Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Whitby Abbey, 1979

When the Whole Creation groans in travail . . .

O Lord, in the agony of our affliction, how shall we live? *
     We long for the melons, leeks, and riches we once knew.
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in this world become alien to all?

The streets empty and silent; children and laborers sent home; *
     We hide from the wrath of the virus.
Ahhhh….says the Earth: “Be still: hear God’s Voice in the silence.”

Now young and old lay dying, *
     lungs gasping for life-giving breath.
Ahhhh….say the Birds: “The skies are blue, and we will sing.”

Now the seas rise up in great waves; *
     orchards die from thirst, and forests burn to ash.
Ahhhh….say the Wise: “All created things have their season.”

We have plundered the earth of her riches, *
     crafting idols by the might of our minds.
Ahhhh….says the Lord, “Have no other gods before me.”

The homeless, hungry, and suffering, fill our streets; *
     We fear the stranger, and cast out the different.
Ahhhh…..says the Lamb, “As you do to the least of these, you do to Me.”

Violence stalks our villages, slaughtering even our children; *
     rulers scorn our laws and steal the hearts of our people.
Ahhhh…..says the Lord God, “Seek the light and peace of My presence.”

Fragments of memory slip away from beloved elders, *
     as historical monuments fall, giving birth to a cultural dementia.
Ahhhh….says our Master, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

How shall we teach our unborn children of God’s holy mysteries, *
     when we have forgotten the stories of faith?
Ahhhh….says the Spirit, “Baptize them, anoint them, break bread together.”

But how can we baptize, bless, anoint, and comfort, *
     when we cannot touch flesh made in God’s Image?
Ahhhh….says Thomas, “Do not cling; trust my vision of the Risen Lord.”

The temples deserted, all rites suspended; *
     How shall we pray? How can Mother Church survive?
Ahhhh….says Christ Jesus, “My Holy Dwelling is within your own heart.”

O Lord, in your great mercy *
     lead us to the path of repentance,
     and be gracious unto our sins.
O Lord, in your great mercy *
     cleanse us of all our iniquities
     and purify our passions.
O Lord, in your great mercy *
     visit and heal our infirmities,
     and transfigure our souls by Your Love.

. . . that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ our Lord.
(Romans 8: 22…38)

The Rev. Susan Creighton, Anchorite
Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Theotokos, 2020

(I preached this sermon on June 1st, 1982, the first anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. The Rev. Susan Creighton+)

Mosaic from the Clyde Adoration Chapel of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, MO

My Dear Cousin:

I dictate this letter with faltering voice and with a great sense of weariness, for the years have multiplied upon my head. I am so old now that I’ve forgotten just how many years there have been. But I’m not so old that I’ve forgotten everything. In fact, it seems the events of long ago happened only yesterday, and now as the dusk of my life draws to a close, and the soft darkness of death approaches, I feel moved to share some of these memories with you.

For you see, dear cousin, you were really the only one who fully understood; and of course you were the only one who could—for you, too, were a woman, and a mother—and you, too, have borne a son dear to your heart.

That day long ago when you visited me so unexpectedly is as clear in my memory as the summer sun. Then, as now, we lived high in the hills of Judea, and the air was clear and sharp, yet heavy with the expectation of the late rains and of the harvest soon to be gathered in. It had been a long, cold spring for me, and I had felt all the aches of the ancient in my heavy body; even then, my years were many. And then there was this added burden—so welcome but still so heavy.

My belly grew and my legs ached with the weight of it, and I wondered as my time grew near whether or not my strength would fail me.

My body had never learned in its youth how to be a mother, and these lessons come late were taxing to body and soul. I found a loneliness in it, for my beloved husband was enveloped in a great silence that even my love could not seem to penetrate. He had been like this ever since his last turn of service at the temple in Jerusalem: utterly unable to speak, and with the light in his eyes turned inward as if he gazed upon a sight beyond human vision. I know now that his silence came from God, but then it was a hard thing to know, and I longed so for just a word from him—just a word to tell me that he shared both my pain and my joy. But his silence became my silence, and together we waited.

