Sonnet V Judas

Now Judas thief & liar, devil, friend
Here come I carefully to you: for pot
& kettle are both black & we are not
That far I think each from the other’s end.

The Priceless One you sold for not a lot:
the price of one escapéd slave. Yet I
just any petty lust or care will buy
with love I owe to him; his love forgot.

Dear Judas, priests through you the Christ did buy
I understand & pity for I fear
That I your course can eas’ly find quite near:
Your steps for hunger’s slake I trod & die.

Lord Christ forbid that I my feet will wend
on damning ways that Satan to me sends.

Sonnet IV The Harlot

When trapp’d in sins the night without a moon
is dark: no hope nor freedom found in lust
that fills this moment’s craving only. Trust
Alone in God can make his lovers swoon.

To Christ so now she comes. As come she must
for rest, to whom men come for passions’ fall.
So she whose empt’ing man can’t fill can call
to him whose emptying salvation thrust

to hell and every time of Terra’s ball.
His feet that soundéd first in Eden’s glen
she bathes in tears. She dries with hair & then
anointing them: her love repairs her fall.

Yet Judas fails to see this grace who soon
is damnt as dances she to Jesus’ tune.

Sonnet III – Pharisees

Ye scribes & lawyers, hypocrites ye brood
of vipers: pharisees who twirl the law
to lure a proselyte into your maw
then spit out worse; within your precepts stewed!

The Torah’s words from out your crooked craw
draw obligations far too hard to bear.
Our God’s Revealéd words for making fair
you twist in ways that Moses never saw.

But turn ye now from that corrupted fare
& belly up to God’s reforming grace
Which calls the people of another race
to make both one in his redeeming care

The Jews & Gentiles both hath God pursu’d
Would at his table both by Christ include.

Sonnet II Palm Sunday

All glory laud & honor children sing:
to thee hosanna, Lord, hosanna! Praise
we thee with them, our olive branches raise.
Thy train in triumph through the gate we bring

With garments strewn the road to glory lays:
what ails the crowd that soon they’ll turn away?
Here where we hear hosanna cried today
great hearts will fail as darkness on them preys.

O Lord prevent our hearts that make essay
of crowning Thee as Israel’s King & God
from dancing to temptation’s tunes that prod
like cattle us, thine image thus to slay.

Let us not join them as thy hands they sting
with nails & in our name they kill their king.

Sonnet I Lazarus Saturday

Tiz better to have lov’d & lost: so said
the Bard when speaking of the heart’s romance.
What would he say if God & man did dance
As friends til mortal man is stoppéd dead?

Then God can weeping fall in mourner’s trance
While sisters, neighbors, pharisees, & all
will wonder at his healing advent’s stall:
when but one touch restor’d the blind man’s glance.

But God has come prophetic’ly to fall
the gates of death. Our Lover’s voice will part
hell’s ramparts! Raising Laz’rus by God’s art:
The tyrant soon will rule an empty hall.

Here he whom four days dead in darkness tread
Rejoices now and rests in his own bed

Prelude. Holy Week Sonnets


I try to get through a little more every year. So, once again, I will try to make the Holy Week Sonnet Cycle complete.

My Lord, always majestic is thy name.
No man may sing thy praises worthily
& mould’ring – wanting words to hear & see
is often in believers’ hearts thy fame.
Still yet we try with prose & harmony
to render mysteries in physic’s space:
depicting love as icons show thy face
to offer latria enfleshedly.
If Donne like saints, though sleeping, lend his grace
unlettered, I make done with pages ink’d
to build in classic form of couplets link’d
& structured verses, thus thy praises trace.
Lest Onan’s songs on formless pride I frame
Creator God the Word my words enflame.

The days of Holy Week have traditional associations in the Byzantine and Western Liturgical traditions. I’ve parsed the Sonnets out according to a hybrid to make the pattern: Saturday before Palm Sunday is Lazarus Saturday in the East. Then Palm Sunday, Holy Monday lectionary in the East is about the Pharisees, then the Harlot who washes Jesus’ Feet on Tuesday. Spy Wednesday in the West is assigned to Judas, and the the Holy Triduum begins with an Interlude, and multiple sonnets for Thursday and Friday. I have finally gotten the sketches of a first Sonnet for Saturday. Three or four are needed! And also a bucket full for Sunday. And one for Thomas Sunday.

