Listen sweet Dove unto my song,
And spread thy golden wings in me;
Hatching my tender heart so long,
Till it get wing, and fly away with thee.
Where is that fire which once descended
On thy Apostles? thou didst then
Keep open house, richly attended,
Feasting all comers by twelve chosen men.
Such glorious gifts thou didst bestow,
That th’earth did like a heav’n appear;
The stars were coming down to know
If they might mend their wages, and serve here.
The sun which once did shine alone,
Hung down his head, and wisht for night,
When he beheld twelve suns for one
Going about the world, and giving light.
But since those pipes of gold, which brought
That cordial water to our ground,
Were cut and martyr’d by the fault
Of those, who did themselves through their side wound,
Thou shutt’st the door, and keep’st within;
Scarce a good joy creeps through the chink:
And if the braves of conqu’ring sin
Did not excite thee, we should wholly sink.
Lord, though we change, thou art the same;
The same sweet God of love and light:
Restore this day, for thy great name,
Unto his ancient and miraculous right.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
The white dove cooeth in her downy nest,
Keeping her young ones warm beneath her breast:
The white moon saileth thro’ the cool clear sky,
Screened by a tender mist in passing by:
The white rose buds, with thorns upon its stem,
All the more precious and more dear for them:
The stream shines silver in the tufted grass,
The white clouds scarcely dim it as they pass:
Deep in the valleys lily cups are white,
They send up incense all the holy night:
Our souls are white, made clean in Blood once shed:
White blessed Angels watch around our bed: —
O spotless Lamb of God, still keep us so,
Thou Who wert born for us in time of snow.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Once more I hear the everlasting sea
Breathing beneath the mountain’s fragrant breast,
Come unto Me, come unto Me,
And I will give you rest.
We have destroyed the Temple and in three days
He hath rebuilt it – all things are made new:
And hark what wild throats pour His praise
Beneath the boundless blue.
We plucked down all His altars, cried aloud
And gashed ourselves for little gods of clay!
Yon floating cloud was but a cloud,
The May no more than May.
We plucked down all His altars, left not one
Save where, perchance (and ah, the joy was fleet),
We laid our garlands in the sun
At the white Sea-born’s feet.
We plucked down all His altars, not to make
The small praise greater, but the great praise less,
We sealed all fountains where the soul could slake
Its thirst and weariness.
‘Love’ was too small, too human to be found
In that transcendent source whence love was born:
We talked of ‘forces’: heaven was crowned
With philosophic thorn.
‘Your God is in your image’, we cried, but O,
’Twas only man's own deepest heart ye gave,
Knowing that He transcended all ye know,
While – we dug His grave.
Denied Him even the crown on our own brow,
E’en these poor symbols of His loftier reign,
Levelled His Temple with the dust, and now
He is risen, He is risen again,
Risen, like this resurrection of the year,
This grand ascension of the choral spring,
Which those harp-crowded heavens bend to hear
And meet upon the wing.
‘He is dead’, we cried, and even amid that gloom
The wintry veil was rent! The new-born day
Showed us the Angel seated in the tomb
And the stone rolled away.
It is the hour! We challenge heaven above
Now, to deny our slight ephemeral breath
Joy, anguish, and that everlasting love
Which triumphs over death.
Alfred Noyes CBE, 1880-1958
A Better Resurrection
I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
A delayed (on account of the Easter Octave), but nonetheless blessed Saint George’s Day! A solemnity here in England, St George is also held in high honour in Canada. The Cross of St George was raised by John Cabot in Newfoundland in 1497, during the reign of Henry VII, thus earning its contemporary residents (and those in Labrador also) a provincial holiday! Today St George’s Cross features on four provincial flags, as well as within the Royal Union Flag. So in tribute to my former home of Alberta, here’s a poem in honour of the saint and his English settlers in the True North.
St George that savest England,
Save us who still must go
Where leads thy cross of scarlet
Upon its field of snow.
Beyond the life of cities,
Distractions and dismays,
Where mountain shadows measure
The passing of the days.
Among the lonely snow-peaks
Where golden morning shines,
Stands thy undaunted outpost
Among the lodge-pole pines–
A little stone-built chapel
As modest as can be,
Touched with a loving glory,
To house thy God and thee.
Here, where majestic beauty
And inspiration bide,
Be thou, to make us worthy,
Our counsellor and guide.
Be with us, Soul of England,
Where the last trail puts forth,
To keep unsoiled forever
The honour of the North.
St George’s in the Pines
Bliss Carman FRSC, 1861-1929
Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
John Updike, 1932-2009
Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness; that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Low Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did beginne
And still with sicknesses and shame.
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Let me combine,
And feel thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
Break the box and shed the nard;
Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.
Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine--
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not ’tis Easter morn?
Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.
Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.
Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls always
Make each morn an Easter Day.
Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ, 1844-1889
In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw one hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near his cross I stood.
Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with his death,
Though not a word he spoke.
My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins his blood had spilt,
And helped to nail him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did:
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look he gave, which said,
‘I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live’.
Thus while his death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue;
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit now is filled,
That I should such a life destroy,
Yet live by him I killed.
John Newton, 1725-1807
O what a cunning guest
Is this same grief! within my heart I made
Closets; and in them many a chest;
And, like a master in my trade,
In those chests, boxes; in each box, a till:
Yet grief knows all, and enters when he will.
No screw, no piercer can
Into a piece of timber work and wind,
As God’s afflictions into man,
When he a torture hath designed.
They are too subtle for the subtlest hearts;
And fall, like rheums, upon the tend’rest parts.
We are the earth; and they,
Like moles within us, heave, and cast about:
And till they foot and clutch their prey,
They never cool, much less give out.
No smith can make such locks but they have keys:
Closets are halls to them; and hearts, high-ways.
Only an open breast
Doth shut them out, so that they cannot enter;
Or, if they enter, cannot rest,
But quickly seek some new adventure.
Smooth open hearts no fast’ning have; but fiction
Doth give a hold and handle to affliction.
Wherefore my faults and sins,
Lord, I acknowledge; take thy plagues away:
For since confession pardon wins,
I challenge here the brightest day,
The clearest diamond: let them do their best,
They shall be thick and cloudy to my breast.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
It was from Joseph first I learned
of love. Like me he was dismayed.
How easily he could have turned
me from his house; but, unafraid,
he put me not away from him
(O God-sent angel, pray for him).
Thus through his love was Love obeyed.
The Child’s first cry came like a bell:
God’s Word aloud, God’s Word in deed.
The angel spoke: so it befell,
and Joseph with me in my need.
O Child whose father came from heaven,
to you another gift was given,
your earthly father chosen well.
With Joseph I was always warmed
and cherished. Even in the stable
I knew that I would not be harmed.
And, though above the angels swarmed,
man’s love it was that made me able
to bear God’s love, wild, formidable,
to bear God’s will, through me performed.
‘O Sapientia’ by Madeleine L’Engle, 1918-2007
O God, who from the house of thy servant David didst raise up Saint Joseph to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son, and spouse of his Virgin Mother: give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. – Divine Worship: The Missal.
Robert Herrick, 1591-1674
One step more, and the race is ended;
One word more, and the lesson’s done;
One toil more, and a long rest follows
At set of sun.
Who would fail, for one step withholden?
Who would fail, for one word unsaid?
Who would fail, for a pause too early?
Sound sleep the dead.
One step more, and the goal receives us;
One word more, and life’s task is done;
One toil more, and the Cross is carried
And sets the sun.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
Rossetti’s poem is based on the traditional Epistle, found in the Book of Common Prayer and the Extraordinary Form, appointed for Septuagesima from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: ‘Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things: now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast-away’.
Septuagesima – seventy days
To Easter’s primrose tide of praise;
The Gesimas – Septua, Sexa, Quinc
Mean Lent is near, which makes you think.
Septuagesima – when we’re told
To ‘run the race’, to ‘keep our hold’,
Ignore injustice, not give in,
And practise stern self-discipline;
A somewhat unattractive time
Which hardly lends itself to rhyme.
But still it gives the chance to me
To praise our dear old C. of E.
So other Churches please forgive
Lines on the Church in which I live,
The Church of England of my birth,
The kindest Church to me on earth.
There may be those who like things fully
Argued out, and call you ‘woolly’;
Ignoring Creeds and Catechism
They say the C of E’s ‘in schism’.
There may be those who much resent
Priest, Liturgy, and Sacrament,
Whose worship is what they call ‘free’,
Well, let them be so, but for me
There’s refuge in the C of E.
And when it comes that I must die
I hope the Vicar’s standing by,
I won’t care if he’s ‘Low’ or ‘High’
For he’ll be there to aid my soul
On that dread journey to its goal,
With Sacrament and prayer and Blessing
After I’ve done my last confessing.
And at that time may I receive
The Grace most firmly to believe,
For if the Christian’s Faith’s untrue
What is the point of me and you?
But this is all anticipating
Septuagesima – time of waiting,
Running the race or holding fast.
Let’s praise the man who goes to light
The church stove on an icy night.
Let’s praise that hard-worked he or she
The Treasurer of the PCC.
Let’s praise the cleaner of the aisles,
The nave and candlesticks and tiles.
Let’s praise the organist who tries
To make the choir increase in size,
Or if that simply cannot be,
Just to improve its quality.
Let’s praise the ringers in the tower
Who come to ring in cold and shower.
But most of all let’s praise the few
Who are seen in their accustomed pew
Throughout the year, whate’er the weather,
That they may worship God together.
