The Water

Come here, my friend, and speak with me:
    What did the river tell you?
When you sat alone by stream on stone,
    and the year was bright and new?

She told me of a secret name
    as she went her ancient way,
given to me from eternity
by the One who overcame.

And then, my friend, that summer morn:
    What did the ocean tell you?
When you went and gazed into her waves
    and the sky and sea were blue?

She told me of a silent place
    deep in the mind of God,
where the truth of me that I long to see
is reflected in His face.

What joy, my friend! What happened then?
    What did the fountain tell you?
When you smiled to see a little child
    gasp as the waters flew?

She told me of a memory
    which will be true again,
when days are long and full of song
and little hearts are free.

And now, old friend, at season’s end:
    What did the water tell you?
When all seemed dry, you knew not why,
    but the quiet well-spring grew?

You told me of a little road:
    it is wild and overgrown,
but life is there for one who dares
to walk where waters flow.

Rorate Cæli

S. Andreæ Apóstoli.

Lay your yoke upon me like the dewfall,
Gentle Lord, which does not bend the branches,
nor even crush the smallest of the small,
but of leaf and twig alike enhances
the dignity of being what You made,
adorned—not burdened—by the gracious weight
of life you give to never end nor fade!
Drop down, you heavens, dew!—O let it sate
at last this thirst You wrote into the heart
of man, O let it gild the wild woods
that strive for You from valleys far apart—
O clothe all in Your grace and call it good!
If man You made for life, O Father, then
pour out your life in us and make us men.

Magnum Mysterium

Dominica I Adventus.

Framed by the barren branches, winter-clad
in careless air and shadows, stands the queen
arrayed in gold. (What majesty she had!—
filled with a light, a life, a child unseen!)
Ripe fruit of sterile tree, thou Lady, born
to grey-haired hope made foolish by long years
of patient expectation, now adorned
with glory like the Sun, Who drew so near
to thee as to suffuse thy being all
with radiance of His light! Thou art the moon
and He the Sun; thou crowned among the halls
of Heaven, He their Maker!—yet but soon,
He whom all ages called “wholly other”
shall be born of thee, and call thee “Mother.”

The Advent of the Lord

there shines a distant pinprick, like a star,
suspended in the firmament above.
Can so dim a glow yet be the mark
that One transcending words like ‘near’ and ‘far’
makes Himself near in this self-gift of love?

A little candle-flame, no more than that,
distinguishes the throne of God on Earth,
whom angel-hosts adore and devils fear!
The very mountains leapt and hills fell flat,
hearing word of their Creator’s Birth!—
and now, O God, your Bethlehem is here?

It dares our unbelief, affronts our pride,
contradicts our haughty heart’s assumption,
that the greatest should become the least,
the King come down to take a peasant bride,
that love be consummated in consumption—
Infinity contained in crumbs of wheat!

Yet so it is, and more, for God made man
was not content to remain on His throne,
nor now in golden vault secure to lie.
The shepherd’s lamp is lit to seek the lamb—
defenseless, but too willful not to roam—
from that bright night when Love bled and died.

A Fallen Rose

Jesus, to aid thy feeble powers
     I see thy Mother’s arms outspread,
As thou on this sad earth of ours
     Dost set thy first, thy faltering tread:
See, in thy path I cast away
     A rose in all its beauty dressed,
That on its petals’ disarray
     Thy feet, so light, may softly rest.
Jésus, quand je te vois soutenu par ta Mère,
     Quitter ses bras,
Essayer en tremblant sur notre triste terre
     Tes premiers pas,
Devant toi je voudrais effeuiller une rose
     En sa fraîcheur
Pour que ton petit pied bien doucement repose
     Sur une fleur!…
Dear Infant Christ, this fallen rose
     True image of that heart should be
Which makes, as every instant flows,
     Its whole burnt-sacrifice to thee.
Upon thy altars, Lord, there gleams
     Full many a flower whose grand display
Charms thee; but I have other dreams—
     Bloomless, to cast myself away.
Cette rose effeuillée, c’est la fidèle image,
     Divin Enfant,
Du coeur qui veut pour toi s’immoler sans partage
     A chaque instant.
Seigneur, sur tes autels plus d’une fraîche rose
     Aime à briller.
Elle se donne à toi… mais je rève autre chose:
     “C’est m’effeuiller!…”
Dear Lord, the flowers that blossom yet
     Thy feast-day with their perfume fill;
The rose that’s fallen, men forget
     And winds may scatter where they will;
The rose that’s fallen questions not,
     Content, as for thy sake, to die.
Abandonment its welcome lot—
     Dear Infant Christ, that rose be I!
La rose en son éclat peut embellir ta fête,
     Aimable Enfant;
Mais la rose effeuillée, simplement on la jette
     Au gré du vent.
Une rose effeuillée sans recherche se donne
     Pour n’être plus.
Comme elle avec bonheur à toi je m’abandonne,
     Petit Jésus.
Yet those same petals, trampled down,—
     I read the message in my heart—
In patterns here and there are blown
     That seem too beautiful for art:
Living to mortal eyes no more,
     Rose of a bloom for ever past,
See to thy love a life made o’er,
     A future on thy mercy cast!
L’on marche sans regret sur des feuilles de rose,
     Et ces débris
Sont un simple ornement que sans art on dispose,
     Je l’ai compris.
Jésus, pour ton amour j’ai prodigué ma vie,
     Mon avenir.
Aux regards des mortels, rose à jamais flétrie
     Je dois mourir!…
For love of Loveliness supreme
     Dying, to cast myself away
Were bright fulfillment of my dream;
     I’d prove my love no easier way;—
Live, here below, forgotten still,
     A rose before thy path outspread
At Nazareth; or on Calvary’s hill
     Relieve thy last, thy labouring tread.
Pour toi, je dois mourir, Enfant, Beauté Suprême,
     Quel heureux sort!
Je veux en m’effeuillant te prouver que je t’aime,
     O mon Trésor!…
Sous tes pas enfantins, je veux avec mystère
     Vivre ici-bas;
Et je voudrais encor adoucir au Calvaire
     Tes derniers pas!…
—Tr. R. A. Knox (1888-1957) —Ste. Thèrèse de l’Enfant Jésus

