The Years Stretch Out

For the feast of the Presentation, a song of Simeon:

The years stretch out in shadow;
the days drag on toward night.
O Father, do not let go
until I see your light.

For now I know but dimly—
what shade our life has cast!—
but keep your hand upon me
until the night is past.

The earth you made is turning,
though slow the age is takes,
so there must be a morning:
Keep me until it breaks.

And though my eyes are fading
and fail to pierce the dark,
yet keep me strongin waiting
with vision in my heart.

That what I cannot see here
I still may stumble toward.
I weaken more with each year,
but make me strong in hope.

And when I see your glory,
the light I long have known,
when mercy dawns before me,
O Father, take me home!

Simeon and the Child by Benjamin West, brown and gray washes and pencil on paper, Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Public Domain,


The Final Word

O first word from the only voice
before the founding of the world
when voice and word and breath rejoiced,
let mercy be the final word.

You echoed into light and shade,
reverberating in our earth.
We heard you then and disobeyed;
let mercy be the final word.

For our words, scattered and confused,
are sharp as knives and long as swords.
These bloodied weapons we have used—
let mercy be the final word.

All these swrodstrokes we fall beneath,
that lay us silent in the dirt,
let them fall silent in their sheaths.
Let mercy be the final word.

And when our wars at last are stilled,
O first and last song ever heard,
ring out, our silent graves to fill.
Let mercy be the final word.

The A and Z and all between,
the music of the universe,
put in our mouths your song to sing.
Let mercy be the final word!

The incipit of the Gregorian chant introit Misericordia Domini in the Liber Usualis. By Scan or digital reproduction of original work., PD-US,

Will You Bless Us?

For today’s Gospel reading of the Beatitudes:

Lord, we come to you confessing
all our struggle and our need,
and we ask you for your blessing.
Will you give us what we seek?

Will you make us poor in spirit,
like a king who left his crown
so that nobodies can wear it
when he comes into his own?

Will you give us tears for mourning?
There's so much we need to grieve;
drench our hearts, for they are burning!
Christ who wept, grant us relief!

Will you give us thirst and hunger
for the kingdom that you bring
and the justice that we long for,
and then fill us with good things?

Will you give us, Lord, your mercy?
Oh, then make us merciful!
We will bear each other's burdens
as you bear them for us all.

For you came to help and cure us
of the ills that we have made.
Make a blessing of our curses;
bring new life out of our graves.

The sermon on the mount By Harold Copping –ünstler/Harold-Copping.html, Public Domain,

The Conversion of St. Paul

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his  journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”

Acts 9:1-22
When I am breathing murder
and fury fills my days,
shine out, O Christ, and curb me!
Disturb my vivid ways!

Let light form heaven blind me
where sight has led me wrong.
O, let my darkness guide me,
my weakness make me strong.

My vision gone, give insight:
Illuminate my heart.
Then I will sing at midnight
and praise you in the dark.

Let not the morning free me:
Delay the great sunrise
until I learn to see you
and scales fall from my eyes.

O Christ, whom I had hated,
you looked on me with love,
and I, when you've remade me,
will tell the world thereof.

For you have seen my blindness
and given me new sight,
repaid my hate with kindness,
and made my darkness bright.

Conversion on the Way to Damascus, Caravaggio (c.1600-1) – Self-scanned, Public Domain,

Show Us, O Lord, Your Mercy

Show us, O Lord, your mercy
and grant us your salvation,
as water for the thirsty,
a feast in our starvation.
For we have walked a desert
in search of your oasis.
Give us, O God, your presence
to fill our empty places.

Let justice flow like rivers,
a great unfailing fountain,
and righteousness forever,
a flood to quench the mountains.
Your endless mercy give us,
depths that defy all sounding,
the peace that is forgiveness
in our dry souls abounding.

Pour out your grace in showers,
in deluge your compassion,
to drown despair's grim power
in hope's waves ever crashing.
And let our wasteland flower,
our desert turn to pasture
not blooming just an hour,
but unto death and after.

Rain, depicted in the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle By Michel Wolgemut, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff – Self-scanned, Public Domain,

What Voice?

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.
He went around all of Galilee,
teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness among the people.

Matthew 4:12-23
What voice could call them from the waves,
those eager fishermen,
but yours, O Christ, the voice that saves,
and make them cast again?
Not in the shallows of the sea
or in its stormy depth,
but in the crowded city streets
for souls that gasp for breath.

