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 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

Words Alone

Words Alone

Eugene Peterson quotes Abraham Heschel in his chapter on Jehoiakim in the book Run with Horses. Heschel, speaking of the word and the scriptures, writes,

“Some people may wonder: why was the light of God given in the form of language? How is it conceivable that the divine should be contained in such brittle vessels as consonants and vowels? This question betrays the sin of our age: to treat lightly the ether which carries the light-waves of the spirit. What else in the world is as capable of bringing man and man together over the distances in space and in time? Of all things on earth, words alone never die. They have so little matter and so much meaning. . . . God took these Hebrew words and breathed into them of His power, and the words became a live wire charged with His spirit. To this very day they are hyphens between heaven and earth. What other medium could have been employed to convey the divine? Pictures enameled on the moon? Statues hewn out of the Rockies?”
— Abraham Heschel, God in Search of Man

I am really taken with his description of the voiced breath which speaks: “the ether which carries the light-waves of the spirit” — that’s beautiful.

The word throughout Jeremiah’s book is active and alive. It is true. When we pretend that words don’t live (“Of all things on earth, words alone never die”), we delude ourselves by taking up the very means to silence accusations or deny their reality. We swim in words which were spoken long ago, which we regret, which we hope to hear.

Malcolm Guite in his poem, “What if?” gets at some of the same thoughts albeit as a warning against those idle words we speak.

This sonnet is based on Jeremiah 36:22-24 in which the word which has been written on a  scroll and read to Jehoiakim is cut up into pieces and thrown on a fire. What of the word then? Can that word die? Will it ever come again?

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

Words alone never die. Of all things on
Earth, they linger, rumble, ring, and grumble
In our hearts throughout life, give voice, run on—
A prattling ‘gainst which we murmur, mumble.

You may cut off, stop the conversation
Silence the words in a rage yelling, run
Away, dismiss with gesticulation,
With nonchalance turn away, shun.

But with words, the Word comes to speak with you
Wrapped in flesh, counting everything a loss,
The wisdom of God whom you count a fool,
Cut him dawn, cut him off, hang on a cross
Where that Word speaks one word, “Father forgive…”
Dies alone that by His word, we may live.

© 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: By the Providence Lithograph Company (http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/1905/jer36.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Persistently

Persistently

This is a meditation on Jeremiah 25:1-7 and 35:14b-16.

Each morning I wake from night’s sleeping death
Through a resurrection from where I lay
Last eve mourning, sad, life a labored breath,
Enshrouded in the stuff of yesterday.

And yesterday, having died already to the King,
I face the world for what it is, begin
To die again to self, to live, His praises sing,
And fight again for life putting to death my sin.

Again and again, I persistently
Seek the the joyful, exuberant encore
Of living each moment by faith obediently
Content, at peace, and always wanting more.

I forsake my shroud; gain your love for me
Which rises new each morn full of mercy.

© 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: Edwin Lord Weeks [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My Author

My Author

This sonnet is for All Saints Day and is a tribute to those poets who have become guides for me. Within the poem, I’ve linked to the sources of the references to which I quote or allude to the poet. Thank you, Lord for these guides.

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

Midway through the journey of my life
Lost, having wandered from the straight way,
In a wood weary with sin and strife,
You found me, mio maestro e autore.
I follow you, midst your verse I stray
To browse in meter, rhythm, and rhyme
Imagination bodies forth as day,
Leading me up the encircling climb.
Dissevered, the backward mutters unwind,
Dispelled, with each volta’s paradox,
Timelessness resounding into time
As heaven in ordinary unlocks.
In your spell of song, I find habitation,
A concord midst your lines, reconciliation.