In all those silent months, I had long hours to pray and think, for my old body refused to labor in other ways. It, too, had turned inward, and all my energies seemed to pour into this new life within me, and to leave little over for outward concerns. And as I waited and prayed, and grew heavier and heavier, I remembered: I remembered Sarah as she must have been: like me, both joyous and frightened with the advent of a pregnancy so ardently longed for. I remembered her faithfulness, her willingness to follow Abraham to new lands, to uncertain futures, to the eternal seeking of what must have seemed an illusory promise. Sarah knew; she knew what it was to wait, and pray, and remember. She knew what it was to be a mother, to bear a son, to let him go.

Then there was Rachel: won by Jacob after long years of labor; sharing him with her sister Leah. Rachel, too, must have known long years of silence and grief and prayer. And then at last God “hearkened to her and opened her womb” and she bore her son Joseph. Rachel knew: she knew what it was to wait, and pray, and remember; she knew what it was to journey ever forward and follow a God who demanded all; Rachel knew what it was to give that all as she labored over the birth of her son Benjamin, the son who claimed her life as the price of his own.

And so the long months went on, there on the hills of Judea. The days passed, and I waited, and my belly grew. I found it hard to sleep, and often rose long before the dawn to sit in the soft darkness and watch the light slowly creep over the eastern mountains. Those were the moments when I felt utterly at peace; I knew that my beloved had been faithful to God; I knew that the life within me would not die; I knew that the silence and waiting would come to an end.

Those quiet mornings were precious to me, and I felt my own heart sing as the first sleepy birds began the morning chorus. And singing brought to mind that other old friend from the past: Hannah. Like me, Hannah had been long barren, and sorely tormented by her affliction. She, too, had known the scorn of others as the years rolled past. She, too, waited and prayed most fervently, and the Lord heard her prayer and had pity upon her. In due time Hannah conceived, and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.” Hannah knew what it was to bear a son, and to let him go—to lend him to the Lord’s service; and she knew how to rejoice in her blessing: “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee; there is no rock like our God . . . He raised up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.”

Hannah knew how to wait, and pray. Hannah knew how to sing.

And so, dear cousin, the months passed. And that clear spring day dawned, and the birds sang, and I went about the chores of my silent house, waiting, ever waiting.

Then you came. You entered my house and greeted my beloved and me, and with the sound of your young, hopeful voice, the child in my own womb leapt for joy.

From the deep pit of silence within me came the cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! . . . And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

And your voice broke into song: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” You sang, O Mary, my cousin, and you brought joy and peace to our silent house. And then you departed upon your own way, already swelling with the child within your own womb, and I waited, larger and heavier, and so near to my own time of delivery.

Yes Mary, we both know what it is to wait, to bear a son, to let him go, to sing.

And in these many years since, we have not ceased learning to wait, to pray, and to sing. Even in those moments of the greatest grief, we have known joy. My own John left us so early; his father’s blessing was upon him, and he went forth to prepare the way of the Lord; he went forth to be the prophet of the Most High . . . It was hard to let him go, and yet we knew we must, for he was ours no longer; the Spirit had claimed him from time before time, from that moment in the temple when my beloved Zechariah was struck dumb.

But it was hard to let him go: Sarah’s son was spared the knife; my son was not.

Yet still we sang: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free.” And you, my dear: you were so very young, yet you bore so very much more. You bore the Son who redeems us all; you bore the pain of scorn and rejection even as he lay in your womb; you bore the abandonment of Golgotha; you bore the incredible news of his resurrection; you bore the sight of his risen body and sore wounds.

You bore all this, my dear Mary, because you are the most favored one: You are she, chosen above all women to be the Mother of God.

You are she, my dear, who has become the mother of us all. Yes, even of me, your old, old cousin. For you are she who has taught us all to wait, to pray, to remember, to sing.

You are she who has taught us to bear forth within our barren bodies the Word of the Lord.

You are she who has taught us to seek the fruit of Christ within the hearts and minds and souls and bodies of all whom we meet.

You are our Mother, calling us forth to give birth to Love.

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

With weary joy, my dear, I remain your affectionate cousin,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                +Elizabeth+

Photo by Francois Guillot/AFP

HOLY DWELLING
‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’

Monday in Holy Week, April 15, 2019
Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris engulfed by fire

(David)
Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house,
that thou hast brought me thus far? . . .
For thou, My God, wilt build a house for him;
thy servant has found courage to pray before thee.


