POETRY: Advent (Five Poems)

Advent (Five Poems)

A Prayer for the Healing of the Wounds of Christ

Laurence Housman

(For Advent)

Is not the work done? Nay, for still the scars
Are open; still Earth’s pain stands deified,
With arms spread wide:
And still, like falling stars,
Its blood-drops strike the doorposts, where abide
The watchers with the bride,
To wait the final coming of their kin,
And hear the sound of kingdoms gathering in.

While Earth wears wounds, still must Christ’s wounds remain,
Whom love made life, and of whom life made pain,
And of whom pain made death.
No breath,
Without Him, sorrow draws; no feet
Wax weary, and no hands hard labor bear,
But He doth wear
The travail and the heat:
Also, for all things perishing, He saith,
My grief, My pain, My death.”

O kindred constellation of bright stars,
Ye shall not last for aye!
Far off there dawns a comfortable day
Of healing for those scars:
When, faint in glory, shall be wiped away
Each planetary fire,
Now, all the aching way the balm of Earth’s desire!

For from the healed nations there shall come
The healing touch: the blind, the lame, the dumb,
With sight, and speed, and speech,
And ardent reach
Of yearning hands shall cover up from sight
Those imprints of a night
Forever past. And all the Morians’ lands
Shall stretch out hands of healing to His hands.
While to His feet
The timid, sweet
Four-footed ones of earth shall come and lay,
Forever by, the sadness of their day:
And, they being healed, healing spring from them.
So for the stem
And rod of Jesse, roots and trees and flowers,
Shall cause the thorny crown
To blossom down
Laurel and bay.

So lastly to His side,
Stricken when, from the body that had died,
Going down He saw sad souls being purified,
Shall rise, out of the deeps no man
Can sound or scan,
The morning star of Heaven that once fell
And fashioned Hell:—
Now, star to star
Mingling to melt where shadeless glories are.

O Earth, seek deep, and gather up thy soul,
And come from high and low, and near and far,
And make Christ whole!


Advent Stanzas

Robert Cording

I.

Are we always creating you, as Rilke said,
Trying, on our best days,
To make possible your coming-into-existence?

Or are you merely a story told in the dark,
A child’s drawing of barn and star?

Each year you are born again. It is no remedy

For what we go on doing to each other,
For history’s blind repetitions of hate and reprisal.

Here I am again, huddled in hope. For what
Do I wait? — I know you only as something missing,
And loved beyond reason.

As a word in my mouth I cannot embody.

II.

On the snow-dusted field this morning — an etching
Of mouse tracks declares the frenzy of its hunger.

The plodding dawn sun rises to another day’s
One warm hour. I’m walking to the iced-in local pond

Where my neighbors have sat through the night
Waiting for something to find their jigged lure.

The sky is paste white. Each bush and tree keeps
Its cold counsel. I’m walking head-on into a wind

That forces my breath back into my mouth.
Like rags of black cloth, crows drape a dead oak.

When I pass under them, their cries rip a seam
In the morning. Last week a lifelong friend told me,

There’s no such thing as happiness. It’s ten years
Since he found his son, then a nineteen-year-old

Of extraordinary grace and goodness, curled up
In his dormitory room, unable to rise, to free

Himself of a division that made him manic and
Depressed, and still his son struggles from day to day,

The one partial remedy a dismal haze of drugs.
My friend hopes these days for very little — a stretch of

Hours, a string of a few days when nothing in his son’s life
Goes terribly wrong. This is the season of sad stories:

The crippling accident, the layoffs at the factory,
The family without a car, without a house, without money

For presents. The sadder the human drama, the greater
Our hope, or so the television news makes it seem

With its soap-opera stories of tragedy followed up
With ones of good will — images of Santas’ pots filling up

At the malls, truckloads of presents collected for the shelters,
Or the family posed with their special-needs child

In front of a fully equipped van given by the local dealership.
This is the season to keep the less fortunate in sight,

To believe that generosity will be generously repaid.
We’ve strung colored lights on our houses and trees,

And lit candles in the windows to hold back the dark.
For what do we hope? — That our candles will lead you

To our needs? That your gift of light will light
These darkest nights of the year? That our belief

In our own righteousness will be vindicated?
The prophet Amos knew the burden of your coming.

The day of the Lord is darkness, he said, darkness, not light,
As if someone went into a house and rested a hand against a wall,

And was bitten by a snake. Amos knew the shame of
What we fail, over and over, to do, the always burning

Image of what might be. Saint Paul, too, saw
The whole creation groaning for redemption.

And will you intercede with sighs too deep for words
Because you love us in our weakness, because

You love always, suddenly and completely, what is
In front of you, whether it is a lake or leper.

