The Only Way Up

The Only Way Up

Jonah 1:1-3 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

Out of the depths of unapproachable light
Came the Word to Galilee’s Jonah who
Begrudgingly waited in Gath-Hepher’s night,
And hearing, arose–off in fantasy flew.
Descending in a run to Joppa’s bustling quay,
He trolled the tugs of resentment’s satisfaction.
Boarded and stowed sleeping sadness away
When Reality presses in piercing diffraction.
The Light punched in darkness; Peace brought the storm;
No tactful backing, no escape, only through–
Till the castaway’s will is tossed overboard
And washed by the flood, untwisted, made true.
Awash in the sea God’s messenger drowns.
The only way out is in, the only the way up, down.

(c) Randy Edwards
artwork: Peter Paul Rubens

O King of Nations

O King of Nations

The seventh in a series of sonnets based on the Great O Antiphons. This sonnet is based on the antiphon, O Rex Gentium (O King of Nations). The translation reads: “O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.”

The antiphon is based on several passages from the Old Testament including the following.
Hag. 2:7 I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty.
Is. 28:16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

O King of Nations, for whom we long and desire
Come to your creation, square it and right
Mend the marred, rebuild, and never tire
Till darkness is shaken, pull down the night.
As carpenter and joiner, he dovetails and makes one,
Bridges as keystone the pillared-arched ceiling,
Tears down hostility, makes righteousness run,
And cross-armed gathers in mercy and healing.
In concretion and cohesion, held fast by this King
Sustained by His pervasive presence and power
Made a people of his own sealed in promise as a ring
Wedded beneath his love’s banner and bower.
The King of our desiring has climbed into the clay
Creation’s cornerstone is laid Christmas day.

(c) Randy Edwards

artwork: Egerton MS 3277 2nd half of 14th century; Psalter and Hours (the ‘Bohun Psalter’)

O Root of Jesse II

O Root of Jesse II

This sonnet is based on the Great O Antiphon prayer, O Root of Jesse which reads:
“O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.”

Isaiah 11:1 in in part the source of the prayer, and it reads, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”

There could be nothing so hopeless as a tree’s
Stump from which top and green has been
Cut and which no longer has leaves
And for its diminution is no longer seen.
O Root of Jesse, the stump from which
Springs hope and joy and peace
Which makes those cut off rich
Who had no reputation but least
Yet even now from the lifeless wood,
Hangs our hope in wondrous love,
And deep in earth when hope should
Be lost, the olive branch is born in the dove.
Come now Root of Jesse, and bring
The peace and joy of which we long and sing.

(c)Randy Edwards
artwork: The Jesse Tree in the Lambeth Psalter, unknown English miniaturist, c.1140s

O Key of David

This is the fourth in a series of sonnets based on the Great O Antiphons. This sonnet is based on the Antiphon, “O Key of David” which reads, “O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

Is. 22:22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

Isiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

Is. 9:2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

O Key of David, set my bound will free:
Unlock every barred way;
Open the prison in the heart of me;
Lead me into the light of day.
Come to me as the rising sun;
Unclasp with liberating light;
Mount your chariot your courses run
And bring me out of darkest night.
Resentment rusted, my bound heart–
Unable to release the catch.
Your love opens with a locksmith’s art
As tumbled tears let go the latch.
And bid you enter my frozen soul
Filling with freedom, making me whole.

(c) Randy Edwards
artwork: from The Queen Mary Apocalypse, England (London or East Anglia), 1st quarter of the 14th century, Royal 19 B. xv, f. 38v

O Root of Jesse

The third antiphon of the Great O Antiphons reads: “O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.”

The sonnet is based on Isaiah 11:1, 10-12. “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit….
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.  11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. 12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”

O Root of Jesse, the tender shoot
From whom the kingdom springs
In this world reach down, take root
To free the captives bring your blessings.
O Root of Jesse, who walked Galilee
Working wonders among your own
Stopping to heal those why cry, “Mercy!”
But for you, no mercy was shown,
O Root of Jesse, born to die
Raised on a tree, thorns for a crown
Raised to life, the tomb opened to sky
The stump springs green though the tree cut down.
O Root of Jesse, who makes men free,
Take root in my heart and grow in me

(c) Randy Edwards
artwork: The Jesse Tree in the Lambeth Psalter, unknown English miniaturist, c.1140s

O Lord (O Adonai)

The second of the Great O Antiphons of Advent.
“O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

Based on: Based on Exodus 6:6 “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. “

O Lord, as Sinai’s burning bush blazed with fire
You answered Moses saying “I AM,” is your name,
And promised your arm would reach and never tire
Until your son you saved from slavery and shame.
Even while gathering the bread you sent each day
And resting in the presence of shrouded Sinai’s peak
The people complain, reject the word, and stray
From Him who’s love it is to rescue those who’re weak.
Whether Pharaoh or Self, my arms cannot bear
The weight of the oppressing world’s pretenders and lords
Shackled in silence caught again in sin’s snare
Paying a jailer off in lies for the rightness I can’t afford.
But the I AM in a manger laid bare His arm and crossed
Reached down to our humanity to redeem the bound and lost.

(c) Randy Edwards

artwork: Moses and the Burning Bush ; Michiel van der BORCH ; illuminated miniature on vellum from Jacob van Maerlant’s « Rhimebible » of Utrecht ; manuscript MMW 10 B 21; Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague

O Wisdom II

“O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other mightily, and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.”

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

O Wisdom we hear the call for what we lack
The insight to know what we should do.
Regret and failure, rush to stab us in the back
In darkness we grope, reaching out to find you.
And more than answers but of character we
Seek to be Spiritually formed and stayed
Not double-minded, tossed in confusion’s sea
But with courage to stand, in glory to be made.
O Wisdom go, they are lost in that world.
Each city block a crossroad, a decision to make
Knowing with each step their destiny unfurls
To blessing or cursing, show them which way to take.
And Wisdom heard and obeyed and rushed to find them
Crying out to the lost from a manger in Bethlehem.

(c) Randy Edwards

from: Nativity, a large historiated initial from an Antiphonary, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Italy (Florence), c.1400]