Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Duke Altum's Poem of the Week #19 -- CHRISTMAS EDITION!

A happy, holy Christmas season to all TST readers/participants! For this week's poem, I wanted to invite both celebration and contemplation of the mystery and wonder of the bright miracle of the Incarnation... to that end, I selected one of the remarkable Christmas poems of Thomas Merton. The great monk, mystic, social activist, poet, gadfly and literary critic wrote some very tender and devoted poetry (mostly dedicated to the Blessed Virgin) in the 1940's, and this poem comes from that period. In describing the annual Candlemas ritual practiced in his own monastery, Merton reveals fresh insights and deep spiritual truths about this special season to our jaded minds... "for those who have ears, let them hear." I love the description of he and his fellow monks (and all of us?) as "New Simeons, to kindle/Each at Your infant sacrifice his own life's candle."

May each of our "own life's candle(s)" be re-kindled in the days to come... and stay kindled "Until our sacrifice is done,/(By which not we, but You are known)".

Lux venit! Gloria in excelsis Deo!


The Candlemas Procession

Ad revelationem gentium.

Look kindly, Jesus, where we come,
New Simeons, to kindle,
Each at Your infant sacrifice his own life's candle.

And when Your flame turns into many tongues,
See how the One is multiplied, among us, hundreds!
And goes among the humble, and consoles our sinful kindred.

It is for this we come,
And, kneeling, each receive one flame:
Ad revelationem gentium.

Our lives, like candles, spell this simple symbol:
Weep like our bodily life, sweet work of bees,
Sweeten the world, with your slow sacrifice.
And this shall be our praise:
That by our glad expense, our Father's will
Burned and consumed us for a parable.

Nor burn we now with brown and smoky flames, but bright
Until our sacrifice is done,
(By which not we, but You are known)
And then, returning to our Father, one by one,
Give back our lives like wise and waxen lights.

1 comment:

Mutt Ploughman said...

GREAT selection by Duke this time. Man, I am serious, these "pomes all sizes" (Kerouac) that Duke puts out there each week are serious anthology material, I keep saying.....i'd buy it. Merton was one awesome writer, and particularly with some of his poems you sense the reverence and profound understanding he had of spiritual rituals and spiritual matters generally. I highly recommend any Merton poetry or any of his prose writings, while we are at it. I really like all the candle imagery in this poem. If you've ever been to Gesthemani (sp? - the monastery Merton lived in), you can practically see this scene in the chapel there, although I am not sure if that is where it was. Truly evocative, it helps put the focus this time of year on where it counts....