Romanian Grace

The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. -- St. Cyril of Jerusalem

20 December, 2007

Thine advent here XV

So I missed a day.  As I heard no disgruntled outcry from my extensive readership, I will assume that all of you are a pretty gracious bunch who also know what it means to get busy around Christmas time.  Anyway, I will reward y'all with a tale today...I think... if I am not too busy, which I might be.  Nevertheless, I will share with you yet another poem from A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation, a book all of you ought to purchase for yourselves (can you tell I am worried about the copyright police coming to get me, so I want to be clear that what I am actually doing is drumming up business for them?).  

The risk of birth

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a nova lighting the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn--
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on planet earth,
And by greed and pride the sky is torn--
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

Madeleine L'Engle

Love is risky, indeed.  Try it sometime, especially when it means being more like a baby than a "competent adult," whatever that is.

18 December, 2007

Thine advent here XIV

I felt cheated last year, when I heard this carol for the first time, on Sufjan's Christmas album. It has since become one of my favorites.  So, since it is beautiful and good and true and delicious, I must share it with you.  In addition to the excellent words, its syncopation is some of the most interesting in the Trinity Hymnal.  I am glad the "new" Trinity includes all five verses, as opposed to the old one, which only has two.

Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

O Savior, Child of Mary, who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!

17 December, 2007

wallwoe: part one

So there's the aforementioned, mighty blue Volvo (heretofore known as "wallwoe" due to its German pronunciation).  Luke (ze German) and I decided that that was a good place to stop.  That was due largely to the fact that we had come to a point in the snow's depth from whence we could neither continue forward nor return down the road we had come up, at least without serious work, which could wait until later, of course.  We had some hiking to do.

Luke ze German is brilliant and a great hiking partner.  I enjoyed imparting to him some of the wisdom I have accumulated from doing stupid things in the woods over the years (usually with my friend, Adam).  So, the first lesson had to do with layering.  Some people call this obsessing, but I call it "giving yourself options."  It was like this.  Down at the bottom of the mountain it was a balmy 28-30 degrees or so, and once we started walking in the deep snow with our snowshoes, we warmed up pretty fast.  I was wearing a t-shirt, a lightweight long sleeve, and a mid-weight fleece.  I was also wearing heavy mittens and a toboggan.  I also had a lightweight windbreaker in my small pack, along with a down jacket.  Luke was sporting a ski jacket and a fleece.  He had no pack.  

I should say that I am a comfort-idolator.  I love comfort.  That's why only the uAg can get me out of bed on those cold mornings here.  It just feels too good otherwise (there is this great sermon that reminds me of called The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, by Thomas Chalmers, a puritan).  Anyway, I definitely don't like being hot while I am hiking, if avoidable, and I don't really really like being cold, though it is better than being hot.  It is for people like me that the outdoor clothing companies make all their stuff and charge so much for it becase it is grams lighter than the other stuff.  Lighter pack, lighter shirts, lighter underwear, lighter jackets... they have to be lighter because guys who want options have to carry one of each.

Anyway, I knew Luke got it when he said, "It's all about options."  Fast learner.  

I have decided that snowshoeing is the most fun I can possibly have in the snow.  I have done all the usual stuff: sledding, skiing, even tried a little snowboarding, as well as stupid stuff like jumping out of a jacuzzi and rolling around or lying in the snow as long as I could stand it, then jumping painfully back into the hot water (what was that all about?).  Anyway, I find that I only smile all the time while I am snowshoeing.  My face starts to get tired from the smiling.  So that has been a pleasant discovery.  We found ourselves quickly in knee deep snow, and the shoes were great, keeping us from sinking much more than 6 inches or so.  It still wasn't easy, but better than the alternative.  We were walking where there was no evidence that man had ever gone before (except for the frequent bright blue blazes painted on trees), and we chatting along the way about Eldridge's book, Wild At Heart, which he is currently reading.  I guess we were being very "manly" by his definition, or whatever.  

