Key of David

Key of David

The Great O Antiphon for December 20 is Key of David. The antiphon 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.”

It refers back to several passages of Scripture. They are:

  • Isaiah 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,
  • Isaiah 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 the door that I may walk your way—
Joyful, resolved, with bright alacrity
And step from the shadows, out into day.

Rise! Mount your chariot, in your courses run,
Rain down truth, pierce me with arrows of light;
Shine bright O Clavis, as the noonday sun!
Deliver me from death, dis-spell the night.
For resentment has rusted my hard heart–
The spring is broken, will not free the latch;
Use your key to loose, use your locksmith’s art
To turn the bolt, spring the pins, free the catch.

Lo, I see a door hung, see his pierced side,
And ent’ring my heart, the Key, turns, abides.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
artwork: from The Queen Mary Apocalypse, England (London or East Anglia), 1st quarter of the 14th century, Royal 19 B. xv, f. 38v

Root of Jesse II

Root of Jesse II

The Great O Antiphon for December 19 is “O Radix” or “O Root.” It derives its inspiration from the promise of Isaiah 11:1 which reads, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Referring to the how the monarchy would be cut off because of the Babylonian exile, the promise is that from Jesse’s stump, a new Davidic line will grow.

The antiphon 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.”

Here’s a sonnet which draws its inspiration from the antiphon.

There is nothing so hopeless as a tree’s
Stump whose root has been lopped of limbs and green,
Cut down, lying lifeless, without its leaves;
Lament is all that’s left — only sorrow clings.

O Root of Jesse, the promised stump which
Buds our righteousness, mercy, joy, and peace
Who makes the poor, the meek, those hungry, rich—
The despised, exiled, cut off, counted least.

O how may hope rise from this lifeless wood,
This gallows tree, this cursed cross raised above
Which hangs with despair? Certainly no good
Could spring from death, could sing what wondrous love.

Come Root of Jesse, deliver and bring
The peace for which the nations long and sing.

© Randy Edwards 2019
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

O Lord

O Lord

In the liturgy leading up to Christmas Eve, a series of antiphons are added during the last days of Advent. These antiphons are called the Great O Antiphons.  The Great O Antiphon for December 18 is, “O Adonai” or “O Lord.” The antiphon reads, “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.”

From Sinai’s bush which blazed in holy fire
You answered, “I AM!”, gave Moses your name.
And promised your arm would reach, never tire
’Til you saved your son from slav’ry and shame.
And even while gath’ring the bread sent each day
Sheltered beneath Sinai’s thundering peak,
The people complained, rejected, and strayed
From HIM WHO IS, deliv’er of the weak.

O Lord, redeem! My arms cannot bear
The doing demands of performance lords,
Nor can avoid the tangle of sin’s snare
Betrayed by desire, cupidity’s cords.

Baring his arm I AM reached to the lost
By taking the wood of manger and cross.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artwork: © Jennifer Edwards 2004. All Rights Reserved.

Wisdom III

Wisdom III

December 17 is called Sapientia, for on this day the first of the Great O Antiphons, “Sapientia” is sung in liturgy. We are familiar with the antiphons but in a lesser way as they make up the verses of the Advent carol, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

Sapientia means “wisdom.” In the antiphon, Wisdom is addressed personally as is often the case in the book of Proverbs. A translation of the antiphon reads, “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.”

This sonnet is a mediation on Sapientia and is titled Wisdom III.

In the silence, before words, songs, or speech,
The Spirit breathes over the water’s night;
The Most High speaks; Wisdom readies to teach,
Drive away darkness, sing: “Let there be light!”

O’er Sinai, I AM in glory thunders;
Wisdom speaks again, makes her precepts known,
Reveals the way, writing worded wonders,
Her purpose and promise on tablets of stone.

David’s Branch shall come, rule with right wisdom;
Prince of Peace, Immanuel, God of Might,
O’erturn the proud, exalt in His Kingdom
The meek and low whom he mends, heals, makes right.

