The Creator became the heart of creationwhen in Christ Jesus He took on our flesh. This is no small thing. He who is one hundred percent divine became also one hundred percent man: true God, true man. What but the love that existed in the Trinitarian God frometernity could cause Him who created all that exists and all that has being to take on the rescue of His creatures in this humbling fashion, enduring the darkness of our world and enduring our death in order to free us from evil and death eternally! So great is His love for us that He came down at Christmas to raise us up with Christ and give us Himself for all eternity.
So we rejoice! We rejoice at such a love, such a Creator, such a God who gave Himself for usand to us when He who is “Love came down at Christmas.”And we thank Him, and praise Him, and glorify and worship Him who through this life has promised to never leave us nor forsake us for He has made us His children in Christ Jesus! Hallelujah! For the Lord God eternal reigns! Hallelujah!
Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love Divine, Love was born at Christmas, Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead, Love Incarnate, Love Divine, Worship we our Jesus, But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token, Love be yours and love be mine, Love to God and all men, Love for plea and gift and sign.
Christina Rossetti (1885)
A note to my readers and blogger friends: I will be taking a blogging break for a while and look to reconnect in the New Year. Merry Christmas to all and to all, best wishes for a Happy New Year!
Aristotle wrote that women are incomplete men. I was raised on this with my mother’s milk. What is a girl when your firstborn could have been a boy. In my mother’s eyes, shame. In my father’s, disappointment, shame. Flawless would be a boy. Flawed would be me.
Christmas with a baby at the center just turned up the drollery of fate. Each year’s gift whispered, “Be a man. Someone notable. Do that for us and we will love you.” How unkind to have only a girl child to celebrate the birth of a King!
What child is this? Daddy asks. Mummy echoes, What child is this?
I ask, Dear God, What Child is this?
“What Child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping?”1
Now Christmas comes to a woman whose hair is thinning, whose hands and feet are deformed with disease, whose gait is slow, whose back is bent. Not under the weight of shame. She sees the One in the manger born and wonders that Love came down into the muck of a world where children cry themselves to sleep and no one hears or cares. Jesus, You came a long way. And so did I with You.
This, this One died lonely tree-hung to save a girl child from pitiless hands
Philippians 2:5-11 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
1What Child Is This?
What child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping, Whom angels greet with anthems sweet While shepherds watch are keeping?
(Refrain)This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing; Haste, haste to bring Him laud, The babe, the son of Mary!
Why lies He in such mean estate Where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christian, fear: for sinners here The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through, The Cross be borne for me, for you; Hail, hail the Word Made Flesh, The babe, the son of Mary!
So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh; Come, peasant, king, to own Him! The King of Kings salvation brings; Let loving hearts enthrone Him!
Raise, raise the song on high! The virgin sings her lullaby. Joy! joy! for Christ is born, The babe, the son of Mary!
William Chatterton Dix, “What Child Is This?” (1865)
Donna's Go Dog Go Cafe’s Inaugural Haibun Wednesday
Eugi's Weekly Prompt: "notable"
Maisie gazes up at the light-catcher’s abode. She had tracked him down to this narrow street months ago, carefully observing his habits.
She still wonders why he’s here, when the comfortable far-palaces of Glinoraram are his for the asking, this youngest son of the king.
She was sent to bring him back, by force if necessary. Instead she finds herself discreetly helping him as Abaddon’s1 darkness grows heavier.
The dwellers on this dismal street need every light-scrap the light-catcher can find to give.
Emerging from his eyrie, his keen eyes meet hers knowingly. Did he know she loved him?
1The Hebrew term Abaddon (Hebrew: אֲבַדּוֹן Avaddon, meaning “destruction”, “doom”), and its Greek equivalent Apollyon (Koinē Greek: Ἀπολλύων, Apollúōn meaning “Destroyer”) appear in the Bible as both a place of destruction and an archangel of the abyss. In the Hebrew Bible, abaddon is used with reference to a bottomless pit, often appearing alongside the place Sheol (שְׁאוֹל Šəʾōl), meaning the realm of the dead.
