The Answer

A poem for the Annunciation

 

Time awaits with bated breath

What eternity hath known.

Nature quakes, and struck is death

Where the Angel’s word is flown.

Earth knows not, may not regard,

Only she who is addressed

By the message strange and hard,

By all generations blest.

Only she is witness here

Troubled with a change of life,

Troubled with a bitter fear,

Set in midst of deadly strife.

She who sees the Angel now;

She the living babe will view,

See the nations to Him bow,

Ponder all things old and new.

She will hear her son command

Death and sickness, hell and sea,

Hear the crowd His life demand,

And his tortured corpse shall see.

She shall know His risen face,

Be the Spirit on her poured,

Enter into heavenly grace,

Be for ever with her Lord.

“Yes” is spoke!  Nor turning back,

What she knows, and what’s unknown,

Glory, puzzlement and lack,

Cast alike before God’s throne.

 

Cherry Foster

Valley of Shadow

Again, I should say that I do appreciate that the clergy are making what they honestly believe to be the best decision in difficult circumstances, in withdrawing the Precious Blood of Christ from the congregations.  What I say about this is not a criticism of anyone’s goodwill, but an attempt to present a fuller perspective on the issue than I think is being considered, and to help myself (and hopefully others) to cope emotionally and spiritually with what is happening.

 

Temptation’s bitter vale – strange place of hopelessness –

O Shepherd of the sheep, where art Thy staff and rod?

The nourishment Thou gavest for Life fades from us away,

We are fed on lifeless theory and not the Living God.

 

O Vine of Life! How can we not learn to loathe Thee,

When pierced through and through by Thee with such a bitter knife?

How not turn, despairing, from Thy faith unto the world

When Thy stewards treat Thee but as a risk to earthly life?

 

O Christ our God!  How didst Thou hold Thy faith

In the hour of Thine agony upon the dreadful Tree?

O remember Thou our weakness; come Thou swiftly to sustain us,

Ere we place our trust in that which is not Thee.

 

O, move the hearts which are now stone to us

To have pity on Thy Life as on the human birth.

Free Thou our hearts from this cage of stifling reason,

Raise Thou the eyes that see not beyond the earth.

 

O Lord, aid Thou the fire Thyself hast lit,

O see, it sinks and dies for want of nourishment!

And bear us in Thine arms, who perish from Thy loss;

Preserve in us the Life that Thou hast lent.

 

Cherry Foster

 

Edit 21st March 2020: This was originally published with the first verse reading as below, but I was unhappy with the quality, and hope I have managed to improve it slightly.  I am aware of other technical issues in this one: I suspect I may end up rewriting it eventually as more than one poem.

My heart goes out to all those who now find themselves completely without the Sacraments due to the prohibitions on holding services.  The secular world is probably acting conscientiously to its own values in forbidding it, but I do not think we are in obeying, unless we do so in the context of making adequate alternative provisions (I am very grateful for people’s efforts on that point).  Death is unavoidable.  If the Sacraments are the primary means by which we enter into the Divine Life that does not notice death, the last thing it makes sense to do is to expect people to face their earthly mortality without them.

 

Valley of temptation; grim place of hopelessness,

O Shepherd of Thy sheep, where art Thy staff and rod?

The nourishment of Life Thou gavest is fading fast away,

For our food is dead theology and not the Living God.

Whither has Thou gone?

On the withdrawal of the Precious Blood from the reception of the Sacrament

Welsh Manuscript Crucifixion, Wikimedia commons, no copyright
The Crucifixion of Jesus, from a Welsh manuscript. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Whither is my Beloved gone?  Where hast Thou hid Thyself?

With outstretched hands and broken heart I plead;

For where I seek Thy love I find but piercing thorns,

Why deny the fruit where Thou hast sown the seed?

 

O Thou who wast with a kiss betrayed, how canst Thou bear

To thus betray Thy people whom Thou hast kissed to life?

How canst Thou change Thy gifts to suffering?

And pierce our hearts as with a traitor’s knife?

 

O Thou who pourest out Thy Blood in priceless love,

How shall we keep Thy faith without Thy sign?

How can we live by half thy precious gift,

Or in prayer but half-engaged approach Thy shrine?

 

Why does thou change Thy outpoured love and joy

For stark mechanical rite of no responsive sense?

Why didst Thou give us such a precious thing?

To make it a destruction and offence?

 

O Precious Vine!  O Love beyond all loss,

May our sufferings witness to the value of Thy Gift.

Who forsaken died, and whom we know did rise,

And with whom we shall reign in endless bliss.

 

Cherry Foster

 

 

N.B.  To avoid any implication of theological error, I do believe Communion valid in one kind.  But when someone has died to give you a gift, as Christ died to give us His Precious Blood, the necessity or otherwise of that gift has no bearing on the value of it.

O Pelican

For the sake of giving expression to the intensity of the grief involved in the withdrawal of Communion in Both Kinds, and for the sake of anyone else who is suffering.

