incarnate. The Universe was Man. As a concept it borders on absurdity.

Earth's crammed with heaven

(In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct.)

As a Catholic, the body is of vital significance to me. We are not ghosts in machines; our bodies are as vital to our humanity as our souls are. In the quickening of our bodies, each tiny tremor of our veins, our humanity cries out for good and for ill. And God came among us as a man, not throwing on a body like a suit but truly incarnate, sharing with us the experience of a shitting, hungry, thirsty, aching, joyful, delighting, precious body. At that time Heaven was very close to Earth. Today's miracles are harder to see; but they are in each of us, every day, if we can mark the mystery of the mundane, recognise the flame of the divine in - perhaps Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it best -

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Merry Christmas to you all, and to all - good night.
ashwednesday: ocean (Ocean to the granite shore)
Tomorrow I'm attending the funeral of the mother of a dear friend. I have been thinking about this a lot tonight. I have also been thinking about faith. Those aren't really thoughts I wish to write about on the back of someone else's grief, though I may blog about them at some other point. I find that when I run out of appropriate words to say, I end up using someone else's. It's funny; I came to poetry quite late. I was a voracious reader from a very young age, chewing up books and swallowing them in great chunks, but I didn't read much poetry at all until I reached my twenties. I think my mind was too frantic in my adolescence; I needed the rush of reading a hundred pages in an hour.

In 2007 I fell in love with T.S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday. Since then it has been my favourite poem. 2007 was not the first time I read it, but because of several changes in my life it struck a chord with me then, and has continued to resonate in a way even my most beloved other poems do not. I have tried so many times to write about my experience of faith, and I keep coming back to the conclusion that I think Ash Wednesday says everything I could want to say, and more eloquently. Each time I look at it I see something new. I include it here in its entirety; I'm not really a fan of "favourite quotations", and sometimes it does us good to see things as a whole.

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.


At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

but speak the word only.

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Whe walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking,

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but
spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny
the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season,
time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.


ashwednesday: ocean (Default)

January 2013

67 89101112


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags