Not Ready

You come when we're not ready
on ways we've not made straight:
We haven't cleared the temple
or opened wide the gate.
We have not stirred the embers,
and see! the hour is late.
O portals, lift your heads up:
The king of glory waits!

We were expecting heralds
and harbingers of war:
the armiesof our generals
advancing score on score.
Not this, so weak and tender,
so helpless on the straw.
Cry out the word, O sentries!
Grow higher, ancient doors!

For though we come but halfway
with feeble hands and knees
upon our crooked pathways,
you run our hopes to meet.
Both lower than the valleys
and higher than the peaks,
who were and are and shall be,
find us before we seek!

Cornelis Massijs – Arrival of the Holy Family in Bethlehem – WGA14256 – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15497722

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O Brightness of the Morning Star

I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star.”

Revelation 22:16

To the tune CONDITOR ALME SIDERUM:

O brightness of the morning star
and gleaming hope seen from afar,
arise; fulfill the ancient vow
for those who walk in darkness now.

O polestar of forgotten ways
and promise of undreamt-of days,
draw us forever close to you
through constellations strange and new.

O, guide our steps, our hearts transform
to see like you when light is gone,
for both the noonday and the night
alike lie open to your sight.

That when at last your day shall rise,
its brightness shall not hurt our eyes
once we have seen you in the dark.
O shining Christ, rise in our hearts!

So make our darkness bright as day,
our brightness as your shadow safe,
and be in light or shade our hope,
by night or noon our saving Lord. Amen.

Venus, pictured center-right, is always brighter than all other planets or stars at their maximal brightness, as seen from Earth. Jupiter is visible at the top of the image. By Brocken Inaglory – File:Venus with reflection.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5223759

When Night Is Longest

Will you come when night is longest,
from the deepest darkness come,
with our longing at its strongest,
and our weary senses numb?
When the days are at their coldest
and our hearts are colder still,
when our flame is at its lowest,
will you come, our lamps to fill?

There were days when oil of gladness
ran like rivers to the sea.
Now our eyes are filled with shadows
and our light too dim to see.
Keep us watchful by your starlight,
if our lamps run out of oil,
so to meet you in the dark night,
like a seed deep in the soil.

Yes, within the night you blossom,
ember blooming into flame,
dark unfolding into promise
all invisible by day.
Give our blunted senses sharpness,
when our lamps can give no light,
still to seek you in the darkness
and to greet you in the night.

By NovelNik – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79687392

Let It Be

I do not know your purpose
or comprehend your will,
but I have been your servant:
Keep me your servant still.

The word that you have spoken
has broken over me
for healing of the broken—
O Lord, then let it be.

Let it be, in your mercy,
that grace through me should spill,
that hungry ones and thirsty
with all good things be filled.

Not by my hand are scattered
the mighty or the proud,
but let my pride be shattered,
my arrogance cast down,

that when you come redeeming
the locust-eaten years,
my feeble eyes may see it,
though wearied by my tears.

And though those years stretch onward,
give me the oil I need
to watch while night creeps dawnward
and wait the quick'ning seed.

The annunciation. Etching. Iconographic Collections By https://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/a3/41/20944ef315adce8be7738e4eaf5f.jpgGallery: https://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/V0048041.htmlWellcome Collection gallery (2018-04-03): https://wellcomecollection.org/works/t6ahx46w CC-BY-4.0, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36664860

The Night Has Not Been Silent

The night has not been silent,
not for two thousand years:
It's broken down by sirens
and flooded with our tears.
But still we search the skyline
and pray—Oh,do you hear?—
that dawn from high will find us
and bring your mercy near.

For still we walk in darkness
and hide within its folds;
we take despair as armor
against a warring world.
But though the sky is starless
and though our hearts are cold,
we whisper still the promise
that there is hope to hold.

So come and grant us stillness—
for just one moment, peace.
Give us a light that fills us
when shadows will not cease.
Come, long-delayed fulfillment
of hopes we can't defeat.
Come, Christ, and be God-with-us,
the mercy we still seek.

By Vincent van Gogh – bgEuwDxel93-Pg at Google Arts & Culture, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25498286

The Virgin Shall Conceive

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask!  I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.

Isaiah 7:10-14
Behold, the virgin shall conceive:
All nature bow in wonder
to know the gift we have received
that breaks the yoke asunder.
Emmanuel, he shall be called—
so God descends to those who fall.