In the Book of Revelation of the New Testament, an angel called Abaddon is described as the king of an army of locusts; his name is first transcribed in Koine Greek (Revelation 9:11—”whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon,”) as Ἀβαδδών, and then translated Ἀπολλύων, Apollyon. The Vulgate and the Douay–Rheims Bible have additional notes not present in the Greek text, “in Latin Exterminans”, exterminans being the Latin word for “destroyer”.
From childhood I’ve led a nomadic life, then thankfully settled down for a while after my marriage; but due to varied pressures over the last dozen years or so, we found ourselves moving not once, not twice, but four times!
Let slip the dogs of war, cry ‘Havoc!’1 My life is in boxes. Taped wounds reopen. Something’s lost, new scars of the march Mark rosewood and disquiet heart, Chipping tall glasses into which descanted Expectations contain shards. I swallow
To survive. Patience. There is no end to it. Nothing is ever put away in just the right place As it was before, or ever after. A life’s exhumations, Dislocated. Some funerary remains stay buried mysteries, Supernumerary or symptoms of malaise. Diagnosis: Lassitude. The patient’s surgical cut unanesthetized
Comes at Christmas, when more than one treasured Ornament is missed, or smashed, glitter powder, a crack On Nutcracker chin. His stout smile now on my face. Shrugging away another casualty. The clock chimes. There are cookies in the oven in the new-not-new
Kitchen where cups and saucers rotate from shelf To shelf to find a home. The doorbell rings. I prepare my bravado. Hopeful eyes meet mine, A Christmas tree on slim shoulders, angelic annunciation To their father’s bemused smile. Now a certain
Cavalcade of the heart, benediction of wise men’s gold Escaping boxes, escaping from what was To what is. Another Egypt. Another promised land. Father Abraham. Mother Sarah. Tents folded Unfolded. Tinsel time like tinsel tears shimmer past. Frankincense and myrrh. My life by blood covenant, Thine.
1“The military order ‘Havoc!’ was a signal given to the English military forces in the Middle Ages to direct the soldiery (in Shakespeare’s parlance ‘the dogs of war’) to pillage and chaos. The ‘let slip’ is an allusion to the slip collars that were used to restrain dogs and were easily ‘let slip’ to allow the dogs to run and hunt.”
Image credit: Michael Whelan, "Lights," acrylic on watercolor board, 1991
I'm guest-hosting today at dVerse "Poetics: Epiphany in the Time of Holiday," where we will write on what an epiphany during this holiday season would look like for us (or someone we know or imagine). An epiphany, writes critic X. J. Kennedy, is 'some moment of insight, discovery, or revelation by which a character’s life, or view of life, is greatly altered.' Epiphany is from the Greek, epiphainein, “to show forth.” (James Joyce, for example, describes epiphanies in everyday life, using stream-of-consciousness in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” mixing memories, associations, moral/ideological/religious issues.) Click on Mr. Linky and join in!
There she was: I realized she was me crouched in the beating room, hateful she, a thing that cried piteously ugly she, crying stupidly, screwed up she, she ugly, she stupid, she dumb, nothing deserving.
Dark, glassy the room: no color, but a stink of loathing a stink of putrid fear, foul abhorrence disgust mirrored through the open door of midnight huddled waiting for the next well-deserved blow.
The rustling of leaves: standing many a time at the doorway dreaming she was never there, the she that was me this still-born excrescence, but now she, suddenly shielded with the cloak of pure light of the Ancient One, holy, whose right cannot be denied, his blood the price for she, for me.
Romans 7:14-25 (NET) For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin. For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want – instead, I do what I hate. But if I do what I don’t want, I agree that the law is good. But now it is no longer me doing it, but sin that lives in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me. So, I find the law that when I want to do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. But I see a different law in my members waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 8:15 (NET) For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.”
2 Corinthians 3: 17-18 (NET) Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
For dVerse: Poetics - Dungeons and Dragons, Sanaa asks that we "play a poetry game called,'Dungeons and Derivatives.' The idea here is to select one (from a list of eight sentences) and to change at least one word or more by replacing it with a derivative. Once you are done, unlock the muse from its dungeon and write a poem with the existing sentence." I chose the line from one of her poems which runs: “The rustling of leaves; I have stood many a time at the doorway of dreaming.” Click on Mr. Linky to read more and join in!