We made it to Cabana Curmatura, a cabin built in the 20's by Germans, by a little after noon. We stopped in for some hot cocoa and to have a place to enjoy our various foods.  I brought my standard favorite Snickers and some peanut butter to spread on it.  he brought some German white chocolate.  This cabin is one of my favorite getaway spots I have ever been.  We were greeted as we approached by two Saint Bernards, who came up higher than my waist. Then there were these two donkey's with gnarled hooves blocking the door.  On a clear day you can see the next mountain range as you look off the cabin's deck, and you can look behind you and see the Piatra Crailui (King's Stone) looming at about 7,000 feet elevation.  There is no electricity or running water, though there is a spring nearby.  They use wood, and lots of it, to keep the place warm for their guests.  The "they" is a young couple who live up there to welcome the guests and provide room and board (for next to nothing).  But we just stayed for a break today.  Our destination was Piatra Mica (Little Stone), and we were burning daylight.

Oh, it is worth noting that I had left my headlamp (flashlight) up there when I spent the night last May.  Once I realized it was gone I wrote it off as gone for good and started looking for a new one.  Anyway, I caught the notion to go ahead and ask, just in case they have a lost and found or something.  I went up there and explained that I didn't think there was any chance they would know what I was talking about but that I left my flashlight... "What kind of flashlight?" the man asked?  "One for your head."  "Like this?" he asked.  He was holding up my headlamp, and I was thrilled.  A good thing, too, because we wound up needing it.
I will have to finish the story later.  Some of my readers are falling asleep.

Thine advent here XIII

OK.  It is still pretty early in the morning for me.  Not that early, but I have been up since before 5 to talk to the uAg.  That's one of the reasons I know I love her; she is the only thing that has ever consistently gotten me out of bed before 7AM (pathetic, I know, but true all the same). Anyway, on to today's reading.  This comes from  the talented young poet, Katy Hartman.

God Felt

God’s Self poured into the form of Man—
Word to Flesh. Universe’s Splendor confined
in mortal’s shell—Son of God. Son of man.
Spirit fused with bone and

Blood. Forsook well-deserved Paradise.
Planted His feet on fingertip-molded
Globe, touched Creation and Felt:

Dirt caked between toes
and rain of prostitute’s tears swirling into mud.
Leper’s mangled skin melting into smooth
under His fingertips.

Tickle of salt-sweat tumbling down skin.
Cracked-dry tongue pleading for moisture
And scratching of vacant stomach.

Pain of friend’s death and hot tears
of agony sliding down face.
Severed Roman ear sticky with coppery blood
Then reunited with trembling body.

Nail sinking into skin and embedding
In wood beneath. Fellowship of Father
Refused. Piercing pain of Trinity

Droplets of wet gathering
on stone sepulcher thick with Dark and

Crashing of Stone shattered. Cave
Flooded with torrent of light.
Victory of Death
Crushed. Creation
Redeemed through the beams of the Son.

I mean, what must it have been like for a being accustomed to a not-physical body to adopt the sense of touch?  How did that not open up some new experience to the God for whom nothing was new?  My favorite line: Leper's mangled skin melting to smooth / under His fingertips.

15 December, 2007

Thine advent here XII

I will keep this one short.  A great hike today (full report to come) that has left me extremely tired and anticipating soreness galore tomorrow.  Plenty to tell.  As for today's Advent thought, I am going to go way way back to the very first Christmas story.  Before Bethlehem even existed. Long before the first manger or crib.  Before the first birth, even, and it is actually a curse.  God says to the serpent after the fall:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

This is the great promise of God to be about the business of destroying the sin that destroyed us, that destroyed the order and harmony of our lives, that destroyed our ability to do good with good things instead of twisting them all into increasingly elaborate and re-named sins.  And, of course, God fulfilled this promise on that Christmas day we celebrate now.  He came to bring peace on the earth, good will t'ward men, but he came to do so by crushing sin.  Good stuff!