These, like a fire of glowing coals,
Strike warmth into each other’s souls,
And though they be but two or three
They keep the Church for you and me.
Sir John Betjeman CBE, 1906-1984
And first, O Lord, I praise and magnify thy Name
For the Most Holy Virgin-Mother of God,
who is the Highest of thy Saints.
The most Glorious of thy Creatures.
The most Perfect of all thy Works.
The nearest unto Thee in the Throne of God.
Whom thou didst please to make
Daughter of the Eternal Father,
Mother of the Eternal Son.
Spouse of the Eternal Spirit,
Tabernacle of the most Glorious Trinity.
Mother of Jesus.
Mother of the Messias.
Mother of him who was the Desire of all Nations.
Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Mother of the King of Heaven.
Mother of our Creator.
Mother and Virgin.
Mirror of Humility and Obedience.
Mirror of Wisdom and Devotion.
Mirror of Modesty and Chastity.
Mother of Sweetness and Resignation.
Mirror of Sanctity.
Mirror of all Virtues.
The most illustrious Light in the Church,
wearing over all her beauties the veil of Humility
to shine the more resplendently in thy Eternal Glory.
Thomas Traherne, 1636-1674
There came to me assistance,
Mary fair and Bride;
As Anna bore Mary,
As Mary bore Christ,
As Eile bore John the Baptist
Without flaw in him,
Aid thou me in mine unbearing,
Aid me, O Bride!
As Christ was conceived of Mary
Full perfect on every hand,
Assist thou me, foster-mother,
The conception to bring from the bone;
And as thou didst aid the Virgin of joy,
Without gold, without corn, without kine,
Aid thou me, great is my sickness,
Aid me, O Bride.
from the Carmina Gadelica, 1900
translated from the Gaelic by Alexander Carmichael, 1832-1912
O God, who to the blessed Abbess Brigid gavest grace to imitate Christ in his poverty, and with humble heart to follow him in the end: grant that all who enter the path of Gospel perfection may neither look back nor go astray from the way; but hastening to thee without stumbling, may attain the crown of eternal life whereunto thou dost call them; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘That the First Charles does here in triumph ride,
See his son reign where he a martyr died,
And people pay that reverence as they pass,
(Which then he wanted!) to the sacred brass,
Is not the effect of gratitude alone,
To which we owe the statue and the stone;
But Heaven this lasting monument has wrought,
That mortals may eternally be taught
Rebellion, though successful, is but vain,
And kings so killed rise conquerors again.
This truth the royal image does proclaim,
Loud as the trumpet of surviving Fame’.
‘On the Statue of King Charles I at Charing Cross in the Year 1674’
by Edmund Waller, 1606-1687
Most gracious God, who didst call thy servant Anthony to sell all that he had and to serve thee in the solitude of the desert: grant that we, through his intercession and following his example, may learn to deny ourselves and to love thee before all things; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
Diary of a Church Mouse
Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the Vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn’s Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle’s brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptised, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes...it’s rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher’s seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear the organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar’s sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn’t think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God’s own house,
But all the same it’s strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don’t see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.
Sir John Betjeman CBE, 1906-1984
Kings should offer gold, rich, royal men –
And I am poor and no red gold have I;
Must I stay in the cold, sad shadows then,
While kings in light spread splendours splendidly?
Saints should offer incense, holy men –
My shabby soul is soiled and stained with sin;
Must I wait, shut without the stable then,
While saints join kings to offer gifts within?
Lo, I am not alone, but round me here
In the wan shadows, waiting wistfully
With nothing else to bring but only myrrh,
Stands silent, shy, a grey-clad company.
’Tis well for us, we of the common crowd,
That we may bring sad symbollings of myrrh,
Where God lies sleeping ’neath a stable shroud
Of common straw, and leave our offerings there.
We will be glad the incense makes a veil
To hide us somewhat, and the saint’s pure prayer
Goes with the golden gifts where we must fail;
Yet we will dare to bring our meed of myrrh.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
‘Come along, shepherds’, the Angels cried,
‘Come along, every one!
For great things happen on earth to-night,
And you shall see a wondrous sight –
In bed of straw, on napkin white,
Come down to earth from heaven’s height
God’s own Eternal Son’.
‘Come along, comrades’, the Shepherds cried,
And quick those men did run,
And in they pressed through the humble door,
And low they knelt on the stable floor,
Where Mary and Joseph, as poor as poor,
In rich contentment did adore
God’s own Eternal Son.
‘Come along, Christians’, the bells ring out,
‘Ding-a-dong, come along, come along!’
For round the Altar tapers shine,
Where waits our Saviour, yours and mine,
Veiled ’neath the mystic Bread and Wine,
And every soul should be a shrine
For God’s Eternal Son.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Fr Lee Kenyon
A Treasure to be Shared
The Acolyte’s Toolbox