Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Questing to a Better Shore

A few months ago I happily chanced across a copy of Pseudo-Macarius' Fifty Spiritual Homilies on a bargain bookshelf. I had never heard of the author, but, having a strong affection for the spiritual writings of the early church, I bought it. In the past week I've sat down and begun reading it, to find it one of the most beautiful and praise-inspiring collections of early Christian spirituality I've ever encountered. It turns out that Pseudo-Macarius, of whom we know almost nothing other than that he was probably a monk in 4th-century Syria (we don't even know his real name), was one of the early fountainheads of Eastern Orthodox spirituality, and he also had a major impact on the Protestant Pietists (forerunners of us evangelicals).

My spirit has been dry of poetry for several months now, but Pseudo-Macarius brought it back. In the words of John Wesley (from his journal): "I read Macarius and sang." This is a poem I wrote today, inspired by his writings. It speaks of the fight of the human will against the power of sin, which has infested our nature, and of God's help in bringing us back to our original nature, and then beyond it through the gift of the Spirit.

(Those of you interested in the mechanics of poetry will probably note that although this poem aspires to a set meter, and sometimes even a rhyme, it isn't all the way there. That's somewhat intentional--the form of the poem itself is meant to portray the constant aspiration toward the perfection of virtue, but, because of the limitations of sin and human nature, not its full accomplishment.)

Christ, alive this day in me,
In us--
Awaken Thou my soul to love.

I, caught against the flow of sin
That casts me up on twisted nature's shore--
I take my barque and paddle hard
Against the draw of pull and tide;
And as I strike the angry wave
With portioned blow and calm,
The wind of Thy sweet breath makes rise
To aid me to a better shore.

There peace and valor both alight
And greet the wild wind with praise--
There I, true-hearted and alive,
Find my soul in Eden's ways.

This is my nature as it was--
Unspoiled, bright with joy.
Again, again, You call me back,
Back to what we were before.
Pure and undefiled we,
And now with Spirit's raptured grace,
Our hearts are mirrors of Thy love,
Our hearts are mirrors of Thy face.

Thou to us are God
In person and in truth;
And we to the world are as You:
God in virtue and in love.

This voyage is my endless quest,
This fight against dark nature's tide.
Questing I come forth to fight,
And questing I lay down to die.

Make Thou my journey full and fierce,
And recklessly sublime,
Till I find myself at nature's end
When love shall triumph over time.