By the way, I do also appreciate that the clergy are making what they honestly think is the best decision under difficult circumstances, and I really appreciate the sympathy of those who have been sympathetic; however, I feel the perspective expressed here on that decision is also valid.  As far as I can make out, the evidence suggests that even actually sharing the chalice holds no risk of spreading anything.

 

O kind, self wounding Pelican, wherefore

Hast Thou withdrawn from us Thy breast?

Why forsaken dost Thou leave Thy young

Perishing for thirst of Thee within Thy very nest?

 

O stewards of His mysteries, where are your eyes?

That on remotest chance of sparing earthly life

Unwitting tempt your sheep toward the spirit’s death

And will not hear their anguished pleas for Life.

 

O Pelican, I would not have dreamed to say to Thee,

“Give me Thy Blood,” I said, “Do not deceive,”

And yet Thou gavest me Life and all Thyself.

Yet Life not given could not thus have grieved.

 

O Pelican, why hast Thou thus replaced Thy love

With mechanical rite of mere valid sense?

Why hast Thou withdrawn Thy covenant complete?

The outward sign of inward grace defence.

 

O Pelican, Forsaken One, remember, heal and spare,

For valuing what Thou gavest we bear uttermost contempt,

From valley of the shadow with despairing breath we plead,

To whom Thou hast promised no test beyond their strength.

 

Cherry Foster

Afar Off

Bring forth the robe, a ring, some shoes; my child!

My father, I have sinned, I pray you hear…

My dearest, thou dost live that wast defiled!

 

Rejoice, mine own returns from what was vile!

I am not worthy, scarce dare I draw near…

Bring forth the robe, a ring, some shoes; my child!

 

Prepare the calf, high let the feast be piled!

I have done that which must your spirit sear…

My dearest, thou dost live that wast defiled!

 

How hast thou suffered in the lonely wild…

For nothing I have done could be held clear…

Bring forth the robe, a ring, some shoes; my child!

 

Thou has come home no more to be beguiled.

Thy love o’erwhelms me… Oh, my father dear!

Bring forth the robe, a ring, some shoes; my child,

My dearest, thou dost live that wast defiled.

 

Cherry Foster

 

Prodigal_Son wikimedia commons, copyright to attribution
Stained Glass CHS Cathedral. Source: Wikimedia Commons; (Photo credit unclear).

Christmas Night

On that night,

The shaman looked out at the endless grass,

To frosty stars; wondering in heart, he said:

“The spirits are still and silent tonight,

For good and not for hurt.”

 

On that night,

A maid in red and gold and henna decked

Leapt up in joy as music sounded near,

Her sister calling with a trembling voice:

“At last, your bridegroom comes!”

 

On that night,

The teenage shepherdess, in fragrant fields

Of mountain pastures, caught a labouring ewe,

And she delivered into warm soft hay,

A single, spotless lamb.

 

In that dawn,

The watchman of an Oriental town,

A town beleaguered beyond help or hope,

Cried out in joy at the far distant sight,

“Our King is come to save!”

 

Cherry Foster

 

Angus Dei, wikipedia commons photo credit Victoria Edwards, copyright to attribution
Angus Dei. Source: Wikipedia Commons; Photo Credit: Victoria Edwards.

Daughter of Zion

A poem for Advent

Daughter of Zion, rejoice!

Behold thy Bridegroom come,

Bourne on the ass’s colt,

Bourne in thy maiden’s womb.

          He comes, the wisdom from above,

          He comes, who orders all in love.

Daughter of Zion, rejoice!

He comes thy siege to lift.

No more to mourn or grieve,

He comes who is God’s gift.

        He who to Moses from the flame

        Spake, comes now to redeem thy fame.

Daughter of Zion, rejoice!

Shake off the clinging dust,

Cast away idol forms,

Place in Him all your trust,

          The root of Jesse, silent now,

          Before Him speechless kings shall bow.

Daughter of Zion, rejoice!

Thy widowhood is o’er,

Restored thou art to Him,

Who is for evermore.

          Unto the lock put out thy hand,

          The key is turned that naught withstands.

Daughter of Zion, rejoice!

From grief and dark arise,

Thy labour pains are o’er,

Shake sleep off from thine eyes.

          The Light arises on thy death,

          The dry bones waken with His breath.

Daughter of Zion, rejoice!

Thy nakedness is gone,

Thy time for love is near,

Clothed with the stars and sun,

        The King is come of thy desire

        Who shall save thee by blood and fire.

Daughter of Zion, rejoice!

Laugh at thy raging foes,

Trample with hooves of brass,

Break them with many blows.

          Emmanuel, thy God, is near,

          Thy hope, thy love, the end of fear.

                           ***

Daughter of Zion, rejoice,

He that seeks truth is come,

In whom all pardoned are,

Thy dear, most glorious Son.

          ‘O Virgin, how can all this be?’

          ‘It is Love’s utmost mystery.’

 

Cherry Foster