14 December, 2007

Thine advent here XI

My fingers are painfully frozen and so move across the keyboard like imbeciles.  This could take a while.  I will try to avoid mistakes.  The reason they are frozen is that I have been getting the car prepared for a little excursion tomorrow (my semester is officially over as I graded the last papers and exams of 2007 a few hours ago).  Looks like I will be heading to the mountains for some fun in the snow with one or two of my German friends (one of "ze Germans," as I am fond of calling them collectively).  The snow ought to be deep out there.  We just got about four inches yesterday, but it was a cold rain long before anything accumulated, and there ought to have been a bunch of snow on the ground already.  So we will be going equipped with snowshoes.  I bought a pair last year and never got to use them.  It did not snow nearly as much after Christmas as I thought it would.  But I have already gone once this year and have determined that it is the most fun thing I have ever done in the snow.  

Some of you will wonder what I meant by "the car" above.  I have borrowed my landlady's 100 year old Volvo.  It's great.  We won't be having any conversations on the way out there, that's for sure, but it will get us where we want to go...I hope.  It's a metallic blue small hatchback with a couple hundred thousand miles on it (something like 350k kilometers).  I will post pictures tomorrow or sometime.  

Now, on to more important business.  Today's poem is, honestly one of my favorites from A Widening Light, which I have mentioned before and which you ought to buy yourself for Christmas.

**Caveat: If you suspect that you are easily offended and desire not to be by an Advent poem, stop reading now and come back tomorrow.  

God tries on skin

Once, he stretched skin over spirit
like a rubber glove,
aligning trinity with bone,
twining through veins
until deity square-knotted flesh.

In a whirlwind spin
he shrank to the size of a zygote,
bobbed in a womb warm as Galilee's shore.

In the dark,
he brushed up on Hebrew,
practiced his crawl.

After months scrunched in a circle,
he burst through his cellophane sac,
bloodied the teen legs
spread on the straw.

In his first breath 
he inhaled the sweat
of Romans casting lots,
sniffed the wine mixed with the gall.

Marjorie Maddox Phifer

The sound-quality of this poem is a rare thrill.  Actually, it is what I live for as a reader of poetry.  Sound combinations like: "crawl... straw... gall," or "months scrunched in a circle," or "size of a zygote," or "bobbed in a womb warm as Galilee's shore" achieve every good poet's end of maximizing effect with minimal words.  I don't think entire books on the Incarnation could do as much as those few words.  How awkward, artificial, and even ludicrous it was for God to become flesh.  How offensive.  The rubber glove image at the start hints at something like a "procedure."  The Holy God doesn't undergo "procedures," however,... does He?  Does God "bob"?  The absurdity of it all.  I say again what I keep coming back to myself.  Christ's humiliation, and ultimately His atonement for us, did not begin on the cross or in Gethsemane, it began in Royal David's city, in a manger for a bed.  It began in a small, warm, virgin womb. God confined.  God limited.  God something out of a biology textbook.  Unthinkable.  But no less true.  

13 December, 2007

Thine advent here X

Okay.  Don't anybody get too impressed by my streak of blogs here.  This is ten straight (with a sabbath in there to break things up), and still going strong.  So today I thought I would go with a classic.  Its from the Bible, so I know it's good.  Why is it that people (and angels) so often break out in song when they encounter the Almighty?  Think of Moses, Deborah, just about everybody in Revelation, and now Mary.

The Magnificat

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant
for behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers, 
to Abraham and to his offspring forever."

Reading over this, two things occur to me.  One is that we protestants, in reaction against our Catholic parentage (talk about a dysfunctional family), probably don't put quite enough emphasis on Mary.  The Lord favored her highly, however, and she probably had a relationship to God through faith that most of us would envy.  

The other thing worth mentioning is how she responds to the news that there is a little baby inside her.  She starts talking in terms of strength and warfare, of raising those who are low and lowering those who are high, world cataclysmic stuff.  But he was just a lille baby, and after that, he was just a little man, a weak man who was fairly easily killed.  

And so I wonder how much stock I put in planning, in being strong, in having my act together. How I make it one of my goals in ministry, even, to look unassailable, to have the right answers, to conjugate my Romanian verbs correctly.  Does it not seem to be saying here that God uses the weak things, the unexpected things to exalt those who need to be exalted and to decrease the rest?  

Oh, and this, how often could I say that my soul magnifies the Lord?  I think I make him look rather puny and insignificant.