When good and ill we sought to know,
we felt the evil stronger,
so it was promised long go
the woman's child should conquer:
The Son of Man, his name will be,
who swallows death in victory.

And this will be a sign for us,
who these long years have waited,
that heaven knit itself to dust,
our nature new-created.
The Son of God, he shall be known,
and humankind shall be his own.

So righteousness now joins with grace
and truth embraces mercy,
when God takes on a human face
and hunger knows, and thirsting,
and Mary's son forevermore
is God the maker, king and lord.

Egyptian ivory carving, one of the earliest examples of what in later Byzantine times was called Eleousa, or “Virgin of Tenderness”. 7th century. By Anonymous (Coptic artist)Anonymous (Byzantine artist) – Walters Art Museum: Home page  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18794368

He Sits Imprisoned

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

Matthew 11:2-11
For those who sit in darkness,
a light will break on high—
so spake the prophet's father,
and were those words a lie?
For now he sits imprisoned,
the herald of the morn,
and dark is all his vision,
and all his hope stillborn.

There was no revolution,
no baptism of flame,
no nationwide ablution
or vipers driv'n away,
but only this slow flow-ring,
too late to bear him fruit.
He sees, as night is low'ring,
the axe at his own root.

If I am blind, he whispers,
then give me eyes to see.
Infected, oh, then cleanse me;
my captive mind set free.
If I am lame, unlame me;
tell my poor heart good news
that when I die, you'll raise me
to kneel and take your shoes.

Juan Fernández de Navarrete – St John the Baptist in the Prison – WGA16467 – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15610256

The Mountains Shout For Joy

For Advent, with a lot of Psalm 97 thrown in.

But when the mountains shout for joy,
oh, who could fearless stand?
Who would not tremble at a voice
erupting from the land?

For when the heights all bow their heads
and humbly kneel them down,
even the cedars fall in dread,
as matchwood on the ground.

But then the valleys lift their eyes,
rejoicing in the day.
To see the sun of justice rise,
they make a level way.

For long and long creation groaned,
but now it shall bring forth
in cataclysm, fire, and stone
to greet its God on earth.

Then let my stone heart melt like wax
before the Lord, who comes,
for every root shall feel his axe
that will not first bow down.

And let my deepest sorrows rise
to touch that level way
where he shall dry our weeping eyes
when all things are remade.

Mount Rinjani eruption in 1994, in LombokIndonesia By Oliver Spalt, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=141934

Are You the One?

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ,
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

Matthew 11:2-11
Are you the one we've looked for,
or must we seek again?
If you are he, come in, Lord:
Your reign in me begin.

My hidden world come find here;
your kingdom may it be.
To all in me that's blinded,
reach out, and let me see.

To all that I have deafened,
speak your renewing word;
that I may hear your blessing,
command in me, my Lord.

Where I am weakest, strengthen;
give speech where I am dumb.
Restore where I have taken,
forgive me what I've done.

And all in me that's longing
at last to hear good news,
all poor and unbelonging,
all weary and confused,

oh, preach to that your mercy,
your peace amid my strife.
And all that's dead about me,
come, bring it back to life.
Johannes der Täufer wird ins Gefängnis geworfen By © Jörgens.mi, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31709349

Rejoice, O Daughter Mary

One for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception:

Rejoice, O daughter Mary,
O Zion, full of grace,
for in yourself you carry
the dawn of endless day.
And he who dwells within you,
who makes your darkness bright,
is all your hope's fulfillment
and heals the serpent's bite.

The shadow of the Most High
will douse the sword of flame.
Your son will be called Holy
and end the years of shame.
Then what we learned in Eden
that struck us at our roots,
with that he will redeem us:
The seed puts forth new shoots.

Our very death is hallowed,
for he will share its stings,
and we, who dwell in shadow,
shall find it is his wings.
The little one you carry
is God who hears our voice.
Rejoice with us, O Mary,
O mother of our joy!

Berthold Furtmeyr , “Tree of Death and Life”, Salzburg Missal (15th century) By Berthold Furtmeyr, Miniaturmaler des 15. Jahrhunderts – http://www.rpi-virtuell.de/arbeitsbereiche/artothek/impulse/paradies/furtmayr/furtmayr.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11425618