On the feast of our Holy Father

“Once in the dark of night,
my longings caught and raging in love’s ray
(O windfall of delight!)
I slipped unseen away
as all my home in a deep slumber lay.

Secure, in more than night,
close hid and up the stair a secret way
(O windfall of delight!)
in the night, in feigned array
as all my home in a deep slumber lay.

There in the lucky dark,
stealing in secrecy, by none espied;
nothing for eyes to mark,
no other light, no guide
but in my heart: that fire would not subside.

That led me on—
that dazzle truer than high noon is true
to where there waited one
I knew—how well I knew!—
in a place where no one was in view.

O dark of night, my guide!
O sweeter than anything sunrise can discover!
O night, drawing side to side
the loved and lover,
the loved one wholly ensouling in the lover.

There in my festive breast
walled for his pleasure-garden, his alone,
the lover remained at rest
and I gave all I own,
gave all, in air from the cedars softly blown.

All, in wind from the wall
as my hand in his hair moved lovingly at play.
He let my soft fingers fall
and I swooned dead away
wounded: all senses in oblivion lay.

Quite out of self suspended—
my forehead on the lover’s own reclined.
And that way the world ended
with all my cares untwined
among the lilies falling and out of mind.”




—San Juan de la Cruz, La noche oscura del alma
Tr. John Frederick Nims

Under the cross I knew your providence

Six years, my God, almost to the day
since you pulled me from the world and to yourself.
Two and a half since that hot afternoon
I first drove my pastoral sedan—
firstborn-brother, first of many, wincing
at my every sudden stop and wobbly turn—
one hundred fifty miles from our birth-town
to the Tabor that seemed to me paradise!,
though not at first. But I could not confess then
to you and those who came to see me off
how, after the good-byes and introductions
and desultory day gave way to lonely night,
I sat again in silence at the helm
of my own car (thanked God that I had brought it)
and drove, until I got my bearings back.

That moonless night I knew not where I was going,
nor hardly where I was, in the dim squint
of headlights and the litany of names
that were then strangers, now old friends:
Marquam, Monitor, Silverton Road, and all the rest.
And in the silent downpour which obscured
even more my sight, the windshield-wipers
were no help at all—but in the end
I found my way back to a little store
where I bought hot chocolate and detergent,
and went home by the Way of the Cross.
How many times, those first months, I returned
to the driver’s seat!—to drive, or to sit
at the crossroads of my will and of thine.
No wonder, then, as I stood folding sheets
in the cold and utter solitude
of a little monastic linen-room
and saw the palm-trees of my Babylon
shudder beyond the window in the wind,
I gazed a long time down the winding hill-road—
so unlike another I once knew—
and my heart stirred for a car of my own
to drive me an infinity of miles
back to the damp green homeland of my heart!

“Do you know what time is?” scoffed my brother
in a way that couldn’t help but make me laugh.
Maybe six years sometimes feels like sixty
because everyone else thinks a decade
is what I think a year is—or a month,
a moment.
Have I been here a month now?
It might as easily be years or days
since I descended for the first time
the mountain where I knew you, O my God:
Engelberg’s daughter, and equally
Mount Tabor and Calvary to me!
White shirt and black suit stuck to me with sweat
that first day I arrived. I did not care.
It was what a seminarian wore,
and so I wore, with pride—til a brother
told me I needn’t wear it all the time.
When, January, monastery-bound,
I came to San Jose, I wore a sweatshirt,
not a sweaty suit and tie. And so it goes.
The life of grace is light that clarifies,
the flame of love a fire that refines.