We build our temples of stone and wood,
walls wrapped with precious gold and jewels of glass;
They hold—and hide—our path to God,
and within, nourish our courage to pray.

(Jesus)
Do you see these wonderful stones and great buildings?
Not one stone will be left here upon another;
all will be thrown down. Destroy this temple,
and in three days I will raise it up.


When even temple stones are silenced,
God’s Voice sings on within our hearts,
raising within our Soul the Holy Dwelling
of Love that fire and flood can never doom.

(Mary Magdalene)
O, who will roll away the stone barring the tomb?
He is not here; he has risen! Go forth singing,
Allelulia! Christ is Risen!
He is Risen, indeed! Allelulia!


David: 1 Chronicles 17: 16, 25
Jesus: Mark 13:1-2; Mark 14:58
Mary Magdalene: Mark 16:1-7

(c) Susan Creighton 2019




Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’ (Matthew 27:54)

The Centurion

The others said He was dead,
To be sure, I drove my spear into His side.

His Blood splashed down upon me
And I felt a chill to my spine.

The sun is setting; the women have gone.
Some old man has come to claim His naked Body.

We have divided his garments among us.
I won His tunic with a throw of the dice.

I will keep watch where they have laid Him.
It is the least I can do.

Perhaps this Robe of His will warm my flesh.
Indeed, my heart seems strangely warm.

Good Friday 2018     (c) Susan Creighton

Tradition holds that Longinus was the Roman centurion who was in charge of the men guarding the Cross with Christ crucified on it at Golgotha. Later, he was baptized and began preaching the Gospel himself. He died a martyr’s death for his beliefs, and was later canonized.

 


The Wailing of the Wood
Good Friday, 2017

Many sunrises ago, my mother seed,
plucked by a hungry dove,
and nourished in its belly,
fell upon rocky soil, was trod
deep by a wandering sheep’s hoof,
then thirstily drank the droplets
from a summer’s rain.

Seasons passed, and many more;
my cells swelled and grew,
ever stretching toward the Light.
Then one late autumn day, sharp steel
axes cut deep into my flesh, and I fell hard
upon the rocks that had been my cradle.

In the dim months of winter, I was carried,
pulled, tugged, and flipped, with steel teeth
cutting deep into my flesh again,
until shaped square and planed smooth.
The spring-time moon shone brightly overhead,
when once again I was hauled about,
cut into two pieces, and sent upon my way.

My longest part reached the Hill first;
then came my shorter portion,
carried upon a poor Man’s bleeding shoulders;
He could barely walk beneath my weight.
My parts were joined, and then His flesh was
laid upon my own, and hammered in.

They lifted us together, and as His sinews were torn
and joints were pulled, my own flesh stretched
to hold him close, secure. A last breath sighed,
“Forgive them all,” and I knew my work was done.
His Mother wept; his friends fled, as all around
the mountains echoed the eternal cry:
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

© 2017 Susan Creighton

 

Palm Sunday, 2017

The Donkey speaks:
What’s that you say?
The Lord has need of me? And my foal as well?
To carry Him to Jerusalem this day?
Ah, well, that is my lot in life, is it not?
To carry burdens upon my shoulders, like the Cross I bear.
Oh, my—I wonder if He will notice the Cross upon my back?
Will he see the Cross again very soon?
In five short days, they say.
And then I will not be there to carry Him.
For He will bear His own Cross,
And be a beast of burden for all the world.
He may ride upon my back this day.

Susan Creighton, April 9, 2017

Nativity of Christ

CHRISTMAS, 2015

I do not need to begin this Christmas meditation with a listing of the raucous and hurtful noises filling our world—you know it as well as I do.

And so this year my prayer for us all, near and far, friend and foe, beloved and stranger, is simply that this season of celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ might open each of our hearts to the Holy Silence of an innocent Babe born into His Father’s World, a world of beauty and abundance, a world of joy and peace, yet a world so often torn asunder by our inability, our unwillingness to recognize the eternal gifts given to all humankind, to all creation.

