We wanted to keep yesterday’s post simple for it needs no introduction, no explanation. Dr Maclean gave his own afterword to today’s prayer, so no more from your editors today.
Be Thou Thyself the guiding star above me,
Lighthouse be thou for every reef and shoal,
Pilot my barque upon the crest of sea-wave
To where the waters make no moan or roll.
Oh the restful haven of the wandering soul!
This, is it not a matchless prayer for fishers of every race and age? The Hebridean, with but a plank between him and the seabed, murmured it a thousand times. As he did so, his vision bore him to some still port far from the breaking seas, some secret haven where the green swell is dumb, and children play on the pearl-white sand.
Art Thou a King, then?
Come, His universe,
Come, crown me Him a King!
Pluck rays from all such stars as never fling
Their light where fell a curse,
And make a crowning for this kingly brow!—
What is my word? Each empyreal star
Sits in a sphere afar
In shining ambuscade:
The child-brow, crowned by none,
Keeps its unchildlike shade.
Sleep, sleep, my crownless One!
Unchildlike shade! No other babe doth wear
An aspect very sorrowful, as Thou.
No small babe-smiles my watching heart has seen
To float like speech the speechless lips between,
No dovelike cooing in the golden air,
No quick short joys of leaping babyhood.
Alas, our earthly good
In heaven thought evil, seems too good for Thee;
Yet, sleep, my weary One!
And then the drear sharp tongue of prophecy,
With the dread sense of things which shall be done,
Doth smite me inly, like a sword: a sword?
That "smites the Shepherd." Then, I think aloud
The words "despised,"—"rejected,"—every word
Recoiling into darkness as I view
The Darling on my knee.
Bright angels,—move not—lest ye stir the cloud
Betwixt my soul and His futurity!
I must not die, with mother's work to do,
And could not live-and see.
One of my favourite stock images, this heart was left on our step by a neighbour after a gift of homemade preserves. More recently, last summer, five year old Abel found beach pebbles eroded into a heart shape. Months later he discovered one of them and gave it to his mother, ‘because I love you, Mummy.’
A heart of stone, a heart of pebbles, to stand for a flesh and blood heart. This old Irish hymn, translated by Eleanor Hull expresses the mixed emotions of the poet contemplating his or her relationship with Jesus. For many of us life has been a toilsome path these last months, we may well request, ‘Peace on my head, light in my heart.’
Let’s pray for all whose lives continue to be toilsome. Even the dustiest, least frequented church is a sanctified temple; with Christ’s help any of us can be a temple sanctified to him, welcoming those who seek him.
How great the tale, that there should be,
In God’s Son’s heart, a place for me!
That on a sinner’s lips like mine
The cross of Jesus Christ should shine!
Christ Jesus, bend me to thy will,
My feet to urge, my griefs to still;
That e’en my flesh and blood may be
A temple sanctified to Thee.
No rest, no calm my soul may win,
Because my body craves to sin;
Till thou, dear Lord, thyself impart
Peace on my head, light in my heart.
May consecration come from far,
Soft shining like the evening star.
My toilsome path make plain to me,
Until I come to rest in thee.
Eleanor Hull From the Irish
Wide is the darkness, dark is the night, Only a star Shining so silverly, flingeth its light Ever so far; Yet by its lure are led Men who have visioned God’s door unlatcheted And held ajar.
‘Restless our souls must be,’ Augustine said, Seeking for Thee, ‘Lord, till they rest in Thee,’ uncomforted, Athirst for Thee; For Thou hast made us so, And souls must questing go, Thralled by the golden flow, Entrancedly.
Lord, let not silver spell of that blest star Be dimmed for me. Constant my questing keep, faring so far, Seeking for Thee; Nor let pride find a flaw, Seeing what wise men saw, Babe in poor stable straw – Epiphany.
Father Andrew SDC
There are many versions of Burne-Jones’s Adoration of the Magi; this one used to draw me like a magnet as a child growing up in Birmingham. The figures are more than life-size! Just like the message of the Gospel, the star is not obvious to everyone: the custodian angel directs its light so that we are drawn in to see what wise men saw; once seen, we must follow, questing, keeping the star in view, enthralled.
