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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54050254

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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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=929549

Not to Eden

See us crowding in the streets,
trying just to reach you,
or kneeling, crouching at your feet.
Begging, we beseech you:
Let your shadow fall on us;
that would be enough, Lord.
If just your cloak were touching us,
we could get up once more.

Son of David, Son of man,,
Lord, have mercy on us,
and let us be made whole again:
Lay your hands upon us.
Son of Mary, Son of God,
you have walked beside us.
Now meet us here upon the road.
Heal us, Christ, and guide us.

Now to Eden's shady groves—
there is no returning—
but forward to a greater love.
Lead us through our yearning.
Not to sorrow's shadowed vale,
there to stay forever,
but on beyond it, whole and well,
let us journey ever.
jesus-healing-the-sick-by-gustave-dore-1832-1883 Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14764413

The Hope We Could Not Dare

The hope we could not dare
comes on us unawares,
the endless years' relief,
to catch us like a thief.

A baby's cry at night,
a darkened sky made bright,
the winter's cold turned warm,
the silent midnight torn.

And all that we had known
on angels' wings has flown:
The proud set down, despised;
the humble lifted high.

Those long-unheard will shout;
the deaf hear them announce;
the blind point out the Lord
who rules without a sword.

For those who sit in gloom,
the rose once more has bloomed.
Now does the virgin dance
for joy that fills her hands.

Upended universe
where heaven dwells on earth,
yet upside-down, it sings
for him, the king of kings.

Henry Ossawa TannerAngels Appearing before the Shepherds, 1910 – Smithsonian American Art Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22435183

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

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

Let Your Rivers Flow!

The desert and the parched land will exult;
        the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
    They will bloom with abundant flowers,
        and rejoice with joyful song.
    The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
        the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
    They will see the glory of the LORD,
        the splendor of our God.
    Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
        make firm the knees that are weak,
    Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
        Be strong, fear not!
    Here is your God,
        he comes with vindication;
    With divine recompense
        he comes to save you.
    Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
        the ears of the deaf be cleared;
    Then will the lame leap like a stag,
        then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Isaiah 35:1-10
When old woods turn to orchards
and deserts run with springs,
the wounded drop their crutches;
the silent rise and sing.

When springs turn into fountains
and famine turns to feast,
they come to climb the mountain;
they come from west and east.

From every distant corner,
from every farflung land,
come every son and daughter
with riches in their hands.

And fountains turn to rivers,
and rivers turn to wine,
and every hope delivers,
and no one stands in line!

The table's stacked with goodness,
and there are endless seats,
and no one breaks a promise,
and everyone can eat.

So come, O Christ: We're waiting.
Just say the word: We'll go!
This world needs your remaking;
come, let your rivers flow!

Death Valley Desert Gold Super Bloom By Jerry Mclaughlin – Imported from 500px (archived version) by the Archive Team. (detail page), CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73805358

It Will Be Good

Mashing up Psalm 126, James 5, and therapy. Set to music by the inimitable Paul Zach:

We sowed the fields in sorrow
and watered them with tears,
but we will reap tomorrow
the harvest of our years.

The hopes all came to nothing,
the seedlings choked with thorns,
but something else is growing
among the seeds we've sown.

At dawn, we went out weeping,
seeds falling from our hands,
but we will come home singing
when dusk has touched the land.

Then let the rains come early,
and let the rains come late.
The seasons still are turning,
if only we will wait.

So watch the fields with patience
and love the fallen seeds;
the God who hears us praying
will give us all we need.

It won't be what we planted
or what we understood.
It won't be what we wanted,
but, oh!, it will be good.
Vincent van Gogh – The Sower – the-sower-vincent-van-gogh-1853-1890/DgGm5xSd6Ik5rg at Google Arts & Culture, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=116387347

What We Lost

When the LORD restored the captives of Zion,

we thought we were dreaming.

Then our mouths were filled with laughter;

our tongues sang for joy.

Then it was said among the nations,

“The LORD had done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us;

Oh, how happy we were!

Restore our captives, LORD,

like the dry stream beds of the Negeb.

Those who sow in tears

will reap with cries of joy.

Those who go forth weeping,

carrying sacks of seed,

Will return with cries of joy,

carrying their bundled sheaves.

Psalm 126
The grasses withered in the heat;
the streams have all run dry,
and hope lies shattered in defeat,
yet God still hears our cry.

The walls we lifted, stone on stone,
lie scattered on the sands—
yet see the wonders God has done:
Alive again we stand!

And what we lost, God will restore,
though it may still be long,
for we will live in peace once more
to raise a joyful song.

We sowed the fields with bitter seeds
and watered them with tears,
but we will harvest, rich and sweet,
the sheaves of fallen years.

And all we've lost will come again—
O God, may it be soon!
And let the welcome feast begin,
the withered flowers bloom!

When all our loves return once more,
all sorrows are destroyed,
the desert streambeds overflow
and heaven weeps for joy!
Psalm 126 – Two human figures are looking up, one with parted lips and the other with his left arm stretched out. To the left of the word are two more human figures, with eyes closed and inclined heads resting on their right hands. The latter illustrate v.1, ‘When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream’, and the former, either the word shir (song) of the superscription, or v.2, ‘Then our mouth was filled with… shouts of joy’. By Unknown author – The Parma Psalter, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26033837

The Ages-Endless Love of God

Beneath the surface, there's a seed;
in stillness deep it lies.
All through the winter it may sleep;
in springtime it will rise.
So, hidden in my weary heart
beneath a world of noise,
the ages-endless love of God
lives there, a quiet joy.

The seed that fell down to the ground
will rise to greet the dawn,
to find a day where hope abounds
or where all hope is gone.
Though locusts may devour the crop
or storm and drought destroy,
the ages-endless love of God
will be my quiet joy.

Though I may spring up with the days
or fade into the night,
yet do I hear a song of praise
in darkness or in light.
It sings in me, and I resound
to echo that small voice:
The ages-endless love of God
is still my quiet joy.
Seedling By Momali – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11840240