Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Contentment

This is a short poem I wrote last year, at a time when I was feeling a little down. Its archaic language stems in part from the fact that I was reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight at the time.


Contentment lies beneath the loam

Of frozen fields as yet unplowed;

It flies beyond seraphic skies,

Untouched, unfelt, and disallowed.

 

As errant knights before me rode

For grail bound, ‘neath rampant shield,

So do I make fearless quest

And seek contentment’s bounteous weal.

 

But whither I? Where shall I seek

To find the rarest prize of all?

Where its lodgings, where under heav’n

Does make its place in blissful hall?

 

I know not yet, but still I find

That I, undaunted, love this quest:

To find myself, at once, at last,

Ahold the beautiful and best.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Apokatastasis

This is a poem inspired by a very ancient interpretation of eschatology from the early church. I don't claim to know if it is true or not in all its details, but I do find it beautiful. In any case, whether the final details of this hopeful vision are true or not, I hope that it encourages you to believe and rejoice in the ultimate triumph of good.


Apokatastasis

Fire, fire,

        All-consuming fire,

                A world made beautiful in fire.

 

We see beyond the curtain now,

Beyond the marrow and the haze,

Beyond mere substance

        And its shadows—

Into the dance at the heart of all things,

        Into the world where matter leaps for joy,

                Twists and whirls like a dervish;

Where the happy chaos of our realm

        Learns its ordered rules;

Where time itself dissolves

        Into bliss that cannot be measured

                By fragments of duration;

Where to opened eyes appear

        Heavenly armies next to us

                And chariots of fire:

               

Fire, fire,

        All-consuming fire,

                A world made beautiful in fire.

 

Everything is illuminated by it:

        Everything.

The universe seethes with light,

        Is suffused with light,

                Shines like a billion mirrors

                        Circling around the throne.

We look back, and see a world

        Where heaven was bound up

                Silently, right beside us.

We look back at history

        And find only part of the story,

                A broken prolegomena

                        To this one moment.

We look back at our pain

        And see the Crucifixion,

                Only the Crucifixion,

And we wonder…

        How could we have missed the fact

                That the Cross is only understood

                        After Resurrection?

So now we dance, we raise our hands,

        Now we fly,

                Now we rise, rise, rise

                        Rise to unending joy.

Like metal in the forge,

        We glow, we burn,

                We are filled up with fire:

 

Fire, fire,

        All-consuming fire,

                A world made beautiful in fire.

 

Eternity fills up the cosmos

        Like a surging tide:

                We wait, as he taught us,

                        We watch and pray.

One by one, they begin to turn—

        The last lonely ones,

                Unsheltered, alone,

                        In the fading rim of darkness:

The light sweeps over them;

        Some see and turn with wonder,

                Some fight and struggle,

                        Holding on to the vanishing horizon

                        Where the light is yet to touch.

But that horizon is fading fast,

        Against the speed of uncreated light

And slowly, caught up in a radiance

        Beyond their wildest dreams,

                They turn, they weep, they laugh,

                        They shine.

Even he, the loneliest one,

        Clawing at the flying edge of darkness

                In one last and desperate cry,

                        Finally lets go.

Borne up by clouds of long-forgotten friends,

        He is pulled back toward the Fire,

                And darkness melts off from him

                In effervescent waves.

There, in the center of all things,

        He pauses,

                Sobs,

                        And bows down.

He shines, we shine,

        Full of uncreated energies not our own.

Around the throne we sing,

        We dance, we burn,

                For Christ is all in all.

 

Fire, fire,

        All-consuming fire,

                Our God is a consuming fire.