12 December, 2007

Thine advent here IX

Okay, folks.  Here's one from way back.  An oldie but goodie, from about the year 451. Please read all of it, aloud, if possible. It will give you goosebumps.

The Definition of Chalcedon

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge One and the same son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but as yet regards his manhood, begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction in natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

11 December, 2007

Thine advent here VIII

Well.  Here's another from the excellent book of poetry, A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation.  I really hope some of you will go out and buy this book.  It is full of treasures.  None of your Hallmark card Christian poetry.  I like this one, and I have been thinking lately about the third stanza, even pondering whether or not it is true.  Were there times when Christ submitted to his sinful parents' will even when he knew what was best?  Surely there were times when, like all parents, they did the best they could with the knowledge they had and still got him into something that wound up hurting him.  Or they protected him from something that it would have been better for him to endure.  Maybe Christ grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man in spite of his parents at times.  That's probably as good news for parents as it is for children.  If anyone has any thoughts to share... you know what to do (or maybe you don't: you can make comments by clicking on the the thing that says "comments" right below the entry). Anyway, here it is.

Away in a manger

"The little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes."
Bah Humbug.

True God made babe
bewails the warm womb lost;
hungry, screams and gropes for mother-milk.

True God made child
wants will his own;
in tears surrenders to another.

True God made man
weeps bitterly for friend death stole,
sobs silently at Simon's loud rejection.

True God made Christ
in blood-sweat groans
that cup be taken from him.

On cruel cross
with throat dry cries
asks why Good God has Son forsaken.

am terminat!

The biology exam is complete.  It is about quarter to 2AM, and the thing is done, and it rocks.  Nine pages of biological-fact-splendour.  We got cells.  We got osmosis.  We got prokaryotes and plankton, mutations and mycelia, chitin, saprophytes, symbiosis, and the like.  

Part of the reason I am up so late is that there were a few hours this evening when I could not work on the exam at all.  I attended a pro-life dinner, a fund-raiser for the pro-life group here called Pro Vita.  They seem to be doing some the right stuff.  Educating using high schools and even elementary schools as a venue.  They are working with families, distributing materials, counseling and comforting those who are contemplating an abortion or who have already done it. One young girl even gave a testimony to the way Pro Vita had helped her, and she brought her little baby boy along, Raul Alexandru.  That was amazing.  If you can believe this, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% of Romanian women have had an abortion.  The largest percentage in Europe.  I suppose the advent season is as good a time as any to be thinking about this.  I guess Mary had as good a reason as anyone to "eradicate" that "thing" growing inside her, adding to her public shame and disgrace.

I have been thinking about faith in these terms lately.  Part of faith is doing something that does not make sense only because you know it is right.  I have spent way too much time trying to carefully orchestrate my life's events, to get everything in its right place so I have no surprises.  And that works.  Most of the time.  It is when things go awry, though, that I have had to learn to trust.  Somewhere along the line we see that they never really went awry, that it was our thinking that was off, that we had the wrong idea when we made our plans. 

I have a friend who has been making some bad decisions lately.  By God's grace he felt okay talking to me about it, and by God's grace I was able to listen more or less without judging him.  And also by God's grace I was able to point him to God's word and the promises there, hoping to encourage and exhort him.  What he has chosen to do, however, instead of reconcile things, is to add to them more bad decisions to try to escape or cover up his error.  It gets to a point where he is going to have to stop doing what seems right to him, what seems the path to self-preservation and do, instead, the right thing, which really makes no sense at all.  Go figure.  I look forward to being his friend during this process, Lord willing.  Until then, what can you do but pray.  Any of y'all who want to join me in praying for this young Romanian man, I would love to report great news in the coming days or weeks or months... however long it takes.  You know how that goes.


10 December, 2007

Thine advent here VII

Or try this one out.  It is from Luci Shaw's introduction to her book of poems, The Green Earth.  