Tonight, Wisdom waits, poised in the world’s wild–
Inhales to speak through the cries of a child.

© Randall Edwards 2018. This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

Light of the World

Light of the World

This is the fourth in a series of ekphrastic poems based upon an Advent art project which Grace Presbyterian is doing to mark the Sundays to Christmas. The project is entitled The Jesse Tree, and you may read more on the Grace Presbyterian website HERE. A talented artist in the congregation has made use of abstraction to interpret each of the Jesse Tree themes which so far have focused on: King David, the Promised Land, the Suffering Servant, and now Light of the World.

Here’s her artwork as it hangs, and the poem it inspires, follows. What do you see?
Light of the World

In darkness we walked, hiding, alone—
Running away but afraid of too:
Being found out, seeing, being known.

And longing colors us in the blue
Of sadness, grief, for the waiting of
The morning when the old is made new.

A promise of joy sings from above
Fills hearts with wonder, faces flushed pink
Our Desire has come to us in love.

Standing on our toes right at the brink,
A door breaks open to the harassed
Who at last, welcomed, may feed and drink.

And Dayspring pours forth into night at last—
The Sunrise visits us from on high
Whom darkness crosses but cannot grasp.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.
Artwork: © Adah Freeman 2019, “Light of the World” acrylic on canvas. All Rights Reserved.

St. Lucy’s Day

St. Lucy’s Day

The cloudy sky o’erwhelms the failing sun
Who does not show or shine on sleeping trees
But wintered ‘way to southern courses run
Where the warm breeze blows golden, dappled leaves.

Dear Lucy, wreathed in beauty, bearing gifts
That we dared not hope for here in the dark
And seeing your courage, our spirits rise, lift
To honor in name, remember and mark.

Again, we are lost midway through our life
Huddled ‘gainst death in catacombs of fear
Crying the Creed: “God of God; Light of Light,”
Defying darkness till our Hope appears.
Come, illumine, bear your gifts, wreathed in light
To us who await the end of winter’s night.

© Randall Edwards 2017

Suffering Servant

Suffering Servant

This is the third in a series of ekphrastic poems which are a part of a Jesse Tree project for Advent. The painting draws its inspiration from the Suffering Servant who is described in Isaiah 53. The sonnet draws its inspiration from both the passage and the painting.

Working with abstract art has increased my appreciation for the genre. Abstraction forces the viewer (in this case, me) to engage more imaginatively in order to derive meaning from the work, and it has been a surprising process. For example, one way I derived meaning from the painting came through the happenstance of colors blending.

Underneath the top colors, the artist used blue as a foundation. The blue of the background and the yellow of the cross naturally produce green. In writing the poem, I had to ask, what does the green mean? If I succumbed to mere reductionism, the answer is only, “That’s what you get when you mix blue and green.” However, art speaks about what something means not merely what it is, and the color green says something. In our imagination, green connotes growth and life, and not only does green connote new life but it is also a physical manifestation of sunrise and sunset called the green flash. New life and sunrise are images and metaphors from which we communicate and derive meaning. What is surprising and wonderful is that I don’t think the artist was thinking “green flash,” nor even likely, “new life,”  yet there it is at the foot of the cross. What could it mean?

Here’s the painting as it hangs and below, the sonnet which it inspired.
img_3918.jpg

The red runs down covering the darkness
Beneath — the sin-stain with which we’ve been brushed
And brush on others in shameless starkness,
Not hiding our hate, faces twisted, flushed.

But there to the dark of death and the tomb
Came the Son into the ruin and ash
He conceived new life in that stone-stopped womb
To arise in life in the green of dawn’s flash.

There in the crux we find His peace and bliss;
The Bright Ones look on with wonder, delight;
We behold Grace: Justice and Mercy kiss,
And His arms reach out to wrap us in light.

The Servant sets a table, bids us dine:
Be filled with His bread, with joy, drink His wine.

© Randall Edwards 2019.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.
Artwork: © Adah Freeman 2019, “Suffering Servant” acrylic on canvas. All rights reserved.