I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field
that had treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
Malcolm Guite reads today’s poem
Today is the first Sunday in Lent, but as Malcolm Guite writes in The Word in the Wilderness:
Properly speaking, all Sundays are exceptions to Lent, for every Sunday is a commemoration of the first day of the week, the day of resurrection, and so really part of Easter. We should see Sundays as little islands of vision in the midst of Lent, or perhaps as little oases or pools of reflection and refreshment on our Lenten journey…
Today, let us reflect on the mysterious gospel paradox that in order to receive we must give. Jesus returned to this theme frequently as a cornerstone of His mission and message. Lent, for many is about giving things up, but it is much bigger than that. As Malcom Guite wrote:
The gospel is not about giving up and going without for its own sake; it is about making room for something wonderful. It is about clearing out the clutter, not only making the space but taking the time for the kingdom that might seem tiny as a mustard seed but will prove, in due course, to be the great branching tree in whose canopy we all find a place. But we must glimpse the seed, buy the field, take the time, and not lose it all by ‘hurrying by’.
What seed and what field are now before you?
Matthew 13.44– 46
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Dig Deeper: Literature & Liturgy
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning in her long poem Aurora Leigh also brings us to such a moment; indeed, she takes it further, suggesting that these glimpses of glory are not just a wistful one-off in an otherwise empty desert but are richly available to us always and everywhere, if only we have eyes to see and time to stop: Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, (Aurora Leigh, lines 61 − 3)
Guite, Malcolm. Word in the Wilderness (Kindle Locations 525-530). Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd. Kindle Edition.
For more see The Poetry Foundation
Recognized as one of the leading poets of modern Wales, R. S. Thomas writes about the people of his country in a style that some critics have compared to that nation’s harsh and rugged terrain. Using few of the common poetic devices, Thomas’s work exhibits what Alan Brownjohn of the New Statesman calls a “cold, telling purity of language.” James F. Knapp of Twentieth Century Literature explains that “the poetic world which emerges from the verse of R. S. Thomas is a world of lonely Welsh farms and of the farmers who endure the harshness of their hill country. The vision is realistic and merciless.” Despite the often grim nature of his subject matter, Thomas’s poems are ultimately life-affirming. “What I’m after,” John Mole of Phoenix quotes Thomas explaining, “is to demonstrate that man is spiritual.” As Louis Sasso remarks in Library Journal, “Thomas’s poems are sturdy, worldly creations filled with compassion, love, doubt, and irony. They make one feel joy in being part of the human race.”
For more see The Poetry Foundation
Malcolm Guite and The Word in the Wilderness
Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings. For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page.
Photo courtesy Lancia E. Smith
For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.