We tend to think of the Creator in terms of the infinitely huge -- mountains, continents, oceans, galaxies, universes, light years.  As the Almighty is beyond gender and time, so is he beyond size, glimpsed, if we open our eyes, in minor, unpretentious phenomena -- the helical unfolding of a shell, the lace of veins in a leaf with sunshine behind it, or, as we penetrate deeper into physical realities, in the structures of subatomic particles and in the endless unfolding of fractal patterns.  We see this concentration of limitlessness within limitation in the Incarnation, in Almighty God clothed in a human body, a human life.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

And then there are those of you who liked my blog better the way it used to be, a way to keep up with my life.  I confess, it has not been much good for that lately.  But I hope you have enjoyed the advent stuff, all the same.  What does my life look like right now?  Well.

We are in the thick of exams at Kingstone Academy.  Two more to go, then we will be done for the holidays for about three weeks.  The holidays hold mostly just free time for me, some travel, perhaps to Budapest (which I have heard rhymed with "ruder pest" in a musical... stupendous!)  That would be by train and likely with my friend and teammate, Darin.  We have a good time together.  The train is an overnight deal, which could be good if I can sleep on it, which I ought to be able to do.  I have learned that I am a remarkably talented sleeper.  Almost any time, almost anywhere, with the exception of a little insomnia about once a month, which reminds me of this wonderfully accurate and hilarious Billy Collins poem:


Even though the house is deeply silent
and the room, with no moon,
is perfectly dark,
even though the body is a sack of exhaustion
inert on the bed,

someone inside me will not 
get off his tricycle,
will not stop tracing the same tight circle
on the same green threadbare carpet.

It makes no difference whether I lie
staring at the ceiling
or pace the living-room floor,
he keeps on making his furious rounds,
little pedaler in his frenzy,
my own worst enemy, my oldest friend.

What is there to do but close my eyes
and watch him circling the night,
schoolboy in an ill-fitting jacket,
leaning forward, his cap on backwards,
wringing the handlebars,
maintaining a certain speed?

Does anything exist at this hour
in this nest of dark rooms
but the spectacle of him
and the hope that before dawn

I can lift out some curious detail
that will carry me off to sleep--
the watch that encircles his pale wrist,
the expandable band,
the tiny hands that keep pointing this way and that.

So.  Other than that, like I said, sleeping on trains is no big deal.  I actually like train travel, and I will send you now to a link of excellent photography from Romanian trains taken by Caleb Chancey, a Birmingham photographer.  Actually, I can't find the train pictures, so you can just go to his (better than my) blog site.

But I like trains when I'm not sleeping on them, also.  I have found that they are great opportunities to practice language.  People just seem to be chattier on trains.  Conversation comes a little easier.  I once talked to a girl on a train who was beautiful and told me that there are no problems, only different stages in evolution.  She applied this to societies, as in, "I don't think Romania actually has any problems (e.g. poverty, abortion, greed, racism), they are just differently evolved."  Then she said that the universe is a wish-fulfilling machine, and if we just know how to operate it we can get whatever we want.  Actually, most of this was in English, which she spoke with a delightful British accent she learned from watching cartoons.  But there have been other little chats as well, often with people slightly intoxicated.  I guess they are the most chatty of all, the most willing to endure a conversation in Romanian with me.  Probably helps to have a little something to take the edge off.  

I will have to continue this later.  I have a science exam to write.  

08 December, 2007

Thine advent here VI

What Child is This, Stanza 2
Why lies he in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail!  Hail!  The Word made flesh,
The Babe, the son of Mary.

The version of this hymn that cuts out the second half of this stanza and uses the last half of the first stanza as a chorus drives me nuts.  It also misses the point.  We cannot separate the meaning of Christ's incarnation from the significance of his suffering, death, and resurrection thirty-four years later.  That's why, for me, singing, "The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes..." is a little absurd.  Of course he cried!  His was a life of tears.  It was also, mysteriously, a life of joy. 

07 December, 2007

Thine advent here V

I have no comments to make on this one.  Or, rather, I have too many comments to make without a) boring a couple of you (which is probably half of my readership) or b) sounding like I am trying to sound smart when I really don't know what I am talking about (a problem particular to some teachers).  Feel free to make some of your own.  Enjoy!

The crystal hexagon

Out of the cloud a bright 
Out of the void, form.
Space and line,
A frost design
Tumbles from the storm.

