From sermons and letters supplemental to the Divine Office
• Ephrem's Prayer
• Exultation on Leo the Great
• Professions, Paraphrases and Revisions: Three Marks of Existence
(on Quodvultdeus, Bonaventure and Saint Unnamed)
LORD, shed upon our darkened souls The brilliant light of Wisdom, That we might shine resplendently, Renewed in faith, renewed in mission. How sunrise marks the hour for us Who trod—bleared, smeared and spent in toil— Tho’ in our souls preparing fast A dwelling everlasting. O grant that we may come to know The risen life and nothing but; And let us not distracted be By what delights are offered thus. Our unremitting zeal for life Let mark our flesh, let run our sweat, Until at dusk we’re measured by That vigil lamp we keep for You. Your sacrament we dare embrace, Your e’er redeeming body take, Which makes us worthy of your hope, Esteemed in love, made whole by grace. For hidden was your Word in us, In all things spiritual renewed, Which ever since baptism grew, The memory which made us whole: Your table set, your richness spread— The water mixed, the wine, the bread— Which seemed only to multiply And treasured us, and made us friends. How beautiful and bounteous The feast that you had laid for us— A mother’s and a father’s love, Their mortal immortality. So you, the Child and Saviour of Our hands, our feet which labour on, Through very light of very light, Held quick to You, our precious God; We look on you as on ourselves To forge our path and form our way, To walk not in the world as lost, But found in prayer, the mirrored day. Sweetness of Life, cleanse us; Waters of Life, grant us that we be made To walk as Moses walked on mountain high, To hold this vision fast and in You see.
Epode A Dearly beloved, Christ is born! Let us rejoice that sadness hath no foot in life And fear of death no grip on us. For Jesse's shoot in gladness springs, Sets root in us where once our hearts grew only strife. Our Saviour comes to us today! Strophe A O treasure kissed! Eternal joy! Who placed upon our wounds such healing balm; we pray, Press lips upon the milk of our humanity. Antistrophe A Let fan the air your angels' wings And beat our hearts as once did ring Glad tidings from a house rebuilt, where once was ruin. Epode B All saints, rise up! We honour you; In victory, you wave your palms, our world to know The Friend that we are made in Him. Our works together long let be, His Spirit come like fire—crowned and glorying— When mattins fill our mouths with praise. Strophe B From David's house, so ours His flesh— How prized and blessed, our God, for ages come. Attest! He is the one Who bridges us to Word divine. Antistrophe B Then come to us! Form us in Thee! Graft branch on branch till we belong— Not overcome, but spanned in freedom, whole and strong. Epode Γ Glory! Glory! Glory be! To God on high Who reigns in Peace, Of Mary born the Child of Wonder! Praise the Lord, Tho' low His Mother! Brilliantly On magi grow Whose hearts hold true before this light. Let kindness now become our sight— With good and honest Wisdom. Strophe Γ Gifts we bear. Quietness befalls. And yet, but O! Hands shake. Knees weaken. I bend low Amongst the animals, then fall once Love is spoken. Antistrophe Γ That we see Mary, let us graft our souls to Hers— Whilst all the earth proclaims His name— Overjoyed in all refrain: Gloria—forevermore—in excelsis! Christ is born!
A child is born; God granted us a king. Wisemen are led to him from lands afar, Who fell down to adore the one Who in a manger lies, Yet reigns o’er all the earth And shines e’er brighter than the stars. Yet, Herod, of this king you are afraid. To save your kingdom you would kill this child. Had you but faith enough to stay Your hand—had you but peace To give—you would win life And all the earth, win him with tenderness. Why are you fearful of this crown? The child does not come to strip your name, But only turn towards that light And rout from shrouded hearts A blinded self in rage, Rout He who takes and proffers only pain. The Innocents their glory would you deign, As try you cut from out the womb in strife With unrestrainèd hands, in blood— So many mothers’ cries, So many fathers’ sobs. Yet you accomplish not this Life. Your throne is threatened by that grace.—So small This Love, and yet so great that heart which sees; When looking on his mother’s face He does not grieve your will; Once freed the soul from chains He shares her immortality. The children die for Christ, though need not pray; Their parents’ little death—unbloodied Word— The babe unable yet to speak Finds witness of himself, Whose flesh with theirs now shrives His kingdom to a coming age. Then see, my children, how our God has borne Deliverance from sin—the world’s bond— Salvation by the Saviour’s own; How, Herod, in your din, Blind fashioned and appalled, In ignorance you pay him homage. Do we not know how great the gift of grace It is that’s here! and to what merit owe The children to this goodly prize?— Who cannot speak, yet bear Their witness to this Prince, Who cannot use their limbs to shield, or fight, Yet show to us the palm of victory.