Christopher M Graney of Sacred Space Astronomy has shared his reflections on the Star that led the wise men to Bethlehem. An enlightening extra post for us today, bearing in mind tomorrow’s feast of the Epiphany.
I can still say Happy Christmas till then, so Happy Christmas and a blessed new year to all.
I was looking for more poetry (What you might call ‘free verse’!) to read on my Kindle. Since we’ve used Joyce Kilmer a couple of times, I thought I’d look at some of his writing. This poem, The Twelve-forty-five seems appropriate coming up to Christmas. There were no motor cars on the road then, so people depended on the night train to get home late. Let’s pray for all travellers this Christmas, for those who would like to travel but cannot, and for all who will be apart when they would be together if they could; for those who have died and those left behind: the stars – the angels – are watchful over them.
Upon my crimson cushioned seat, In manufactured light and heat, I feel unnatural and mean. Outside the towns are cool and clean; Curtained awhile from sound and sight They take God’s gracious gift of night. The stars are watchful over them. On Clifton as on Bethlehem The angels, leaning down the sky, Shed peace and gentle dreams. And I — I ride, I blasphemously ride Through all the silent countryside.
What Love commands the train fulfills, And beautiful upon the hills Are these our feet of burnished steel. Subtly and certainly I feel That Glen Rock welcomes us to her And silent Ridgewood seems to stir And smile, because she knows the train Has brought her children back again. We carry people home — and so God speeds us, wheresoe’er we go.
The midnight train is slow and old But of it let this thing be told, To its high honor be it said It carries people home to bed. My cottage lamp shines white and clear. God bless the train that brought me here.
(The Twelve-forty-five, from “Trees and Other Poems” by Joyce Kilmer)
God loves man’s lamp lights better than his own great stars.
from “Stray Birds” by Rabindranath Tagore
Do you agree? Can God love something more than another thing? Which of men’s lamp lights does he love so much – those lit in love, perhaps, like these. Hardly a burglar’s torch or flashlight! And Tagore was writing before city dwellers were isolated from the skies by light pollution.
We cannot see the Light of the World for the world’s lights. We cannot see the Wise Men’s Star for the world’s lights.
But it is almost Christmas, four candles lit, let the fifth be in my heart as I go out to meet him!
Yesterday was about hearing, today we are seeing hopefully. Or should I say seeing, hopefully. I’m not talking about taking note of the raindrops and kittens that we see, but about the sense of sight.
I’ve been blessed lately with two cataract operations, and sight is suddenly not to be taken for granted. Suddenly, all is Technicolor, or as my friend Winfried would have argued, Agfacolor. He favoured the German films and prints; we disagreed about the red end of the spectrum.
Seeing hopefully: this new lease of life for my eyes inspires hope. Not quite Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord, but a promise that if human co-operation with creation through science can enlighten my little world, there may be better things to come.
Winfried told me that the German for a cataract in the eye translates as grey star; not a star you would want to follow.
So, I told Fr Tom Herbst (TJH in Agnellus’ Mirror) as well, soon after the first op when one eye was still under the grey star. ‘I imagine’, he said, ‘you can well relate to the ecstasy felt by the blind folks healed by Jesus!!!’
I didn’t need him to point that out, but I was glad he did. I offered this progress report: ‘Till the second eye is done it’s a mixture of ecstasy and ‘I see trees walking’. (Mark 8:24) I hope by next week the eyes will be co-ordinating freely and I’ll recognise more people!’
Tom replied, ‘Good luck with the op. As marvellous as it might be to see trees walking (other than Ents, of course, which are not technically trees), it seems recognition might be the better choice!’
Pray that we may recognise the star we are called to follow this Advent and Christmas. It may all be a little different this year!
I shall delight to hear the ocean roar, or see the stars twinkle, in the company of men to whom Nature does not spread her volumes or utter her voice in vain. Samuel Johnson, in Boswell.
Dr Samuel Johnson had finally seen his Dictionary through the presses, and was about to go back to Lichfield to see his elderly mother. He would then have time for a holiday: this is part of his reply to an invitation to visit friends in Lincolnshire. At the time of posting we did not know if our August holiday would happen, but we can always reach the coast in a few minutes from home.Enjoy August, home or away, and thank God for friends and family.
(from “Life of Johnson, Volume 1 1709-1765” by James Boswell, George Birkbeck Norman Hill)