How many brothers have I gained, O Lord,
and lost since then?—How many loves like sparks
flashed bright before my eyes and disappeared?
(Or burned too close, did they?—so that I blinked
and they were gone.) How many, many times
have I flung, not to the heart of the Host,
my heart, but down to another garden:
to bury my beating in the safer-
seeming soil of a familiar land.
Every “yes” came with a “but” or an “if,”
although I knew it not—I thought I gave
myself unreservedly, all at once,
when under the cross I knew your providence,
or if not then, when before your glory
I begged to love as freely as you love:
a prayer which you’ve been granting ever since.
It is no exile now nor accident
that you transplant me from my shallow soil
I loved as if it were th’ Elysian fields
to the vineyard you chose for me alone!
No wonder—it must hurt as tender roots,
plucked from one place, begin to root again.

I know myself only by reflection.
In one I recognize me as I was:
new convert, overzealous, touched by Love,
but still too full of self to love in truth.
Only six years—what miracle of grace!
Six years yet, and how far I have to go.
Once in impetuous youth, I denied
I was the same at twelve as I had been
at two: same-named, but a different person.
So I claimed.
Now I will have a new name,
“put on the new man,” yet I am the same:
the son beloved, the broken heart reclaimed,
the little one embraced and lifted high
from valley to mountain and open sky,
who loved you in the night when he was lost,
who searched for you in every heart he knew,
and found you more and more—now to find you
in spirit and in truth have you brought me
to be crucified, and to die and rise.

Colloquy on a Hawk

A hawk has—I am told—six feet of wings.
From tip to tip they span the length of me,
this emperor of the air, surveying from his tower
(made by men of steel and iron)
glittering temples, ziggurats of commerce,
busy insignificance!
A lone figure among saplings,
solitary tree on a bare hilltop—
blacktop, black dog, four men walking—
A rooster. A monastery.
What is it to see and not to know?
Your wings with wind’s-rush rustle
like silk, no effort, only ease,
circling on currents you know not whither:
and neither do you know their Maker,
do you, brother of the skies?
Let me tell you. I know him
like I know “I”—darkly, in a mirror.
As I know I, so I know Him: in you, in all of this,
O brother in this holy family
called Being—or better yet, called Good!

Math for Theology Majors

An equation:
“x” is a gift.
(Substitute, for x, a
heartbeat, a hug at the doorway,
a measure of silence after a song.)

Now the value of is y,
that is, the love of the giver.

And if by we mean
a chill wind, or a sudden steady rain
which dampens my dutiful prayers,
a moment repeated
out of distracted disinterest,
a sentence we can find no sense in,
a cup of coffee, sweeter than honey but lacking all joy—

Or if we mean (and surely this will break the thing)
that frantic lacking which howls at the heart of us,
that indiscriminate fierce appetite
we have no name for, but which grabs
at this, and three of that!, and which grasps,
seizes hold, just for the sake of holding!
just to be full for a pitiful moment,
then to droop, defeated, back to the dust
and the ooze of us
in that hungry hollow
which Nothing can ever fill—

If by we mean all that?
(What then?)

—But is a constant, little one.
And x is anything, any thing
at all.

(—Even the hollow in me?)

Even the wound, the sin.

A paradox: every second is fleeting.

(But dad, where do they go?)

No-where. Every second is sealed,
like a time capsule,
with the seal of eternity:
every “yes” a yes forever,
and every “no”.

2 hours can be a retreat—even 2 minutes.
In a pinch, 2 seconds will do.
Let be one second, or less than a second:
a moment, a breath.

Now the value of is y,
that is, the love of the giver.
Andis anything, any thing
at all. Thus

x is every thing, and y infinity,
and this second—and every second—
sealed with eternity
ascends to God.

A conclusion: let x be love.
Let y be love.
Let me be love.

Be Love in me.

A Fault, A Furrow

Omnis vallis exaltabitur, et omnis mons et collis humiliabitur, et erunt prava in directa, et aspera in vias planas: et revelabitur gloria Domini, et videbit omnis caro pariter quod os Domini locutum est.” (Isaiah 40:4)

A fault is a lacking, a failing,
a … “me falta, yo me falta,
un yo no sé qué.”

A furrow runs pathside while the
path, over rock and over root,
leaps up to the heights.

What does it mean: to stand on solid ground?
Feet flying, left, then right—an avalanche
of man through the leaves.

In the beginning, we were unveiled
and unashamed. (Now leaves untreed
hide your work from sight.)

And the chaos of leaf-falling, wind-
lashing rain conceals the clash in me!—
“being” and … “not yet.”

Fault lines, lines of lacking, where I meet you,
like the lines of war where earth meets earth,
deep down this wooded ground.

Why the mountains? why the valleys?
Why the faults? and why the violent crash?
Does it please you, Jesus?—

All the earth with saint-impatience striving
till every valley be exalted
and You come at last!—