Because you come again and again to destroy the God
We keep making in our own image. Will we learn

To pray: May our hearts be broken open. Will we learn
To prepare a space in which you might come forth,

In which, like a bolt of winter solstice light,
You might enter the opening in the stones, lighting

Our dark tumulus from beginning to end?

III.

All last night the tatter of sleet, ice descending,
Each tree sheathed in ice, and then, deeper
Into the night, the shattering cracks and fall
Of branches being pruned by gusts of wind.

It is the first morning after the longest night,
Dawn colorless, the sun still cloud-silvered.
Four crows break the early stillness, an apocalypse
Of raucous squawks. My miniature four horsemen

Take and eat whatever they can in the field
Outside my door: a deer’s let my dog has dragged
Home. Above them, the flinty sun has at last fired
A blue patch of sky, and suddenly each ice-transfigured
Tree shines. Each needle of pine, each branch
Of ash, throws off sparks of light. Once,
A rabbi saw a spark of goodness trapped inside
Each evil, the very source of life for that evil —

A contradiction not to be understood, but suffered,
The rabbi explained, though the one who prays
And studies Torah will be able to release that spark,
And evil, having lost its life-giving source, will cease.

When I finally open my door and walk out
Into the field, every inch of my skin seems touched
By light. So much light cannot be looked at:
My eyelids slam down like a blind.

All morning I drag limbs into a pine. By noon,
The trees and field have lost their shine. I douse
The pile of wood with gas, and set it aflame,
Watching sparks disappear in the sky.

IV.

This is the night we have given for your birth.

After the cherished hymns, the prayers, the story
Of the one who will become peacemaker,
Healer of the sick, the one who feeds
The hungry and raises the dead,

We light small candles and stand in the dark

Of the church, hoping for the peace
A child knows, hoping to forget career, mortgage,
Money, hoping even to turn quietly away

From the blind, reductive selves inside us.

We are a picture a child might draw
As we sing Silent night, holy night.
Yet, while each of us tries to inhabit the moment
That is passing, you seem to live in between
The words we fill with our longing.

The time has come
To admit I believe in the simple astonishment
Of a newborn.

And also to say plainly, as Pascal knew, that you will live
In agony even to the end of the world,

Your will failing to be done on earth
As it is in heaven.

Come, o come Emmanuel,

I am a ghost waiting to be made flesh by love
I am too imperfect to bear.


Advent

Daniel Berrigan

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss—
This is true: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination,
hunger and poverty, death and destruction—
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word,
and that war and destruction rule forever—
This is true: For unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
the Everlasting, the Prince of Peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world—
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth,
and lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted,
who are the prophets of the Church, before we can be peacemakers.
This is true: I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your young shall see visions,
and your old shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for the liberation of humanity, for justice, human dignity, and
peace are not meant for this earth and for this history—
This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that true worshipers
shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope.
Let us see visions of love and peace and justice.

Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage:
Jesus Christ—the Life of the world.


Advent

Mary Jo Salter

Wind whistling, as it does
in winter, and I think
nothing of it until

it snaps a shutter off
her bedroom window, spins
it over the roof and down

to crash on the deck in back,
like something out of Oz.
We look up, stunned—then glad

to be safe and have a story,
characters in a fable
we only half-believe.

Look, in my surprise
I somehow split a wall,
the last one in the house

we’re making of gingerbread.
We’ll have to improvise:
prop the two halves forward

like an open double door
and with a tube of icing
cement them to the floor.

Five days until Christmas,
and the house cannot be closed.
When she peers into the cold

interior we’ve exposed,
she half-expects to find
three magi in the manger,

a mother and her child.
She half-expects to read
on tablets of gingerbread

a line or two of Scripture,
as she has every morning
inside a dated shutter

on her Advent calendar.
She takes it from the mantel
and coaxes one fingertip

under the perforation,
as if her future hinges
on not tearing off the flap

under which a thumbnail picture
by Raphael or Giorgione,
Hans Memling or David

of apses, niches, archways,
cradles a smaller scene
of a mother and her child,

of the lidded jewel-box
of Mary’s downcast eyes.
Flee into Egypt, cries

the angel of the Lord
to Joseph in a dream,
for Herod will seek the young

child to destroy him. While
she works to tile the roof
with shingled peppermints,

I wash my sugared hands
and step out to the deck
to lug the shutter in,

a page torn from a book
still blank for the two of us,
a mother and her child.


Lunar Paraphrase

Wallace Stevens

The moon is the mother of pathos and pity.

When, at the wearier end of November,
Her old light moves along the branches,
Feebly, slowly, depending upon them;
When the body of Jesus hangs in a pallor,
Humanly near, and the figure of Mary,
Touched on by hoar-frost, shrinks in a shelter
Made by the leaves, that have rotted and fallen;
When over the houses, a golden illusion
Brings back an earlier season of quiet
And quieting dreams in the sleepers in darkness-

The moon is the mother of pathos and pity.

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