Out of the timeless
     into time;
From pure spirit, clay.
Out of the night 
Imperial light--
The light, the truth,
     the way.

Beth Merizon

06 December, 2007

Thine advent here IV

Well, today's is not a poem, but I fortuitously came upon this during our final discussion of Augustine's Confessions, as my ninth graders now begin preparing for exams.  This quote is a little broader in scope than just the Advent season, but it is all about being set straight on the incarnation.

He would cure them of the pride that swelled up in their hearts and would nurture love in its place, so that they should no longer stride ahead confident in themselves, but might realize their own weakness when at their feet they saw God himself, enfeebled by sharing this garment of our mortality.  And at last, from weariness, they would cast themselves down upon his humanity, and when it rose they too would rise.

(Translation by R.S. Pine-Coffin... what a great name!)

To think of God as "enfeebled."  The very idea!  All you readers out there who, like this blogger are weary of various things, cast yourselves today upon his humanity, his humility there in the stable.  Then rise with him, not only from your low estate, nor only from the grave, but up to heaven to the Father who is well pleased with you.  

05 December, 2007

Thine advent here III


This is my little town,
My Bethlehem,
And here, if anywhere,
My Christ Child
Will be born.

I must begin
To go about my day--
Sweep out the inn,
Get fresh hay for the manger 
And be sure
To leave my heart ajar
In case there may be travelers
From afar.

Elizabeth Rooney

I guess I have never thought about that, "Let every heart prepare him room" as a reference to the inn incident.  As much as advent is a time for anticipation, though, it ought also to be a time of preparation.  If we truly receive our Saviour, we receive him little baby and all.  Often the last thing I want hanging around my heart is the reminder that I, too, must become like a little child (though not in the ways I normally become like a little child: fussy, whiny, selfish, stinky), must accept infancy with all its admitted helplessness, vulnerability, dependency.  

04 December, 2007

Thine advent here II

The Lamb   

   Little Lamb, who made thee?
   Dost thou know who made thee;
Gave thee life and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice
Making all the vales rejoice?
   Little Lamb, who made thee?
   Dost thou know who made thee?

   Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
   Little Lamb, I'll tell thee;
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a lamb.
He is meek and He is mild,
He became a little child.
I a child and thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
   Little Lamb, God bless thee.
   Little Lamb, God bless thee.

William Blake

[John Rutter also includes this poem beautifully into the agnus dei movement of his Mass of the Children, which I have posted here (you can listen to the whole song or drag the slider to about the middle and get to the part I where he incorporates the poem).]

"We are called by His name."  That is the essence of the incarnation, isn't it, that he could identify with us in every way, that he could share in our humanness, and we could claim His perfect lambness.  Christ's work, I am reminded, did not start on Calvary, but more on that in a future poem.

03 December, 2007

thine advent here

Yes it's that season again. And my Christmas gift to you all is going to be the kind that keeps on giving (which usually means cheap, as is the case here). Be looking for more frequent posts in the near future as I expose you to some of the better poetry for the season that I have come across. Today's is from A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation, a collection of poems edited by Luci Shaw. This one is by Madeleine L'Engle:

Like Every Newborn

The Lord is King, and hath put on glorious
apparel; the Lord hath put on his apparel,
and girded himself with strength.
Psalm 93:1

Like every newborn, he has come from very far.
His eyes are closed against the brilliance of the star.
Sp glorious is he, he goes to this immoderate length
To show his love for us, discarding power and strength.
Girded for war, humility his mighty dress,
He moves into battle wholly weaponless.

When I read this one this morning I was reminded of what we see in Psalm 46, the part before the part that everyone quotes.  "Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.  He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.  Be still..."  

It seems strange that the desolation the Lord brings is utter peace on earth.  Yes, he comes to wage a war, but it is not a war fought as we fight them (which seems always and only to bring more fighting) but it is war he waged by becoming a baby, but walking humbly on earth, and by letting us nail him to a tree.  This what we celebrate every Christmas season.

Incidentally, if you are not listening to the Sufjan Stevens Christmas album right are probably sinning.