the penultimate WORD

“But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” Revelation 12.12

It’s not any easier for us than it was for our parents. Or their parents. It has never been easy.

The problem of evil has challenged every generation. In every age. And there have been no exceptions. Philosophers have wrestled with the problem of evil, and they have looked at it from a variety of perspectives. As a religious issue, faithful, reflective men and women have explored the character of evil, and, by implication, the character of the God who would permit evil.

An academic investigation doesn’t serve us well here. Our awareness of evil and its effects strike too close to home for that. We cannot be objective. Our question is personal. And as Christians, our perspective is coloured by our experience of Jesus.

In the Revelation we have a picture that has helped generations comprehend the source of evil as well as the presence of evil among us. A war broke out in heaven, we’re told. Imagine that some were wearing white hats, and the bad guys were wearing black hats. It is a simple story, with clear lines and it’s easy to see the winners and the losers. The guys wearing the black hats, lost. And the Devil, Satan, was cast out of heaven and his angels went with him.

The inherit nature of Satan is that he is deceptive.

And the deceit that prevails is that there really is no evil to deal with. The deceit is that we might think that the author of evil is elsewhere. And that we have nothing to worry about.

Know this: Satan is not in hell. Not yet.

Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, by whatever name we might make him understandable in our mind, is here, among us.

When Satan was cast out of heaven, he was sent to earth. Jesus reminded his followers that Satan is the Prince of this world.

Alerted to his presence and his deception, we are to be vigilant so that we might prevail.

Sickness, death, broken trust, betrayal, touch us in our vulnerability and the temptation is great for us to fail to recognize the wrath that is given voice, sometimes our voice, in unforgiving, unloving, and unaccepting ways. Beguiled by deceit, thinking ourselves better than others, more righteous than others, more acceptable than others, we become unwitting pawns in a war begun in heaven and continued here on earth. And we discover that we’re wearing black hats!

St Michael’s victory over Satan helps us understand a beginning. And it helps us understand how the battle continues.

Michaelmas daisies, blooming in such profusion at this time of year remind us of the host of angels that championed the cause of the Archangel. The clouds of familiar purple asters remind us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses as we struggle with issues in our lives. St Michael’s triumph in heaven encourages us to endure the struggle and share in Jesus’ victory on earth.

Be assured of this: deceit is the character of the beguiling half-truth, and our vigilance engages us in leading authentic, faithful lives reflecting the character we see in Jesus. Lives that bring restorative healing Jesus introduced to the broken lives of countless saints, and continues yet today, gracefully through us: wounded healers all.

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If Yahweh Does Not Guard the City, in Vain the Sentries Watch

Today I want to talk to you about cities from a biblical point of view. Cities feature a lot in the Bible — but not always happily. For the early Hebrew/Aramaean wanderers, they were centres of violence, or religious corruption, to be feared and avoided. The murderer, Cain, becomes a builder of the first mentioned city in Genesis 4:17. The cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah, were destroyed because the dwellers of the city plotted violence against the visitors who came to see Lot.

Babel, or Babylon, is the prototype of the arrogance of man who challenges the authority and the justice of the living God. Built in the year 2230 B.C., Babylon was one of the greatest artificial wonders of the ancient world with its vast iron gates and its enormous towering walls and its famous hanging gardens. But its Hebrew name means “city of chaos” — a city built on violence and slavery, where the Jews were in exile (Psalm 137).

The most famous city of all in the Bible is Jerusalem with its golden temple dome and the sights of pilgrims surging on their way to its festivals. It has a complex history. Attacked by the tribes of Judab (Judges 1:8), it was finally conquered by a brilliant strategy of David (2 Samuel 5:6). In 1049 B.C. Joab led a contingent of soldiers up its water well to capture it. Since then Jerusalem has been plundered, conquered, razed to the ground. It has been successively controlled by Jews, Turks, and Christian crusaders and is today regarded as a holy city by Jews, Moslems, and Christians. But Jesus wept over it because of its violence — “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he calls out, “You that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused!” (Matthew 23:37-38).

