Meditation on The Holy Family


Meditation on ‘The Holy Family with S John the Baptist’ by Carracci

The child of prophecy
manifest in squirming babe.
The voice,
he who will cry in the desert
lays his eyes upon
the one of whom he’ll speak.
Child of God,
clutches the ripe apple
as though to snatch up
that original transgression,
taken to Himself.
The weight of glory,
in solid white halo,
sits heavy on His brow.
He shifts uncomfortably in the skin
of his fragile creation.
The delicate mother,
with cradled arm,
supports His humanity.
She who gave Him incarnate life
will teach Him how to live,
master becoming student,
a world turned upside down.
And then
His reflected glory
teaches her to live, forever.

(Written: 6.X1.17)


All Hallows

The flame that flickers gently,
in an otherwise dark church.
Muted congregation gather,
hushed anticipation,
that tonight, this night,
we might see the veil part,
for just a moment.

Outside in the street,
awash with miniature skeletons,
diminutive ghouls, tiny witches,
chanting Trick or Treat,
Bells ringing, doors knocked,
garden gates swing closed.

Some peek out through curtains,
artificially blacked out house,
lips pursed disapprovingly,
at this apparent pagan display.

Yet, the church has gathered,
to pray for those long dead,
to remember their love, their life,
to speed them toward the throne room.

There upon the altar,
held aloft in the priests hands,
is He who cheated death,
slipped out of the eternal grasp,
of the bony fingered reaper,
to rise, to live, to reign.

He who has look Satan in the eye,
is not perturbed by plastic skulls,
or monster painted faces,
So He will appear,
to greet His flock,
this All Hallow’s Eve.


(Written: 30.X.17)

Ordinary Saints

I sit and gaze
at those holy men and women.
They are not,
as you may think,
the pious pastors
or son soaked virgins
laying incorruptible
in venerated tombs
or leaping from
illuminated manuscripts
in ancient tomes
or those encased
in lead lined stained glass.

Not even are they
the collared priest
at the altar
uttering sacred verse
or the devout old woman
who clutches her  crucifix
on crowded tube train.

But it is him
who hurriedly signs on
with job seekers
save being sanctioned.

It is her
who makes the choice,
agonising as it is
to forgo her food
that her baby can eat.

It is him
who sheepishly steps out
from an addicts centre
having taken a tumble
off the wagon, again.

No outward devotion,
no luxury of time
to ponder higher things,
but every breath
a desparate prayer
for there to be
more to life than this.

They are the saints
of the ordinary,
for they dwell with Him,
Our Christ
of the breadlines

(Written: 6.X.17)

Memento Mori

I trudge
between granite markers
having strayed
from comfortable pathways.
I tread a fine line
between life and death,
between this world and the next.
My presence is nothing
but a haunting reminder
to those long dead
of a mortality
that was once theirs.
Carefully carved letters
upon these monument stones
call out to those still breathing
that those below,
bodies long gone,
shall be raised up
in the fullness of time.
‘He ran the race’,
‘He sleeps in peace’,
‘He is bathed in light’.
The memories of active faith
contained in dormant body.
This is not a testament
to the power of the reaper,
for these stones signal
the undying spark
of life divine,
waiting in darkness
for that glorious dawn
when we are called home.
Remember you must die,
to truly live.

(Written: 4.X.17)

Holy Cross

Ground breaks around the roots
the sky is pierced by mighty arms
sunlight impeded by rich canopy
hard bark preserving life within.

Axe and saw arrive,
biting and gnawing
at the time aged trunk.
Sap and sweat,
from tree and man,
visuals of destructive exertion.

Calm of the forest crushed,
beneath the toppled tree,
as the ground reaches up
to catch this fallen hero.

Plane and blade,
scurry across the surface,
eating away like swarming ants
Iron nails driven through,
wood conformed to unnatural shape.

Dragged from the forest,
cast to the ground,
now with body upon,
broken and bleeding.
More nails,
flesh and wood alike,
marred by their downward thrust.

Ropes and muscle pull,
once again the tree aloft.
Not life from seed,
but death from sin,
as the innocent force of life
is snuffed out upon that cross.