I’ve always stood out. Indian child. Small town. No friends really. A lonely thing with a big moon that followed her. I thought about you a lot. Didn’t know you thought about me too. You know the story. You loved me even when I didn’t. I wanted to DO something. Never did. I trained with pretty great chefs, one from Paris. They agreed all I did right was making tomato soup. What could I do? I opened a stand-out “All-Things-Tomato” take-out. Some can pay. Some can’t. I do it for You, Lord. May it be to Your glory.
For Rochelle Wisoff-Field's Friday Fictioneers where we write in any genre in 100 words or less. Click on the frog and join in!
Sitting across the table from you Wonder what you’re thinking Is it just the food? Something more? You look up. The sweetness in your eyes Dispels all doubts in wedded bliss All conversations merge into one There’s no one for me but you.
Sitting down at Your table with You Dark the vagrant thoughts in my head Not on the bread, nor on the wine Your living Presence hid to my eyes Your tender, humbling gaze on me, I look up: Enthroned majesty cloaked in a naked Lamb Slain for the love of a sinner like me There’s no one for me but You.
As clouds curl and stretch above a ginkgo tree a twilight gold wreathes three small figures their Dad quickening his steps as they race toward open church doors their laughter echoing in its depths and I still warm from the summer’s smile sit waiting on the benches of sung psalms there to worship the living God who knew this moment before it began a moment that began long before my conception in the dreaming womb of a mother returned to the songs of her land and I cold from her lost embrace, lost lamb carried in the arms of the Shepherd to sail motherhood embraced by the cossetting arms of a sun-kissed husband and the eager hands of ebullient children whose mouths warble love like songbirds in the Sabbath twilight as clouds curl and stretch above a ginkgo tree.
For my husband and children on Mother’s Day with love.
Whether Mr. Roth’s Poems from the Heart are read over the course of a week or a day, you will feel each time that you’ve just had a heartfelt talk with a friend: a friend with a way with words in all the particulars that touch you to the core. You’ll come away as if you’d been on a companionable walk, finding more in common than not with the poet, and knowing that it was time well-spent for the sentiments shared.
So it’s altogether fitting that the first poem is “Famous Only Among Friends”; after all only such fame is real and meaningful, with time spent and hearts open. And Roth invites us into his thoughts with his signature openheartedness, a style that is thankfully short on obscurities and long on frank and unabashed clarity so that its poetic beauty penetrates the heart.
Throughout this collection of poems, you will be charmed as I was with the poet’s unerring descriptions, the imagery of the woods (“To Be a Leaf”) and hearth-side (“Blackberry Pie”) mingling effortlessly with the deeper truths of life and spirituality.
It was Good Friday morning and Humble Singh was watching the clock.
He had done this every Good Friday for as long as he could remember, even while his wife, Millie, was still alive and before he had sold his business and moved to live with his son and his family.
It was a quarter to nine. Soon Jesus would arrive, cross-laden, at Golgotha. His face is beaten to a pulp, Jewish and Gentile spit mingles with his blood, and he is struggling with exhaustion and pain as long strips of deeply scored flesh lie open on his back from the scourging, and every nerve in his body screams in anticipation of the crucifixion. The soldiers hurry him along. They conscript a bystander to carry the horizontal beam on his back.
Ten till. Humble sat in his sitting room at the back of the house. Suddenly he leapt up and went into the back garden. Red tulips. Purple hyacinths. Large burgundy magnolia buds like the bruises that covered Christ’s body. The Roman soldiers had mocked him with a purple robe and a crown of thorns while beating him repeatedly. The Jewish priests and their hitting, spitting and slapping needed their scorn driven home. But it was their hour of shame. “His blood be on us and on our children!” the crowd had cried. The mob must have its victim. Even if that victim was pure, blameless. The Lamb of God.
A minute till nine. They lie him down, stripped, arms held down on the cross beam. Humble looks up at a movement in the shrubbery. A bunny had scurried through the open garden gate. Humble hurries to close it. Piercing nails. Blood running free. Writhing agony. Joints stretching in excruciating torture. The crowd gathers round. Women sob. Many watch in satisfaction.