The Gospel of John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Perhaps another way of saying that could be, “The Silence swallows the noise, and the noise has not overcome it.”

COME, HOLY SILENCE

Come, Lord Jesus, Come:
Fill the earth with
Holy Silence

Holy Silence-
gift of gentleness and peace
to terror and cruelty;

Holy Silence-
gift of humility and love
to arrogance and pride;

Holy Silence-
gift of compassion and joy
to hate and revenge;

Holy Silence-
gift of calm and hope
to fear and despair;

Holy Silence-
gift of strength and faith
to doubt and distrust.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come:
Fill our hearts with
Holy Silence

SC+ © 2015

He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Holiest of Holy

Holiest of Holy

 

It is Easter morning, and our hope is ever born anew.

And inexplicably–only God knows why–this poem, prophetic, apocalyptic, and eschatological as it is, springs to mind.

The Second Coming

W.B. Yeats in 1919

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

May you know the hope of the risen Christ this day.

Susan Creighton+

 

NATIVITY GIFTS

 Wise men from the East opened their Treasure,
offering Him gifts . . .

GOLD   INCENSE   MYRRH

 If I could give Christ Jesus a gift, would it be GOLD,
remembering others who freeze for lack of shelter?

If I could give Christ Jesus a gift, would it be INCENSE,
remembering others who choke for lack of clean air?

If I could give Christ Jesus a gift would it be MYRRH,
remembering others who die for lack of fragrant oil?

 

If I could give Christ Jesus a gift, it would be GOLD,
the GOLD of SILENCE in daily prayer.

If I could give Christ Jesus a gift, it would be INCENSE,
the INCENSE of JOY offered at the altar.

If I could give Christ Jesus a gift, it would be MYRRH,
the MYRRH of TEARS for easing of wounds.

Susan Creighton, 2014

 

 

NativityChristmas Eve, 2013

As the Holy Babe lies hidden amongst the tiny birds and pinecones of my Advent Wreath, preparing for His arrival at the crèche on Christmas Eve, I find myself turning to a review of those ancient days.

Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and the Galilee, and nearly all of the Mediterranean, as well as much of Western Europe and Britain lay under the yoke of Roman armies—called Pax Romana by modern historians. Yet even in this period of relative political peace, many were enslaved; disease and famine often drew near; and the various passions of temper and desire continued to rage within the hearts of humankind.

And in the next few centuries, more trouble brewed: the poor became worse off, while a tiny percentage amassed wealth and power; those who were deemed ‘other’ endured scorn, persecution, and sometimes martyrdom; ‘barbarians’ began to challenge the power and influence of the empire, leading to foreign wars and increased taxation; drought, famine, and crop failures, along with soaring unemployment, led to a faltering economy and mass migrations across political boundaries. Even in the fledgling Christian Church, contemporary cultural mores and theological controversies threatened not only the unity of the Church, but even the heart of the Gospel of Christ.

Well, a Christmas letter is not really the place for a history lesson, is it? Yet only a few viewings of the evening news make it all seem so very familiar. And perhaps that is as it should be, for time after time, century after century, it is into this very context of tragedy, sin, and evil that we need to hear anew the great Good News of Jesus the Christ.

Born in humility
becoming our flesh:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

For only in that great mystery of the Incarnation have the shepherds of Bethlehem, the apostles and disciples of Galilee, the monks, nuns, and hermits of deserts, mountains, and forests, and countless souls—men, women, children—found hope, joy, peace and eternal life.

May this season bring the same to each of our hearts, and thence out into the world.

SING, O ANGELS OF HEAVEN!

A Christmas Litany

Born in humility,
Becoming our flesh:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Mothers will come,
To nourish a babe:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
 
Fathers will come,
To shelter the weak:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Children will come,
Trusting, unafraid:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Shepherds will come,
Knowing his Voice:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Royalty will come,
To adore the true King:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Servants will come,
To serve at His Throne:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Sinners will come,
To weep at His Feet:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Mourners will come,
Seeking the Light:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Prisoners will come,
Longing for freedom:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Priests will come,
To lift bread and wine:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

Born in humility,
Becoming our flesh:
Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!

 © 2010 Susan Creighton

 

 

 

 

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