Darkened skyline,
masks the removal of flesh,
wood marked with blood.
With the dawn,
green shoots push through,
breaking out from crimson stains.
New life.

(Written: 14.IX.17)

She Begins

The father paced,
anxious family waited.
Hastily closed curtain door
unable to mask the screams,
unholy, unhealthy,
as they appear
but not to be confused
for a cry laced with final breath.
For this is the travail.
A momentary silence,
all lean in,
bended knee, straining ear
toward that bed.
The plot of new life,
or comfortable coffin
only time would tell,
enemy or friend.
Another cry,
visceral humanity
gritty in mortality.
Curtains thrown open
and child presented,
living but feminine,
joy tinged with sadness
over masculine dreams.
But watch her,
watch her grow
for She is far more.
On her the world pivots.
From her all life flows.

(Written: 8.IX.17)

The Monks

The huge silver teapots
that adorn the refectory table
and the velvety jam
gingerly spread
over thick wedges.
Quaint English civility
that masks what happens beneath.

As these black clad brothers retire
there is no convivial conversation
over cigars and brandy by roaring fire,
they return to their work
their continued encounter
with His divine self.

The rain, in sheets, lashes the rooftops
and the wind, whipped up, attempts
to penetrate the panes in windows
which rattle in their frames
and give rise to the feeling
that this is a fortress
in the great battle beyond.

These men in humble habits
are warriors for a world  we rarely see
yet they dwell in for life.
Each worldly distraction,
each body afflicted with illness
or the fragility of mortality
is but a speck in the grand plan
of the eternity they bear witness to
and becomes nothing more
than fodder for their prayers
which continue to rise
like the obsidian winged companion
of their Holy founding father.

He who took the fire
which was kindled in the East
and built around it a school
that we may too learn
how to fan the embers
embedded in our souls
that they may burst into flame
for Him, who calls
each and every disciple
to be a monk in ordinary life
with singularity of focus
to prefer nothing
to the love of Christ.

(Written: 2.VIII.17)


I saw him again yesterday
the wandering vagrant
true beauty disguised
in ripped, button down shirt,
the wild beard hiding
strong and dignified chin.

Close enough to hear,
‘Spare some change, please’
a simple request
delivered with tone calm and polite
routinely ignored yet offering,
‘God bless you’
to those that turn away.

Christ is often on his lips
and walking at his side.
This poet of Portobello,
this son of the living God.

I’ll see him again today
and my heart will be heavy,
I’ll return to my home,
To my knees,
To my prayers
and they shall say
‘Isn’t he good, isn’t he holy’

But that man
My brother
Will still be hungry.
Whatever you did
for the least of these
you did to me.


(Written: 27.VII.17)

The Cassock

There will be days when it feels heavy
from the moment you put it on
and feel the weight of it upon your shoulders.
May this remind you of all you now carry,
the sacred duty set before you.

There will be days when it is light.
When the cool breeze catches the hem,
when you are unhindered as you effortlessly
stride across your parish.
May this remind you the great joy it is to serve.

There will be days when, tired or ill
you fumble with each button,
cursing that there are so many.
May this remind you of your faithful flock, who,
fumble and stumble in their devotion
and look to you as guide.

There will be days when wearing it feels like armour
battle armour as you enter the fray
it will make you feel like you can do anything.
May this remind you that it is but material
and you are but flesh, but, with Him, all is possible.

There will be days when it gleams in the sunlight,
fresh off the hanger, new from the wash.
The deep black unblemished by mark or stain.
May this remind you to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in
but also, that God calls you afresh each morning
back to His vineyard.

There will be days when it hangs limply from you
looks faded in the evening dusk,
marked with wax and dust and dirt,
creased and crumpled from travel and vestments.
May this remind you of the rich variety
of where you go, into the margins
and those that you meet.

When you wear it, remember
you are an ambassador for Christ,
not because He cannot make it Himself,
but because He is within you.

May the sight of you be a comfort to the poor
and a reprimand to the powerful.
And most of all
Keep the rumour of God alive
and reveal His love to those you meet.

(Written 25.VI.17)
This was written as I reflected on my practice of wearing my cassock and became what I wanted to say to a very dear friend as he was ordained Deacon in 2017.

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