What words could call them from their lives,
the pattern of their days?
The living Word of God, the Christ:
For you they left their ways.
Not for a net of knotted rope
to trap their prey within,
but for your words of love and hope
they followed to the end.

What call could lure us after them,
with echoes ringing true?
O Savior, call us once again!
Draw us to folow you!
Not by the rule of iron rod
or by threat of hell,
but by the living love of God
draw us, Emmanuel!

Tissot, JamesThe calling of Peter and Andrew. – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2007, 00.159.56_PS1.jpg, Public Domain,

If I Have Words

If I have words, they'll silent fall;
if I have deeds, they'll crack and rust.
If I have love, then I have all,
though all I love will come to dust.

The morning light that is my hope
will blaze to noon and fade to night.
The darkness where you hold me close
will fall in time to morning's light.

But there will come unfading day,
and there will come unyielding night,
and we will see you face to face
when night and day are shining bright.

Until they come, no more to pass,
you, Lord, alone are permanent.
So while we fade, let us hold fast
to love outshining firmaments.

That by its guiding star, we walk,
and when it's hidden, still we hope;
that in the day or in the dark
we have a way; we have a home.

We spring up as the grasses here
and fade away ere evening comes,
but over us one star shines clear,
and we will blossom where it burns.

45-minute exposure photo of stars around Polaris, taken at Ehrenburg (Franconia, Germany), September 8, 2001 By Udo Kügel – Own work, Public Domain,

Come, O Prophets

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

John 1:29-34

To the tune NETTLETON:

Come, O prophets, walk among us
pointing out the Son of God,
Christ who take all our sin from us;
show us where he walks abroad.
You who see the heavens open
and the holy dove descend,
come and tell us, you who know him,
where our savior walks again.

For he will not leave us orphaned,
and he still walks in our streets—
though, like you, we are not worthy
to kneel down and wash his feet.
But he walks now in concealment,
hidden from our darkened eyes,
and we long to see him clearly
in the pilgrims at our side.

God in heaven, send us prophets
to reveal your Son on earth.
Give us ears to hear him calling
in their voices as we search.
Give us eyes to see his mercy
in the lives of all we meet.
When we find him, let us serve him:
Let the Son of God increase!

Jesus (left) is being identified by John the Baptist in John 1:29,[22][23] by Ottavio Vannini, 17th century. By Ottavio Vannini (1585-c. 1643) – Giovanni Piccirillo (a cura di), La chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano, Becocci Editore, Firenze 2006. sailko, Public Domain,

How Will It Be?

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”
–he said to the paralytic,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
He rose, picked up his mat at once, 
and went away in the sight of everyone.

Mark 2:1-12
How will it be when healing comes,
O Christ who came to save?
What can you do with those who jump
alive into their graves?

What, will you lift us from the earth,
or give us strength to rise?
Or spit your grace into the dirt
and smear mud on our eyes?

You'll gently tug it from our grip
when we cling to your robe,
or turn and strike us on the hip
when we will not let go.

Just drag your shadow over us,
who lie here at your feet,
or write your mercy in the dust
'til our accusers flee.

You could just say our sins are gone,
but we would lie here still
who know too well what we have done,
the measure of our guilt.

And so you say, “Get up and walk,”
to show us you forgive.
The prison doors at last unlock,
and we can rise and live.
Jesus heals the paralytic at Capernaum (Galway City Museum, Ireland) By Sheila1988 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, WWL


From Jonah’s song in the belly of the fish:

From the bottom of the ocean,
from the belly of the deep,
in the current's ceaseless motion
where the roots of mountains sleep,
I am crushed and I am frozen,
tangled up in wrack and weeds.
Hell alone is left below this:
You have cast me in the dea.

Swallowed by a deeper darkness
when the parted waters closed,
I am drowned within the heartbeat
of a mind that won't let go.
Can you hear me still, O Father?
Could your hand reach down so low?
I am buried in these waters;
I am carried where they go.

You who made both light and shadow
wrote your name upon them all;
I could read it if I knew how
somewhere on these prison walls.
So I cry to you—I shout it!—
just a whisper in your halls.
Father, send your mercy down here!
How much deeper will I fall?

The Pistrix, the Sea Monster that swallows Jonah (La Pistrice che ingoia Giona, XIII sec. – Campanile del Duomo di Gaeta) By Sergioizzo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,