Talking To God

As Malcolm Guite points out in The Word in the Wilderness, many have followed the traditional model of prayer to great extreme…

St Paul asks us to pray without ceasing, and some contemplatives have understandably interpreted that as a call to leave the world with its business and distractions and seek long swathes of uninterrupted time devoted to prayer and prayer alone. Others have seen it as a call to have a continual hidden mantra, like the Jesus prayer, wheeling and cycling beneath all we do, providing an undercurrent or ground note of prayer beneath all our daily activities. Both these approaches have their merits and have proved fruitful in the lives of some of the greatest saints, but they are not for everyone.

The featured poem today by Kelly Belmonte causes us to ask “What is prayer?”  The question seems simple enough, but is it only the traditional version that begins with ‘Our Father’ and ends with ‘Amen?’  Many prayers are exactly that, but can they be more?

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Angel’s Age

How might my prayer partake the angels’ age
Theirs is no age at all, but all in one;
My moments pass, as steps in pilgrimage,
But they begin where my dark journey’s done.
They see all things at once: each point in time
For them is radiant with eternity.
Mine are the twists and turns, the long road home,
Theirs is the over-view, and flying free
They brush me with their feathers, with the rumour
Of their flight, and something in me sings
Into their passing light, till my prayer-murmur,
Circled in the slipstream of their wings,
Is lifted up in grace to join with theirs,
Who sing a Sanctus into all our prayers.

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The Church’s Banquet

Not some strict modicum, exact allowance,
Precise prescription, rigid regimen,
But beauty and gratuitous abundance,
Capacious grace, beyond comparison.
Not something hasty, always snatched alone;
Junkets of junk food, fuelling our dis-ease,
Not little snacklets eaten on the run,
But peace and plenty, taken at our ease.
Not to be worked for, not another task,
But love that’s lavished on us, full and free,
Course after course of hospitality,
And rich wine flowing from an unstopped flask.
He paid the price before we reached the inn,
And all He asks of us is to begin.


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A Love Known Only To Mothers

At last, in spite of all, a recognition,
For those who loved and laboured for so long,
Who brought us, through that labour, to fruition
To flourish in the place where we belong.
A thanks to those who stayed and did the raising,
Who buckled down and did the work of two,
Whom governments have mocked instead of praising,
Who hid their heart-break and still struggled through,
The single mothers forced onto the edge
Whose work the world has overlooked, neglected,
Invisible to wealth and privilege,
But in whose lives the kingdom is reflected.
Now into Christ our mother church we bring them,
Who shares with them the birth-pangs of His Kingdom.

Mothering Sunday by Malcolm Guite

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Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise.
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied;
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to straw thy way:
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Easter by George Herbert

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Holy Saturday

His spirit and his life he breathes in all,
Now on this cross his body breathes no more.
Here at the centre everything is still,
Spent, and emptied, opened to the core.
A quiet taking down, a prising loose,
A cross-beam lowered like a weighing scale,
Unmaking of each thing that had its use,
A long withdrawing of each bloodied nail.
This is ground zero, emptiness and space
With nothing left to say or think or do,
But look unflinching on the sacred face
That cannot move or change or look at you.
Yet in that prising loose and letting be
He has unfastened you and set you free.

Jesus’ Body is Taken Down from the Cross by Malcolm Guite

Here at the centre everything is still,
Before the stir and movement of our grief
Which bears its pain with rhythm, ritual,
Beautiful useless gestures of relief.
So they anoint the skin that cannot feel
And soothe his ruined flesh with tender care,
Kissing the wounds they know they cannot heal,
With incense scenting only empty air.
He blesses every love that weeps and grieves,
And makes our grief the pangs of a new birth.
The love that’s poured in silence at old graves
Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth,
Is never lost. In him all love is found
And sown with him, a seed in the rich ground.

Jesus is Laid in the Tomb by Malcolm Guite

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Good Friday

The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black
We watch him as he labours to draw breath.
He takes our breath away to give it back,
Return it to its birth through his slow death.
We hear him struggle, breathing through the pain,
Who once breathed out his spirit on the deep,
Who formed us when he mixed the dust with rain
And drew us into consciousness from sleep.
His Spirit and his life he breathes in all,
Mantles his world in his one atmosphere,
And now he comes to breathe beneath the pall
Of our pollutions, draw our injured air
To cleanse it and renew. His final breath
Breathes and bears us through the gates of death.

Jesus Dies on the Cross by Malcolm Guite

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Maundy Thursday

Here is the source of every sacrament,
The all-transforming presence of the Lord,
Replenishing our every element,
Remaking us in his creative Word.
For here the earth herself gives bread and wine,
The air delights to bear his Spirit’s speech,
The fire dances where the candles shine,
The waters cleanse us with his gentle touch.
And here he shows the full extent of love
To us whose love is always incomplete,
In vain we search the heavens high above,
The God of love is kneeling at our feet.
Though we betray him, though it is the night.
He meets us here and loves us into light.

Maundy Thursday by Malcolm Guite

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The Anointing At Bethany

Come close with Mary, Martha, Lazarus,
So close the candles flare with their soft breath,
And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
Lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement,
In quietness and intimate encounter,
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
Is broken open for the world’s true lover.
The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
Here at the very centre of all things,
Here at the meeting place of love and loss
We all foresee and see beyond the cross.

The Anointing At Bethany by Malcolm Guite

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Cleansing The Temple

Come to your Temple here with liberation
And overturn these tables of exchange,
Restore in me my lost imagination,
Begin in me for good the pure change.
Come as you came, an infant with your mother,
That innocence may cleanse and claim this ground.
Come as you came, a boy who sought his father
With questions asked and certain answers found.
Come as you came this day, a man in anger,
Unleash the lash that drives a pathway through,
Face down for me the fear, the shame, the danger,
Teach me again to whom my love is due.
Break down in me the barricades of death
And tear the veil in two with your last breath.

Cleansing The Temple by Malcolm Guite

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