In the beginning Hebrews avoided the cities, coming only to exchange wool and the milk from their flocks for artifacts — but always quickly moving away again to the life of the wanderer, to the freedom of the open spaces. Yet, in the end, they too became city dwellers. Appalled at the corruption and violence in the cities, the prophets idealize the time of the wanderings in the desert. Then the faith of the people was not debased as it was in the city. The poor were not tricked sold into slavery, or exploited, their land was not stolen from them, God was their king and protector. The prophets also condemn the worship of the city. God hates their sacrifices and will not accept them until they lead lives based on justice and compassion.


What are your endless sacrifices to me?…
I am tired of bearing them…
You may multiply your prayers,
I shall not listen…
Cease to do evil.
Learn to do good,
search for justice, help the oppressed (or stop the oppressor);
do justice to the orphan,
plead for the widow (Isaiah 1:11-17)


“If they persecute you in one town,” Jesus said, “take refuge in the next” (Mt 10:23). This is precisely what his followers did. The cities around the Mediterranean were taken by conquest, not with weapons of war, not by enslaving their people in chains, but by winning them by love. The chief architect of this was the apostle, Paul. Pull out at random from your Bible some of the cities he visited: Antioch, where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians; Corinth, to whom he wrote that magnificent letter on the splendour of Christian love; Thessalonika, where he gives a biographical sketch of himself “slaving night and day” (1 Thessalonians 2:9); Philippi where, though in chains, he composes the beautiful hymn on Jesus who empties himself, stripping himself of his Godhead to become a slave, a servant working for the liberation of men and women; Damascus, where he was persecuted and lowered from the city walls in a basket. Read of the sufferings and rejection in the cities. He writes, “. . it was good of you to share with me in my hardships.” “No other church helped me with gifts of money. You were the only ones” (Philemon 4:14,16). The cities rejected hint but there were some who did respond with understanding and love.

The main target of Paul’s work was the city of Rome, which dominated and controlled, through military might, the known world. He went there for justice against those who were his enemies. In the Acts of the Apostles we leave him waiting optimistically for Roman justice to liberate him. But it was in Rome that he knelt on the Appian Way and was beheaded. Like many, he came to a city expecting to find justice, instead he found corruption, the usual twisting of law. The absence of justice destroys a city. Saint John the Divine, a political prisoner on the island of Patmos, tells of the fall of Rome. “Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen . . . Come out, my people, away from her!” (Revelation 18:2,4). Babylon is, of course, the city of Rome that, in the end, paid for her iniquities because there was no justice there.

Jesus, unlike many modern-day tourists, did not go into ecstasies over the ancient architectural splendour of Jerusalem —he condemned it (Mark 13:2). Why? “Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13). The command to love God and deal justly with your neighbour and to do him justice is linked with the continuity of the city. My text clearly spells out: “If Yahweh does not guard the city, in vain the sentries watch.” Jerusalem’s name means “possession of peace,” the city of peace, a city at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbours. But, in the words of the Bible, how can a city “seek peace and pursue it”? (1 Peter 3:11 quoting Psalm 34:14). Only by being built on justice. For God’s peace to dwell on any city, that city must show justice for the poor, the weak, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the ethnic minorities. I suppose very few modern cities would be able to match up to these qualifies — our cities today team with graft, greed, cheating, earning a fast buck, to say nothing of the moral decay of the underworld which exists in them everywhere. But Christians are not here to accept the standards of the world. We are here to build the new Jerusalem and for such we pray when we say the Lord’s prayer, “Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” That kingdom is to be built on love and justice for all.

I suppose Paul could be called in many ways a Christian revolutionary because he organized for the first time a group of cities to help the poor in another country. Paul called on the churches in Macedonia and Achaia for money to help him assist the struggling poor in Jerusalem. “I must take a present of money to the saints in Jerusalem, since Macedonia and Achaia have decided to send a generous contribution to the poor among the saints at Jerusalem” (Romans 15:26). The apostle who spoke about love to the Corinthian Christians does not confine it to mere words. It is to be lived out and it is to spread out across national boundaries. This was the revolution that the Christian church brought to the world — a commitment to build a just, loving, caring community throughout the world.

The city of London in England has a long history of receiving refugees and political exiles from all over the world. Its East End, which is near the docks, has successively taken in Huguenot Protestants who fled from religious persecutions in Europe, and received Jews from Poland and Russia who were escaping from pogroms there. Not that London can boast that it has always received exiles kindly. The vigilantes who threatened Lot in the Old Testament exist, I suppose, in every city today. In London in the 1930s, fascists in their hundreds marched through the city of London to attack the poor and defenseless Jews who were living in the East End. It was the poor dockers who fought back the fascists and defended the ethnic minorities in their midst.

