Abba

As an infant babbles “Abba,”
or lets out a wordless cry,
so we wail for you, O Father:
Will your mercy pass us by?
You have seen us in our anguish
and you have not turned away,
but you sent your Word unlanguaged
who once uttered night and day.

Now he lies, as we lie, helpless
in the limits of our flesh,
and will one day lie there breathless
in the stillness of our death.
Where the silence is unbroken,
there the Word of life will go,
though he cannot be unspoken,
all our wordlessness he'll know.

So he wails across the midnight
with a newborn's feeble strength,
as each one of us begins life,
cry as old as birth itself.
He has joined us in our wailing;
let us join our cries to his
for the mercy neverfailing:
Father God, your mercy give!

Nativity of Christ, medieval illustration from the Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (12th century), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31441189

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The Word That Struck Creation’s Spark

The word that struck creation's spark
is silent in the waiting dark:
Eternity bound in her womb,
knit into time, wrapped for the tomb.

So his earth in her waters grows
'til parted by her body's throes, 
and he for whom the dark was light
is pierced by one star shining bright.

And she, the good earth for the seed,
has magnified her God indeed:
Invisible but for her love,
he wails to see the stars above.

The constellations dance and dim
beyond the light announcing him,
and shepherds who have left their sheep
now watch unblinking Godhead sleep.

They sing, in words he gave them first,
sweet comfort for the baby's birth,
that child and mother, weary worn,
may slumber, slumber, 'til the morn.

By Albrecht Dürer – This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60874091

And He Himself

And he, in the beginning,
and he himself the end,
a thread of seconds spinning,
the heaven's veil to rend:
as flesh and blood's withinning,
the highest love descends.

And he himself the sower,
and he himself the seed,
casts love still low and lower
beneath our weary feet.
Now hidden in the furrow,
he aches with winter's need.

And he himself, the spoken,
no silence now disturbs.
The hope that he betokens
seems nothing but absurd,
until the the night breaks open
with cries that have no words.

And he himself the living
is he himself the dead,
calls us into forgiving
with all we've done and said,
into the feast he's giving,
and he himself the bread.

Baptistery mosaics, Last Judgment – Christ the Judge https://duomo.firenze.it/en/discover/baptistry

Ash From Ash

Ash from ash we are;
dust, and dust again.
But on us shines a star,
and music fills the plain.
Deserts meet the seas;
earth and rain make mud:
Christ wed himself to these,
God's life in flesh and blood.

Flowers fade at dusk;
rivers chase the sea—
Christ came as one of us.
O God, how can it be?
Heaven filling earth;
God-with-us drawn near
to join us by birth,
though we are nothing here.

Dust our dust has blest,
frailty treasured now:
Eternity enfleshed,
and every knee shall bow.
Jesus, Son of God,
mercy born as man,
who shaped us from the sod:
Oh, hold us in your hand!
dust storm blankets Texas houses, April 1935 By Credit: NOAA George E. Marsh Album – Source: original upload 7 March 2005 in english wikipedia by w:en:User:Brian0918; there from http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/theb1365.htmSource: original upload 7 March 2005 in english wikipedia by w:en:User:Brian0918; there from welding training, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=235911

Be With Us Here

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”

Luke 17:11-19
O God, refusing to be bound
in heaven's perfect sphere,
who took the pathway plunging down,
be with the fallen here.

The ninety-nine are in their fold;
climb down the deep crevasse
to seek the lost, and safely hold,
and bring them back at last.

You left the Father's painless realm
to draw your people near.
You walked the way of all our flesh:
Be with the lepers here.

The hale and whole no doctors need,
and so you came to heal.
Now show the wounded to the priests;
yourself in them reveal.

And swifter than the spirit moves,
now may your truth appear:
For us who cannot see your love,
be with the blinded here.

For we have said that we are well
and do not see our wounds.
We shut our eyes and tripped and fell:
Come bring us back to you.
Christus und die Aussätzigen, um 1920, Diözesanmuseum Freising, Inv. D94111 By Gebhard Fugel – Own work (fotografiert in der Ausstellung “Gebhard Fugel 1863-1939. Von Ravensburg nach Jerusalem”. Galerie Fähre, Altes Kloster, Bad Saulgau, 2014), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32072389

Baker

You scooped up from the garden
three measures of fine dust—
of heart and mind nad body—
You kneaded and made us.

Can bread become the baker,
the baker be the bread?
Creation hold its maker
within a manger bed?

But so it was, Messiah:
You came, past all belief,
to see your stars from this side,
your heavens from beneath.

And, kneaded from the same earth,
our God from God's own hands,
you joined us by the same birth:
a mother's labor pains.

Her body broken open
to bear and nourish yours;
your body blessed and broken
to feed a starving world.