“Humble! Yoo hoo, Humble!” a woman’s voice sings out. It was Prithi, known in the predominantly Asian neighborhood as the “Giddy Widow.” She approaches him with a broad smile and with nowhere to run, unlike the bunny, Humble returns her greeting. She comes into the garden, her heels clicking on the pavement, bangles bouncing on attractively plump arms and her rouged face a pantomime of coquetry.
They wander around the garden, Prithi chatty, Humble surreptitiously checking his watch. It was a large garden, professionally tended, an arbor here, a fish pond there, a large oak in the middle of the grounds, shady trees of cherry, plum, and maple. No olive trees. Unlike that garden where Christ sweated huge drops of blood at what he would be enduring today. “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”
Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? — Ecclesiastes 7:13
what God has done a crook in your lot can’t be set right by human device bent to a degree sorely injudicious by reason’s measure imperfect yardsticks we hold up to judge what God has done
what God has done humility to bear a stony field unleveled path that curved back that strained heart the roof that caved vanquished plans deathless grief if we dare decry what folly to fight when we can’t change what God has done
what God has done he sent his Son to bear our sins to pay the price to win our peace to lead the crooked down a narrow way to carry the weak to strengthen the tired to lead them home on eagle’s wings of faith and love of hope and joy to open blind eyes to see, my soul, what God has done
Job 12: 13-16 [Job speaks] “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open. If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land. With him are strength and sound wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his.”
Jude 24-25 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Romans 11: 33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
a rose to you and you and you dear readers that stumbled onto this page and familiar friends who’ve long remained through drought or storm as balmy days faithful ones who exchange the fruits gleaned from weedy words and pruned vines some tangy to the taste or sweetly spiced all enlivened with the sunlit labor of moments transcribed to screens of dispersed bytes to be received like petals furled and unfurled as if a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose when given in love
Sarah of dVerse asks us to choose a poem we’ve read over the last year and write a response to it in conversation, as it were, with its preoccupations. I’ve chosen John Updike’s “Fine Point,” written just weeks before his death in January 2009. His consciousness of our tainted public and personal history, and faith’s endurance as he alludes to Psalm 23, is what engages me most. And so my response, “En Pointe.”
What divinity is this that tempers our clay
with hammers of wrath expended on temple,
church, in our uneasy play with pagan tunes
of lust? Even as we covet our neighbor’s lamb
we would sing tuneful papyrus songs in our Babylon
with lyres hung under willows, calling out as children
“Abba, Father,” knowing we are heard by the Name
of One who bore the curse of our sinful rebellions.
O Son of David, thou whose lips have tendered infinity –
“It is finished” — mercy and justice united — blood
spilled and body spent on the cross so that Surely—
yes, “surely”— and all the days of my life wilt thou
pursue — not merely “follow”— poor substitute
for the ancient tongue which reaches out in mercy
as unbounded as a lover’s song of songs to me
now to dwell in the house of the Lord, forever. Selah.
Once, a child alone when October came I hear his footsteps just in the next room and when I rush to see him there he wasn’t there. He was everywhere.
Much later I cross a river, climb the embankment of trees, upwards to the plains, dry and dusty their breath, until I choke, my breath raw diseased, my bones on fire, the pain rasping pits of agony, feet twisted into unnatural screws. He stands clothed like a burning bush in wilderness autumn’s cloak across the mountaintop a fire unnatural, burning yet not burning for blind eyes to see, deaf ears to hear, “I AM.”
Now as another October comes I feel him near, the warmth of his presence a river running through the weatherized windows and doors, invisibly clear.
I know this darkness before light I know this voice before sound I know this death in life where bush burns but is not consumed.
Father of the trumpeting air and the setting sun the purple skies and rainbow grasses flapping ears and ardent eyes grasshoppers dancing with the breezes thunder of my feet singing of the stars beating of my heart, I thank You whose hands have made whose breath gives life to me.
God of the aurora glorious invisible Light of lights towering, blazing across glacial mountains and hearts over blue ice, silver melts, resounding majesty of fiery life bursting, joyous song of sky and sea in solitary havens of the northern vasts, I thank You whose hands have made whose breath gives life to me.