Today, a different group of pilgrims will be visiting the city of London. They have a story to tell us. They come seeking justice and will appeal to Queen Elizabeth II to hear about their problems and to remind her of the treaty which our governments signed with them. The majority of them are extremely poor. They are visitors from Canada. Two hundred members of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs will come to share with us their story. As Christians we will receive them in a spirit of love. ‘‘You should carry each other’s troubles and fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). It is largely the poor churches here who are responding and who will accommodate and feed them during their few days among us. They will be visiting the British Museum to see their artifacts and will visit Parliament and other parts of London.

In Britain the churches have been very weak to respond to the plight of the unemployed and especially the black minority groups who live in our teeming cities and who are mostly unemployed. And this, we say it to our shame, is in direct contradiction of everything the Bible stands for — for God commands us to receive strangers. Like Saint Paul, we will listen to our visitors and then in love send them back home. We do not do this in a spirit of judgment — in fact, it is the poor who judge us all. In London we can only judge ourselves with our own many failings to show mercy and to share with the poor. One thing I am certain of, as Christians we will receive from our visitors far more than we will give them. “Continue to love each other like brothers and remember always to welcome strangers for by doing this some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2). What a beautiful promise!

The Bible message challenges us all who live in the cities. “It is God who sees justice done to the orphans, the widow, who loves the stranger and gives him food and clothing. Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

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Deck us all with Boston Charlie

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an’ Kalamazoo!
Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don’t we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lilla boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don’t love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker n’ too-da-loo!
Hunky Dory’s pop is lolly gaggin’ on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!

Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloup, ’lope with you!
Chollie’s collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarum bung-a-loo!

(NOTE: Diligent researchers, including the esteemed folk-lorist, Professor Jiggs Potlook, have also unearthed the following partial verses.  We make no guarantee for their authenticity.  For further research, kindly consult Kelly, Walt; Deck Us All With Boston Charlie, Simon and Schuster, 1963.)

Duck us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an’ Polly Voo!
Chilly Filly’s name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly’s jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, Woof, Woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, Goof, Goof!

Tickle salty boss anchovie
Wash a wash a wall Anna Kangaroo
Ducky allus bows to Polly,
Prolly Wally would but har’ly do!

Dock us all a bowsprit, Solly —
Golly, Solly’s cold and so’s ol’ Lou!

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Ash Wednesday and questions you may have…

Q: What is Ash Wednesday?
A: Ash Wednesday is the day Lent begins. It occurs forty days before Good Friday.

Q: Is Ash Wednesday based on a pagan festival?
A: Heck, no. Ash Wednesday originated in the A.D. 900s, long after Europe had been Christianized and the pagan cults stamped out.

Q: Why is it called Ash Wednesday?
A: Actually, Ash Wednesday is its colloquial name. Its official name is the Day of Ashes. It is called Ash Wednesday because, being forty days before Good Friday, it always falls on a Wednesday and it is called Ash Wednesday because on that day at church the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross.

Q: Why do they have their foreheads marked with a cross?
A: Because in the Bible a mark on the forehead is a symbol of a person’s ownership. By having their foreheads marked with the sign of a cross, this symbolizes that the person belongs to Jesus Christ, who died on a Cross.
This is in imitation of the spiritual mark or seal that is put on a Christian in baptism, when he is delivered from slavery to sin and the devil and made a slave of righteousness and Christ (Romans 6:3-18).

It is also in imitation of the way the righteousness are described in the book of Revelation, where we read of the servants of God (the Christian faithful, as symbolized by the 144,000 male virgins):

“Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.” (Revelation 7:3)

“[The demon locust] were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4)

“Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Revelation 14:1)

This is in contrast to the followers of the beast, who have the number 666 on their foreheads or hands. The reference to the sealing of the servants of God for their protection in Revelation is an allusion to a parallel passage in Ezekiel, where Ezekiel also sees a sealing of the servants of God for their protection:

“And the LORD said to him [one of the four cherubim], ‘Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark [literally, “a tav”] upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.’ And to the others he said in my hearing, ‘Pass through the city after him, and smite; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity; slay old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one upon whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.’ So they began with the elders who were before the house.” (Ezekiel 9:4-6)

Unfortunately, like most modern translations, the one quoted above (the Revised Standard Version, which we have been quoting thus far), is not sufficiently literal. What it actually says is to place a tav on the foreheads of the righteous inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Tav is one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and in ancient script it looked like the Greek letter chi, which happens to be two crossed lines (like an “x”) and which happens to be the first letter in the word “Christ” in Greek (christos). The Jewish rabbis commented on the connection between tav and chi and this is undoubtedly the mark Revelation has in mind when the servants of God are sealed in it.

