Words Must Fail

For Trinity Sunday:

O God, you are; O God, you were;
O God, you are to come,
and we, who are and are no more,
proclaim and yet are mum.
Beyond the meaning of our words,
you are and ever shall,
and oh! what grace, that we are heard
where all our words must fail.

Eternal God and triune God:
Our wonder multiplies
beyond the bounds of mind and heart,
the means of ears or eyes,
for you exist beyond our sense
or metaphor's bright pale.
Oh, draw us, step by faltering step,
where all our words must fail.

Into the everlasting dance
of knowing and of known
bring us, with fumbling feet and hands,
to join you, three-in-one.
In bodies here we singly stand,
but draw us through the veil
and even we may understand
where your word never fails.

Dreifaltigkeitskreuz in Bronze auf Stein By Karbohut – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=120823805



O God, you wrote your icons
in Eden's virgin dust,
prepared us for the bridegroom,
and breathed your life in us.
You made the dirt your mirror,
reflecting heav'n above,
and shaped your image-bearers
in echo of your love.

Long since we have left Eden,
the ground that bears us cursed,
dust wounded and dust weeping,
but printed with your words.
We failed to read the message
when it was written new;
how can we see your image
who can no more see you?

And so you sent the bridegroom
to find his wand'ring brides
and to reveal your icons
to weak and weary eyes.
Though Eden lies behind us,
turn us to face true east,
to follow where you guide us—
O, call us to your feast!

Христос и грешница. Фреска Софийский собор в Вологде By Дмитрий Плеханов (1642 — 1710) – А. Рыбаков. Художественные памятники Вологды, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7978622


When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:39-56
Within me, yet not of me,
in answer to your voice:
the sudden wave that floods me,
the flutters of his joy.

The child of such long promise
sees more than I can see—
What light shines in his darkness,
now you have come to me?

And silently he shouts it;
what words can barely form
his ecstasy announces:
The coming of the Lord!

Who am I to receive him,
unseen though he appears?
Blest are you who believed it,
the word that touched your ears!

For here within your body
salvation lies in wait,
and when he parts those waters,
new life shall run in spate!

Across the hills you bear him,
how hiddenly, the Christ,
and I, who have been barren,
am bearer of delight!

Master of the Geneva Latini – Book of Hours (Use of Rouen)- fol. 39r, The Visitation – 1952.227.39.a – Cleveland Museum of Art (cropped) By Master of the Rouen Echevinage – https://clevelandart.org/art/1952.227.39.a, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77867996

Come All God’s Great Creation

Come, all God's great creation;
come, Adam and come, Eve;
come, Cain and oh, come, Abel:
The light of Christ receive.
For he has opened barrows
and called the bones within.
The fields of hell he harrows
and tramples death and sin.

Come, Moses and Isaiah;
come, Peter and come, John;
come, Job and Jeremiah:
Arise and see the dawn.
Come, all who dwell in shadow;
come, exiled and forlorn
or weeping for your failures:
Come now and greet the morn.

Come, Abraham and Sarah;
come, Jacob and Esau;
come, Rachel and come, Leah:
Each one of you he calls.
Come out of death's dark valley:
He calls as as we are
and leads us into heaven
where we shall shine like stars.

Christ’s Descent into Limbo, woodcut by Albrecht Dürer, c. 1510 – Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography. Volume 1, pp. 200-201 under “Damned Souls”, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13756140

From All the Four Winds, Come

Then the LORD said to me:
Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man,
and say to the spirit:  Thus says the Lord GOD:
From the four winds come, O spirit,
and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.
I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them;
they came alive and stood upright, a vast army.
Then he said to me:
Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.
They have been saying,
“Our bones are dried up,
our hope is lost, and we are cut off.”
Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.

Ezekiel 37:1-14
From all the four winds, come,
O Spirit of our God:
Give back the hope that's long been gone;
revive our buried hearts.
Breathe into these dry bones;
bring life from barren ground.
Restore our voices, or the stones
your praises will cry out.

Pour mercy on our souls,
your waters on our roots,
that we may grow back, healed and whole,
enrobed in greenest shoots—
not as we dressed at first
to cover shame and sin,
but in the new life bursting forth:
your Spirit in our skin.

Your life within us burns,
but flames cannot consume
that hearts now evergreen, returned
from deep within our tombs.
So we are whole again,
knit up in flesh and blood,
if only you will send the rain:
your mercy as a flood.