Ah, God of the waters, You who laughs into the inky darkness of the sea across floors of the cavernous deep to arms that embrace liquid melodies as anemones sway and the fishes race currents that play as tentacles trace buried landscapes, coral castles rising to unbroken nights where moonlight shimmers across my eyes, I thank You whose hands have made whose breath gives life to me.
Master of the universal grains of sand, where wrinkled feet that plod in burning heat find cactus bread and succulent juice treasures raining immeasurable mottled lee of rock and flowers that fade then rise like fallen sun and distant moon reappearing wondrous from spacious shell, I thank You whose hands have made whose breath gives life to me.
Great Lord and King, hidden Wanderer painting forests of pale brook-riven beech shades that ripple in gray-patched play on bark and grass, lantern-lit, daylight falling through canopied sky of quick-silver leaves whisper, break and bend the golden light to clothe supple burnt-orange strides of an elemental frame, I thank You whose hands have made whose breath gives life to me.
Psalm 98: 4-6Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
Genesis 2: 4-7 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up–for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground– then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
There are so many cliches about love, the word, perhaps, has lost its power, but not the notion, not the need, not the knowledge that love’s very presence makes life worth living. In one of his most famous poems (“In My Craft or Sullen Art”), Welsh poet Dylan Thomas speaks of lovers with “their arms round the griefs of the ages” which is curious, as if in embracing one another, they embrace grief, and not just each other’s but those universal.
Ack! What kind of love is this? you might ask.
Anyone who’s been married longer than a decade (or three, in my case) knows that this expresses the height of love. The willingness to bear another’s griefs rather than turn and walk away is love’s absolute zenith, its most precious characteristic. You don’t run away from the pain of those you truly love. Instead, you embrace it with them, faithfully, day after day after day.
And because no one’s life is without its griefs, we often say that we shouldn’t judge a person until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Sorrow and pain are universals. Beyond any happiness, we can readily sympathize with suffering. Each of us carries our pain within us. There are voiceless cries and unshed tears behind every smile we see. And apprehending the universality of our hidden hurts binds us more completely to one another than anything that divides us.
Emily Dickinson realizes this in her poem “I measure every Grief I meet” and while reading it, it struck me that our Lord Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves begins with this understanding, to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).”May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other,” St. Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians.
Christ Himself, of course, set the example. He was, as the prophet Isaiah described him, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” who “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53: 3, 4). “Blessed be the Lord,” the psalmist writes, “who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation” (Ps. 68:19, NASB). Because he does, He is where our hearts find their rest.
It’s not easy to help shoulder someone’s grief, not simply in the context of marriage and family, but also those of our friends and neighbors, even our enemies. Yet God commands us to love (Matt. 5:44), even as He loves us, and the way is the way of the Cross, our own and each other’s.
Emily Dickinson, “I measure every Grief I meet” (1830-1886)
I measure every Grief I meet With narrow, probing, Eyes — I wonder if It weighs like Mine — Or has an Easier size.
I wonder if They bore it long — Or did it just begin — I could not tell the Date of Mine — It feels so old a pain —
I wonder if it hurts to live — And if They have to try — And whether — could They choose between — It would not be — to die —
I note that Some — gone patient long — At length, renew their smile — An imitation of a Light That has so little Oil —
I wonder if when Years have piled — Some Thousands — on the Harm — That hurt them early — such a lapse Could give them any Balm —
Or would they go on aching still Through Centuries of Nerve — Enlightened to a larger Pain – In Contrast with the Love —
The Grieved — are many — I am told — There is the various Cause — Death — is but one — and comes but once — And only nails the eyes —
There’s Grief of Want — and Grief of Cold — A sort they call “Despair” — There’s Banishment from native Eyes — In sight of Native Air —
And though I may not guess the kind — Correctly — yet to me A piercing Comfort it affords In passing Calvary —
To note the fashions — of the Cross — And how they’re mostly worn — Still fascinated to presume That Some — are like My Own —
Isaiah 53: 2-5
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (NIV)
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Everyone knows that both Dante and Petrarch were haunted by their visions of ideal love, Dante had his Beatrice, and Petrarch his Laura. And as political exiles, each poet knew the terror of death. Writing was a way of easing the pain of both.
But did you know that these two titans of the Renaissance might have met in a quirk of circumstance?
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.