The early Church Fathers seized on this tav-chi-cross-christos connection and expounded it in their homilies, seeing in Ezekiel a prophetic foreshadowing of the sealing of Christians as servants of Christ.

It is also part of the background to the Catholic practice of making the sign of the cross, which in the early centuries (as can be documented from the second century on) was practiced by using one’s thumb to furrow one’s brow with a small sign of the cross, like Catholics do today at the reading of the Gospel during Mass.

Q: Why is the signing done with ashes?
A: Because ashes are a biblical symbol of mourning and penance. In Bible times the custom was to fast, wear sackcloth, sit in dust and ashes, and put dust and ashes on one’s head. While we no longer normally wear sackcloth or sit in dust and ashes, the customs of fasting and putting ashes on one’s forehead as a sign of mourning and penance have survived to this day. These are two of the key distinctives of Lent. In fact, Ash Wednesday is a day not only for putting ashes on one’s head, but also a day of fasting (see below).

Q: What are some biblical examples of people putting dust and ashes on their foreheads?
A: Consider the following verses from the New International Version:
“That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh, his clothes torn and dust on his head.” (1 Samuel 4:12)

“On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and with dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honor.” (2 Samuel 1:20)

“Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.” (2 Samuel 13:19)

“When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head.” (2 Samuel 15:32)

Q: Is there another significance to the ashes?

A: Yes. They also symbolize death and so remind us of our mortality. Thus when the priest uses his thumb to sign one of the faithful with the ashes, he says, “Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return,” which is modeled after God’s address to Adam (Genesis 3:19; cf. Job 34:15, Psalms 90:3, 104:29, Ecclesiastes 3:20). This also echoes the words at a burial, “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust,” which is based on God’s words to Adam in Genesis 3 and Abraham’s confession, “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). It is thus a reminder of our mortality and our need to repent before this life is over and we face our Judge.

Q: Where do the ashes used on Ash Wednesday come from?
A: They are made by burning palm fronds which have been saved from the previous year’s Palm Sunday, they are then blessed by a priest — blessed ashes having been used in God’s rituals since the time of Moses (Numbers 19:9-10, 17).

Q: Why are ashes from the previous year’s Palm Sunday used?
A: Because Palm Sunday was when the people rejoiced at Jesus’ triumphal entrance to Jerusalem. They celebrated his arrival by waving palm fronds, little realizing that he was coming to die for their sins. By using palms from Palm Sunday, it is a reminder that we must not only rejoice of Jersus’ coming but also regret the fact that our sins made it necessary for him to die for us in order to save us from hell.

Q: Is having one’s forehead signed with ashes required of the faithful?
A: No, it is not required. However, it is to be strongly encouraged as it is a fitting and visible spiritual reminder that encourages one to adopt an attitude of prayer, repentance, and humility. As James said: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

Q: Is Ash Wednesday a holy day of obligation, that is, a day on which we are required to go to Mass?
A: No, it is not a holy day of obligation. However, it is strongly advisable since it is fitting to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent by going to Mass. The formal, corporate worship of God is a good way to get a good start to the season. Also, even though it is not a holy day of obligation, it is a day of fast and abstinence.

Q: Why isn’t Ash Wednesday a holy day of obligation?
A: Holy days of obligation are either commemorations of particular events (such as the birth of Christ or the presentation of Jesus in the Temple), particular people (such as Jesus’ earthly father, St. Joseph), or important theological concepts (such as the Kingship of Christ). Ash Wednesday does not commemorate any event (nothing special happened forty days before the crucifixion — at least not that we know of), and could only be said to indirectly commemorate a Person (Christ) since it is the beginning of preparation for the greater celebrations of Christ’s saving work, which follow, and although Ash Wednesday is a day of penance (like all of the days of Lent except Sundays, which are feast days no matter when they occur in the liturgical calendar since they celebrate Christ’s resurrection), the Church has never chosen to make it or any other specific day the definitive commemoration of the concept of repentance.