The dust of earth in heaven,
and heaven filling earth:
This is the feast you set us,
O savior of the dirt.
Madonna of Port Lligat 1950 by Salvador Dali https://globalworship.tumblr.com/post/71134594422/christ-child-madonna-by-dali-1950

Mother of My Lord

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
Oh, come to me across the hills
on any rugged path you find, 
and though it calls you backward still,
leave dusty Galilee behind

to let me hear you say my name.
Call to my now in ancient voice
to crack my chrysalis of shame
as something in me leaps for joy.

O Mother of my Lord, O blest,
how can it be that you should come?
But like the swallow, build your nest
and stoop to rest in this, your home:

no bygone shrine, untouched by years,
but living, breathing dirt and grime.
Come clothe him in my sweat and tears
and cradle him in arms like mine.

Not in a page of history
or atlas of a distant land,
but come, my mother: Visit me;
I'll feel him move beneath my hands.

Bring him to me! Bring me your son,
and quicken me with his own life,
that all my days while yet they run,
may hold the living, present Christ.
Eastern Christian fresco of the Visitation in St. George Church in Kurbinovo, North Macedonia By Unknown author – http://faq.macedonia.org/images/embrace.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9976800

Staring At the Heavens

When they had gathered together they asked him,

“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons

that the Father has established by his own authority.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,

and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,

throughout Judea and Samaria,

and to the ends of the earth.”

When he had said this, as they were looking on,

he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.

While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,

suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.

They said, “Men of Galilee,

why are you standing there looking at the sky?

This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven

will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Acts 1:1-11

To the tune AURELIA:

We're staring at the heavens
to see the Lord's return,
but to the earth we're given,
to serve as he has done:
Not with the wings of angels
or soul's unbodied flame,
but with th hands he made us
to labor in his name.

For Jesus came incarnate
from heaven to the earth:
like ours, his human body;
like ours, his helpless birth.
Though heaven witnessed to him,
his suffering and death,
it's here on earth we knew him
who gave us life and breath.

So let us not stand staring
and watching empty skies,
but let us go forth daring
to witness to the Christ:
our feet in faithful roving,
our hands in mercy's work,
our hearts and minds in loving
God's images on earth.
Ascension of Christ by Adriaen van Overbeke, c. 1510–1520 – https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/antwerp-school-circa-1510-1520-the-ascension-of-5790472-details.aspx, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83155533

Breath

You spoke my name, and I began;
you breathed your life into my clay,
and by that breath alone, I am:
a word you've chosen still to say.

Not mine alone, but your breaths, too,
from that first cry in Bethlehem,
in every moment make me new—
and you alone can number them.

The widow's son and Lazarus
and Jairus' daughter lost in death:
You came to them (to all of us)
and gave them back the living breath.

You breathed your last upon the cross
and first again on Easter morn.
You sobbed and screamed through helplessness
as one of us since you were born.

My panting, gasping, choking days,
my yawns and drawn-out sighs of night:
You know them all, the songs of praise
and shouting at a world not right.

So let my every breath be yours,
for you have hallowed each of them,
and breathe upon me, living Lord,
that I may have your peace in them.
Alsace, Bas-Rhin, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg (PA00085015). Bas-côté sud, Verrière “Résurrection du Christ” (4eBc): Jésus apparaît aux disciples By © Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia Commons – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14571792

O Christ, the Burning Light of God

But the LORD said,

“I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt

and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers,

so I know well what they are suffering.

Therefore I have come down to rescue them

from the hands of the Egyptians

and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land,

a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15

To the tune CONDITOR ALME SIDERUM (“Creator of the Stars of Night”):

O Christ, the burning light of God,
the flame of love that Moses saw,
you heard our sorrows and came down
to make of earth a holy ground.

You saw our suffering and death
and counted every tear we'd wept.
You knew the plight of all th'enslaved
and bound yourself into their chains.

Come, take us from th'enslaver's hand
and lead us into Eden's land.
Though all the desert stretch before,
Lord, walk with us forevermore.

Through nights of waiting, days of thirst,
let living springs from dry stone burst.
Let manna all our hunger fill,
and flames of love burn in us still.

Come, save our bodies and our souls:
As bread from heaven, make us whole.
O Christ, who hears his people's voice,
turn all our sorrows into joys.

O promise made to Abraham,
you saved us by your own I AM.
Let every generation bless
God-with-us in the wilderness!
Moses vor dem brennenden Dornbusch, um 1920, Diözesanmuseum Freising, Inv. D 94117 By Gebhard Fugel – Own work (fotografiert in der Ausstellung “Gebhard Fugel 1863-1939. Von Ravensburg nach Jerusalem”. Galerie Fähre, Altes Kloster, Bad Saulgau, 2014), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32072413