Take thought with me, redeemèd man. Consider now what great and worthy deed It is that Christ has done, Who hangs upon the cross for you; His cross raising to life the dead, While at his passing heav’n and earth are plunged,— Angels, all faithful,—into mourning, Where holy veil within the temple tears in two And boulders split asunder. It was decreed by God’s right hand, Permitted that a soldier, hard of heart, Must pierce his sacred side, And so, with lance, would testify And tell the truth that Christ imparts. This done that all his faithful Church might see And form belief from blood and water mixed; So as he slept the sleep of death, and on cross died, Our scripture formed and was fulfilled: They look on him whom they have pierced. The price of our salvation but the two Together mixed as one, Flowing from secret fountainhead, As heart creates ex nihilo, From nothingness, the stream that’s made for you: The power of the Church, her sacraments,— Her grace conferred on those her living stead, A living water welling up for you. In everlasting life, then, my belovèd, rise! Keep Christ! that you may imitate that dove Which hollows its abode,— Keeping watch its opening above, E’er vigilant to dwell in love,— To hide your little ones and give them food, But that which angels eat, but they this fruit; That your chaste love may in them grow, And honour them, and flourish them. The Spirit flows from in-drawn well, Her fountain from the lips of Paradise;— And dwells your saviour in, His Word but Eden’s centre, Dividing into four that Life, In each direction rivers, hearts devout O’er generous, profusing, The whole earth watered, making fertile they, He Who God is, of your own children. Run eager with desire to see,— To drink, to taste, this source of life and light. All you who to His Word have vowed, Come now, whoever you may be.—Cry Out to him with all your might. “O Beauty indescript” come see! O God Most High of purest radiance! Life-giving Life, the source of every life! Life-giving Light! Life-giving Word! Preserver of the manifold, In everlasting splendour of the myriad flames, You shone from out your throne, Divinity from dawn of time! Eternal, inaccessible,—your Name,— Though fountain flowing sweet and pure, Unseen by mortal eye your hidden spring. No one can plumb your depths, none survey your boundaries,—though try. No one your breath can span, No one profane your purity,—though love; A lover for his love would himself die For loss of heart of it, For never having tried. But from Whom flows that blessèd font, Become for us a City of God, We are made to cry with joy and gladness Hymns in praise of you, For we now know that with you is the source of life, And only in your light we see.
A silence falls upon the earth today, A pall both strange and still. The whole earth vigil keeps, for he, The King, our Christ within, Within his mother’s womb, descends; And trembles She, the earth, and stills herself As dormant in the flesh— Speechless, spent the Word of God; Yet, in his next breath ready, Ready to raise up all souls Who ever slept from since the world began. Conceived and taken flesh, God died; and hell, hell too had cried— Silenced in and fearful Of the day that’s now upon him. Christ has gone to search for our first parent, As shepherd for lost sheep. How great is his desire to see; How far in darkness reached Those captives in death’s shadow. At farthest reach he finds Adam and Eve.— He is the son of Eve; He is their God who sets them free, Bearing the cross to them, The weapon of his victory. Flooded by light, the blind are made to see, The mute are given speech, And faithless hearts in him believe; With peace to those who grieve The first created man looked on. Adam gasped with breath, once shaken from his rest; He struck his breast in fright And cried, cried out to everyone, “My Lord be with you all!” “And with your spirit,” answered Christ. And taking Adam’s hand, lifting that pall, And raising Adam up, And face to face, in grace, Christ prayed: “Awake, O sleeper, Rise!— Rise from the dead. Behold my light!” I am your God and for your sake become Your son, in spirit one. For love of you and your own flesh, By this love now command: From darkness rise! Be free from sin! I order you, O sleeper, to awake. You were not made to be A prisoner in hell.—Then rise! Rise from the dead, for I,— I am life of the dead. Then rise, Work of my hands, you who were made, An image of myself, Destined for me; now leave this place With me, and I in you. Together we are unity, And cannot sep’rate flesh and spirit be, But One with me in Person Three. For your sake, I your God, became Your son; I Lord of you, Yet made a slave. I whose abode rests above the heavens Descended to the earth, Yes, beneath the earth descended even. My form is now complete— For your sake, for the sake of man. Yes, I became a servant without help And free among the dead, For you, your kith, who Eden left. I was betrayed by them And in the garden nailed to sin. See on my face the spittle I received In order to give back. I now restore that life once breathed, My breath in you anew. See now the marks that I received. These blows are testament to image warped By men who strike at grief; Upon my back their scourging.—See What I endured to free From kin the burden of that sin. Look up, my brother, from that weight within. See on my hands the wounds Nailed firmly to a tree, for you,— For you who once stretched out Your hand and plucked indignity, And placed your heart upon your mind—that tree. So on a cross I slept; And sword pierced side for you who slept In paradise to know What different home from Eve you took. My side has healed the pain in yours, your rib; And rest in me shall rouse You from that sleep in hell you bear; The sword that pierced my side Now sheathes the sword that guarded you. Rise up then, leave this place. Open the gates! And be unfree no more. No flaming sword shall keep you barred From now your Prize; Though earthen home I’ll not restore, But set a seat for you in Heaven’s own. Now to that throne ascend. I warned of you that tree, forbade To eat of it; though you Mistook the symbol for the life. But see, I who am life am now with you; And cherubim once set To guard you as a slave bereft, I now make honour you; For you as God are now as they. Your throne, its bearers eagerly await The bridal chamber,—soon Be you adorned, your banquet room, Eternal dwelling place, And treasure of all treasures. Open be your goodly name in love! Open my mansion and Open my wonders of! As from this new day’s dawn My eyes do see The way prepared for you for all eternity.