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Festivus – What Is It And How To Celebrate

Festivus is a fictional holiday created by Frank Costanza(played by Jerry Stiller) on the popular television comedy Seinfeld. Some fans of the show now celebrate this fictional holiday in real life.

Festivus is a holiday held on 23 Decemberof each year. It was created as a response to the commercialism of the other December holidays.

Its slogan is “Festivus, a holiday for the rest of us”.  Listen to Frank’s explanation of the origins of Festivus…

Frank: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.

Kramer: What happened to the doll?

Frank: It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born . . . a Festivus for the rest of us!

Kramer: That must’ve been some doll.

Frank: She was!

The Festivus celebration includes these major components…

  • The Festivus Pole
  • The Festivus Song
  • The Feast
  • The Airing of Grievances
  • The Airing of Grievances form
  • The Feats of Strength
  • The Human Fund
  • The Human Fund Donor Cards
  • The Festivus Fruitcake
  • Ice Cream for the Fruit Cake

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MONDAY, MAY 2, 2011; 7:30 P.M.



The programme will feature a keynote address by Alex Eisen, a Holocaust survivor now living in Toronto. He was born in Vienna, Austria in 1929 and at nine years of age watched the Nazis marched into Vienna. Soon after Eisen, his parents and two sisters escaped to Hungary.  His father was arrested at the border but managed to flee from there to Palestine.  When Hungary came under Nazi occupation in 1944 his older sister was deported to Auschwitz.  Eisen, his mother and younger sister remained in the Budapest ghetto until they were able to escape, and posing as Christians, managed to survive until liberation in January 1945. Following liberation Eisen was determined to join his father in Palestine and in 1947 boarded an illegal ship, the Theodore Herzl, carrying refuges to Palestine. The ship was seized by the British and the refugees were sent to a detention camp in Cyprus.  There, Eisen was reunited with his mother and sisters who were also waiting to be allowed entry to Palestine.  Once he reached Palestine in the fall of 1947, he joined the Israeli underground (Haganah) and later the Israeli army fighting in the battle of Jerusalem.  He was transferred to the Israeli Air Force where he met his wife, Renata Markovic, also a Holocaust survivor. They married in 1951 and immigrated to Canada the following year.  They have two children and five grandchildren, all of whom live in Toronto. At age 75 Eisen became involved in Holocaust education and he has recently written his memoirs.

The annual Beatrice Cummings Mayer Prizes will be presented to high school students who participated in the Jewish Holocaust Study Group, jointly organized by the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum and the District 8 Enrichment Centre.. The students’ work will be available for viewing in the Museum before and after the program.

Candles will be lit in memory of those who were killed during the Holocaust.

A reception will follow the presentation.

This program is made possible with financial assistance from The Atlantic Jewish Council through the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany Inc., Congregation Shaarei Zedek, the Harry and Mary Selick Cohen Memorial Fund (Saint John Jewish Historical Museum) and the Community Arts Funding Program of the City of Saint John.

For further information please contact the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum at 633-1833

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Black Madonna of Czestochowa

The painting is known as the Black Madonna of Czestochowa

black madonna

 – allegedly because of the soot residue that discolours the painting.
Centuries of votive lights, devotional incense and candles burning

in front of the painting in this Polish parish church

are the cause of the soot.

Here is a great video about it:

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Mummering or Jannying…

Also known as mumming or janneying, it usually involves a group of friends or family who dress in camouflage and visit houses within their community or neighbouring neighborhoods during the twelve days of Christmas.

If the mummers are invited into a house, they frequently do a range of informal performances that may consist of dance, music, jokes, or recitations. The hosts need to think the mummers’ identities before using them food or beverage. They might poke and prod the mummers or ask them questions. To make this a difficulty for the hosts, the mummers may pack their outfits, cross-dress, or speak while inhaling (ingressive speech).

Once the mummers have actually been determined, they eliminate their disguises, spend some social time with the hosts, and then travel as a group to the next house.

Mummering is making a comeback now and you can see they did an article on it at CNN

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by T S Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.



Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying

Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.



At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man’s mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.


Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary’s colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary’s colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile



If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.


Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

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