To His Garden

To His Garden

This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 39:1-10 which recounts the fall of Jerusalem. The account itself strikingly echoes the fall in Genesis. In both cases because of sin and rebellion, God’s people are cast from a garden. Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and Zedekiah and the people from the garden of the holy city, Jerusalem. A future king, however, would enter a garden, on behalf of his people, not to flee but to face judgment.

If it is helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

The walled carapace of self-sufficiency
Is breached by the imperial powers.
Time. Time is up for the garden city
Her midnight has come, her judgment hour.
Judges are seated where their word awaits
To condemn all, from elderly to child,
But the people’s king flees through his garden gate
In fear runs away, cast out to the wild.

One day again, judgment to a king comes
Who to a garden goes running to pray
Find help to face alone the gallows’ drums,
That the cup of wrath be taken away.
This king drinks death for us, is raised above,
That we in his garden, may drink his love.

© 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). Thanks.
Artwork: “Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar as the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jeremiah, XXI, 4 7)” c.1956; France. 
© Marc Chagall Fair Use

O Oriens

O Oriens

December 21st marks the winter solstice and the accompanying antiphon is appropriately, O Oriens or O Dayspring. The antiphon reads,

O Dayspring splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The prayer finds its inspiration in several Bible passages:

Isaiah 9:2 The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
Malachi 4:2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
Luke 1:76-79 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Here’s a sonnet for the antiphon.

Turned west, this sunset of humanity
Denies the dusk of death’s looming shadow.
Reviles the real as some profanity
Which pilfers profit and ruins workflow.

O Sun of Righteousness, make right and shine
On prisoners who dwell in dark dungeons,
On the worried who’s weeds choke and entwine,
And the pharisee who can’t see his sin.

O Dayspring, shine, flood our grey town in light
Drive back the darkness in which lurks our fears.
Dawn! Flood! Arise! Illuminate our night!
Speak tender mercies, wipe away our tears.

When with healing wings the Sun rise on all,
We bound as joyful calves from winter’s stall.

© Randy Edwards, 2016.
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.
photo: Randy Edwards, sunrise Cherry Grove, SC

O Clavis II

O Clavis II

The Great O Antiphon for December 20 is O Clavis. The text of 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.

The scriptural allusions in the prayer can be found in the following passages:

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.”
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.”
Revelation 3:7   “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”

O Key of David, set my bound will free;
Unlock the door, that I may walk your way—
Cheerful, resolved, with bright alacrity
To step from the shadows into the day.

Rise! Ride your chariot, your courses run,
Rain down truth, pierce with your 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.

I behold a door hung, see his pierced side,
And the Key turns my heart, enters, abides.

© Randy Edwards 2018
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

What Hope?

What Hope?

This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 32:36-44. The passage is found in a section of Jeremiah called the Book of Consolation. The promises in contrast with the judgment pronounced in the rest of the book seem almost impossible to comprehend. When judgment comes, we make it the final word. We believe that whatever good could come is now lost. The promises in Jeremiah’s Book of Consolation show us that the hope of peace, though impossible for us, is not impossible for God. The blessings which God has promised and planned for his people will not be in spite of their exile, but blessing will be accomplished through their exile.

What hope do you have if you’ve no hope in
Yourself, if you cannot do what is hard,
And though promising, you won’t keep your word,
Nor avoid the near occasions of sin?

What peace can you know if you are driven
Into exile, by sword, disease, famine?
How much worse then, after chasing mammon,
Find what you sought, is to what you’ve been giv’n?

What promise for the future could you dare
To dream if you would not turn from your sin?
If in that lust sacrifice your children
So consumed with desire you did not care?

Is promised hope and peace forever lost
If He who could save, you’ve betrayed and crossed?

© 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: James Tissot [Public domain].

O Radix

O Radix

The O Antiphon for December 19 is O Radix or O Root. 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.”

The antiphon draws from passages from Isaiah 11 and elsewhere.
Isaiah 11:1 reads, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” and Iaiah 11:10 reads, “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 green, tender shoot
From whom the kingdom branches, stretches, springs
Into the earth become, reach down, take root
To free the captives, lead out in blessings.

O Root of Jesse, who walked Galilee
Preaching, working wonders among your own
Stopping to heal whomever cried, “Mercy!”
To you, David’s son, no mercy was shown.

O Root of Jesse, born for us to die,
Stretched out on a tree, its wrapped thorns your crown,
Raised to life, your tomb opened to the sky–
As the stump springs green though the tree cut down.

O Root of Jesse, who comes to make free,
Take root in my heart, grow your grace in me

© Randy Edwards 2018

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 Wisdom III

O Wisdom III

December 17 marks the beginning of the step towards the Nativity in which the Great O Antiphons are sung in the liturgy. Many know the Antiphons through the advent carol, “O Come, O Come Emanuel.” Each of the antiphons is based upon a messianic promise in the Old Testament which points to the coming of one who will reveal and make right.

The first of the antiphons is for Wisdom who is embodied in the book of Proverbs. The antiphon’s text 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.”

If it’s helpful you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

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 heals, mends, 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.
Artwork: Benedictine monastery of Podlažice [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Light Shown Forth

A Light Shown Forth

This poem is based on John 10:22-39. Jesus is at the temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah. The irony in the passage is that the shepherds of Israel, in the portico dedicated to Solomon, son of David and wisest of kings, are in the dark about the identity of the one whose presence they question. What caught my attention were John’s first words, in verse 22 which are both the first words and become a form of sorts for the whole.

At that time the Feast of Dedication
Took place at Jerusalem.
It was winter.

Jesus was walking in the temple,
in the colonnade of Solomon,
The word-wise king.

“How long will you keep us in the dark?
If you are Messiah, David’s son,
Tell us plainly.”

I have said, and saying I have said,
Will not make you open your eyes
Or see the light.

What I do, I do in my Father’s name.
See for yourself, my works speak for me,
But you won’t see.

I am a shepherd, and my sheep know me.
They hear my voice. I know them, call them,
They follow me.

I lead them in light, into life, safety.
With me they rest, find their salvation
Safe in my arms.

For the One whose hand is greater than all,
My Father, with whom I am one,
Gives them to me.

A spark, light shines bright in the colonnade.
At last, they see, and hear his words.
They reach for stones.

In the cold of Jerusalem’s winter
Her shepherds raise hands to extinguish
The Light of Life.

© Randall Edwards 2018.
Artwork: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Jesus Walks in the Portico of Solomon (Jésus se promène dans le portique de Salomon), 1886-1896.