Epitaph ( 16th century ) showing the vision of Ezekiel ( 37,4 ) and the ressurrection of the dead ( City museum, Wels/ Austria ) By Wolfgang Sauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10394722

As a Sparrow Finds Its Shelter

“The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the swift flight of a sparrow through the mead-hall where you sit at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes, while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter to winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.”

St. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People
As a sparrow finds its shelter
from the raging storm outside
here amid the smoke and rafters,
guided by the fire's light,
yet it rests for but a moment—
for a moment and no more—
ere it flies out through the doorway,
from the storm into the storm,

so we all are born as sparrows,
come to light from the unknown,
and our moments fly as arrows.
Swiftly, swiftly, we are gone.
For the night outside still beckons
in the howling of the storm
with a sound that can't be reckoned:
Into dark, we fly once more.

God of light and God of shadows,
master of the shining hall,
plant this firelight in your sparrows
when we heed the stormwind's call.
When we fly from sound and fury
to the broad, unbounded night,
guide us on the homeward journey:
God of sparrows, give us light.

Venerable Bede in an illustrated manuscript, writing his Ecclesiastical History of the English People By http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/de/bke/0047/1vhttp://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/de/bke/0047/1v, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77974574

Stones and Water

Bring back your sons from afar,
daughters from all the earth's corners:
Draw us again to your heart;
give us new hearts for our stone ones.

We have been exiles so long,
dreaming each moment of Eden,
though we've forgotten its songs,
choked with the dust we're still eating.

Trying to make bread from stones—
stones were the seeds we had planted—
ground into dust with our bones,
dust is now all we are granted.

Pour the rains on us again:
Dust becomes mud becomes garden;
rivers of blood in our veins
pump through the ground we had hardened.

Flood all the waste with your streams;
lead us by spring and oasis
not back again to our dreams,
but to the new things you're making!

Lead where we've never yet gone,
not where the river first rises
but to the sea as its runs:
Mercy alone satisfies us!

A stream in Teesdale. By Mentifisto – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8646124

Down Every Trail

For the Feast of the Ascension:

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20
Come with us, Lord, down every trail
and walk with us by day and night,
our compass when the stars have failed,
our lantern making dark ways bright.

You send us out into the world
to baptize all things in your name,
but in them all your embers burn
and wait to rise in glorious flame.

And in us, too, your Spirit shines,
a fiery pillar in our hearts.
Within ourselves your road unwinds;
with every step, new mercies start.

Give us the eyes to see your spark
and by its glow to find the way,
that love may guide us in the dark
and lead us into brighter day.

And so with us, within, without,
show us the pathway straight and clear
through night and day, through hope and doubt:
You will not leave us orphaned here.

End of the trail, Boynton Canyon, Sedona, Arizona

Moar Birbs!

Your Spirit came down like a dove
beside the river Jordan
to point us to the one you love--
now birdsong fills the morning.
We see the lilies of the field,
consider well the ravens,
and know your goodness with us here
on earth as 'tis in heaven.

The gulls that glide upon your breath
still hover o'er the waters.
Wherever sparrows build their nests,
there you have set your altars.
The swallows clinging to the eaves
know you are their true shelter:
the shade and safety of the leaves
your fortress and protection.

And if a single feather falls,
your hand is there to catch it.
If death should silence all their calls,
new life awaits new hatchings.
So bird to bird calls out your name
and note by note rejoices,
and we who marvel at this grace
lift up our hearts and voices!

Painted tiles with design of birds from Qajar dynasty By Unknown author – davidmus.dk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25157065

There’s No Voice

There's no voice if you are silent;
there's no echo in the dark.
There's no flame if you don't light it,
though we strive to strike the spark.

So my heart shall yet be formless
and my soul a waste and void
'til you speak a word and form them,
'til you fill me with your voice.

I am earth awaiting water,
to be furrowed for the seed.
Shape this clay into a daughter:
Spirit, speak again in me.

Take my earth for your remaking:
Unheard thunder in the ground.
Though subsonic, set me quaking
with the rumble of your sound.

Then, when I cannot yet hear it,
let me trust the word that springs
from your endlessness, O Spirit,
from the voice that in me sings.

In the hiss of spark on tinder,
in the bass that shakes my chest,
give me song to praise the singer
or to call the silence blest.

The Pentecost depicted in a 14th-century Missal By Unknown author – National Library of Wales, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44768060