The Son of Encouragement

 I knew him only briefly,
 but felt his heart to be
 wrought from finest gold
 and marked with rare sincerity.
 His manner kind and gentle, 
 I have no doubt he brought
 consolation, strength and faith
 to those he humbly taught. 
 He’d reached a place of steadfast peace 
 and thus his presence flowed 
 from here to his eternal rest,
 in love’s divine abode. 
In memoriam P.H. 1934 - 2020 

The truth from above – traditional English carol

Unabridged Lyrics:
This is the truth sent from above,
The truth of God, the God of love:
Therefore don't turn me from your door,
But hearken all, both rich and poor.

The first thing which I do relate
Is that God did man create,
The next thing which to you I'll tell,
Woman was made with man to dwell.

Then, after this, 'twas God's own choice
To place them both in Paradise,
There to remain, from evil free,
Except they ate of such a tree.

And they did eat, which was a sin,
And thus their ruin did begin.
Ruined themselves, both you and me,
And all of their posterity.

Thus we were heirs to endless woes,
Till God the Lord did interpose,
And so a promise soon did run,
That he would redeem us by his Son.

And at this season of the year
Our blest Redeemer did appear,
And here did live, and here did preach,
and many thousands he did teach.

Thus he in love to us behaved,
To show us how we must be saved;
And if you want to know the way,
Be pleased to hear what he did say:

"Go preach the Gospel," now he said,
"To all the nations that are made!
And he that does believe on me,
From all his sins I'll set him free."

O seek! O seek of God above
That saving faith that works by love!
And, if he's pleased to grant thee this,
Thou'rt sure to have eternal bliss.

God grant to all within this place
True saving faith, that special grace
Which to his people doth belong:
And thus I close my Christmas song.

Ah, God I May Not Hate – Kathleen Raine

Ah, God, I may not hate
Myself, who am your thought, who made
Earthworm and spider, gave
Being to the burying-beetle and the maggot,
Beak and talon and teeth, hunger to all creatures
Made to be your begetters and destroyers. 
I who am living you from the numberless dead have raised
From the deathless dust of the grave
Dust of gleaming wings borne on the wind, seed
In the womb of the wind, borne
In cloud and tempest over the world
On tide and current made and unmade,
I am what you will, what you have willed
Life after life, maggot and spider, seed and harvest,
        chromosome, flame. 
Kathleen Raine by Mayotte Magnus, September 1977

No One Lives His Life – Rilke

Disguised since childhood,
haphazardly assembled
from voices and fears and little pleasures,
we come of age as masks.

Our true face never speaks.
Somewhere there must be storehouses
where all these lives are laid away
like suits of armour or old carriages
or cloths hanging limply on the walls.

Maybe all paths lead here,
to the repository of unlived things. 

Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours, Book 2

We Fragmented Few

 We fragmented few 
 travel the haunted path to salvation
 seeking goodness, seeking nearness. 
 All our shuttered eyes can see 
 is the infinite expanse of distance 
 that stretches between here and wholeness. 
 We breathe into the void, 
 each exhalation a call
 for that feast of light, that place of purity.
 Waylaid by desire, capsized by fear, 
 we yearn for the absolute freedom 
 of the uncaged image in which we were made.  

Devon, England, 11th December 2020

A prayer for the poisoned

 Forgive my blindness
 Forgive my deafness
 Forgive my lies and pretence. 
 Forgive my ignorance
 Forgive my coldness 
 Forgive my scorn and disdain.
 Forgive my deceptions
 Forgive my incompetence
 Forgive my turning away. 
 Forgive my ugliness
 Forgive my vanity
 Forgive my arrogance and blame. 
 Forgive my depravity
 Forgive my ingratitude
 Forgive my weakness and guilt.
 Forgive my squandering
 Forgive my impatience
 Forgive my wounding and shame. 
 Forgive my weariness
 Forgive my misery
 Forgive my fear and control. 
 Forgive my faithlessness
 Forgive my doubting
 Forgive this poor, futile game.  

Open to humility

The astonishing spectacle of accelerating polarisations continues to be rich with truthful pickings. There is so much to take in. Some individuals seem to have welded themselves interminably shut. Others are cracking open. There is too much time alone and too little contact with others. There is excessive self-reflection and extravagant distraction. So many opposites within and without. As I negotiate my own delicate balancing act, I have been considering carefully what it means to have an open mind.

Closed mindedness inclines itself towards two expressions:

I know

I don’t want to know

In both of these dismissive variants, the mind serves to keep things safe by keeping things the same. It acts to defend itself from the possibility that real questions will lead to real answers, and that real change will then be required. It ensures that the transformational power of truth is kept at bay.

"Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty,  
And before honour is humility.  
He who answers a matter before he hears it,  
It is folly and shame to him."
       Prov 18: 12-13 
Sculpture by Johnson Tsang

The closed mind knows nothing but its own false boundaries. It chooses to defend the familiar confines of the fallen self. In doing this, it shuts the door to truth and becomes instead a ‘keeper of dogma’ (thank you NK). It cannot see, nor can it be receptive to reality.

 "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
 And prudent in their own sight!" 
Isaiah 5:21

In contrast, the open mind takes the following stance:

I don’t know

I want to know

The open mind is willing to accept that it is wrong. This mind is not ‘made up’, and with grace and patience, it may observe itself. It will inevitably begin to uncover its own brokenness, ignorance and insufficiency. The more it knows, the more it becomes aware of what it doesn’t know. To keep seeking the truth, the mind has to open itself continually into the vulnerability of the unknown. It has to trust that it will be guided.

In choosing a posture of openness, we are led to our own fallibility. We are asked to identify where we really are and how far we have descended. We are asked to acknowledge how great our fall has been. From the lowliness of our true position, unreality empties out of us so that we can be filled with the reality of Spirit. This is the gift of cleansing humility. From here, we may know.

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."
James 4:10
Sculpture by Johnson Tsang