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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Meditation: Poems for Holy Week

I was putting away some books I bought at the library used book sale. ($3.00 a bag!) and found the poetry of Robert Frost. After reading a few of my favorite poems, I got to thinking about Lenten and Holy Week poems. After a little research here are a few to ponder and perhaps delight in. One by a Protestant, one by a martyr-saint, and one by a notorious sinner who repented and entered the Church on his deathbed like the good thief. Isn't God wonderful?

By Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
IS this a fast, to keep
        The larder lean ?
                    And clean
From fat of veals and sheep ?

Is it to quit the dish
          Of flesh, yet still
                    To fill
The platter high with fish ?

Is it to fast an hour,
            Or ragg’d to go,
                      Or show
A downcast look and sour ?

No ; ‘tis a fast to dole
             Thy sheaf of wheat,
                      And meat,
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,
              From old debate
                        And hate ;
To circumcise thy life.

To show a heart grief-rent ;
               To starve thy sin,
                         Not bin ;
And that’s to keep thy Lent.

By St. Robert Southwell, S.J. (1561-1595, martyred at Tyburn at age 33 under Elizabeth I)

What mist hath dimm'd that glorious face?
What seas of grief my sun doth toss?
The golden rays of heavenly grace
Lies now eclipsèd on the cross.

Jesus, my love, my Son, my God,
Behold Thy mother wash'd in tears:
Thy bloody wounds be made a rod
To chasten these my later years.

You cruel Jews, come work your ire
Upon this worthless flesh of mine,
And kindle not eternal fire
By wounding Him who is divine.

Thou messenger that didst impart
His first descent into my womb,
Come help me now to cleave my heart,
That there I may my Son entomb.

You angels, all that present were
To show His birth with harmony,
Why are you not now ready here,
To make a mourning symphony?

The cause I know you wail alone,
And shed your tears in secrecy,
Lest I should movèd be to moan,
By force of heavy company.

But wail, my soul, thy comfort dies,
My woful womb, lament thy fruit;
My heart give tears unto mine eyes,
Let sorrow string my heavy lute.

E Tenebris
By Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

COME down, O Christ, and help me! reach thy hand,
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land,
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God's throne should stand.
'He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel's smitten height.'
Nay, peace, I shall behold before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
The wounded hands, the weary human face.

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