Who knows? I might get it done this year. Maybe.

The American Way: Something about the Reaping…

The Readings for Tuesday 1 Advent (Year 2):

Quod abscondisti hæc a sapientibus et prudentibus, et revelasti ea parvulis. 
Thou hast hidden all this from the wise and the prudent, and revealed it to little children.
Monty Pythons, Meaning of Life, Part VII, Death. Death walks into a rural English cottage and claims the souls of two Brits and two Americans. Death calls all the Brits pompous. Then the American Man tries to Mansplain his way out of the scary place. And this happens:

Katzenberg:       Let me tell you something, Mr Death…
Grim Reaper:    You do not understand!
Katzenberg:       Just one moment. I would like to express on behalf of everyone here, what a really unique experience this is…
Jeremy:               Hear hear.
Angela:                Yes, we’re so delighted that you dropped in, Mr Death…
Katzenberg:       Can I finish please…
Debbie:                Mr Death… is there an after-life?
Katzenberg:       Dear, if you could just wait please a moment…
Angela:                Are you sure you wouldn’t like some sherry?
Katzenberg:       Angela, I’d like just to say at this time…
Grim Reaper:    Be quiet!
Katzenberg:       Can I just say this at this time, please…
Grim Reaper:    Silence!!! I have come for you.
[Pause as this sinks in. Sidelong glance. A stifled fart.]
Angela:                … You mean to…
Grim Reaper:    … Take you away. That is my purpose. I am Death.
Geoffrey:            Well that’s cast rather a gloom over the evening hasn’t it?
Katzenberg:       I don’t see it that way, Geoff. Let me tell you what I think we’re dealing with here, a potentially positive learning experience…
Grim Reaper:    Shut up! Shut up you American. You always talk, you Americans, you talk and you talk and say ‘Let me tell you something’ and ‘I just wanna say this’, Well you’re dead now, so shut up.

Frank Sinatra’s My Way always made me terribly uncomfortable, even as a child. I mean, yes, it’s  Frank’s world and the rest of us only live in it, and yes, the mere mention of his name did once rescue Seamus and I from an otherwise normal B&B Breakfast in Scotland, but even as I child, I felt there was something horribly horribly wrong with screaming (at Death), yeah, I did it wrong, but it was my wrong, damn it.

Those, brothers and sisters, are the words of Satan. And today’s reading calls us on it.

Where the Latin has “sapientibus et prudentibus” the Greek has σοφῶν καὶ συνετῶν sophon kai syneton. Knox, the KJV, and the Douay both have “wise and prudent” (which does render the Latin really well) but the Greek syneton has this extra layer, according to Strongs:

4908 synetós (an adjective, derived from 4920 /syníēmi, “to understand by synthesizing”) – properly, “personal” understanding that results from correlating facts (concepts), i.e. as understanding works in keeping with one’s own perspective.
“Personal comprehension” (4908 /synetós) however is only sound when it follows God’s word. 4908 /synetós (“understanding”) apart from faith (“God’s inbirthed persuasions”) simply expresses the limitations (biases) of the thinker – which is the usual (negative) connotation of this term in the NT. See: Mt 11:25; Lk 10:21; 1 Cor 1:19. See 4920 (syníēmi).
[The other occasion of 4908 (synetós) in the NT, Ac 13:7, is more neutral. But even here it doesn’t reflect the prudence (intelligence) that comes directly from the Holy Spirit.]

It’s personal knowledge. Stuff i worked out on my own. Don’t bother me. I know what I’m doing. I’m convinced I’m right. I’m gonna do this my way durn it all, back off. My truth. Or: welcome to the modern world. Those are the words of Satan and Jesus says we’re wrong.

We don’t, actually, get to make up whatever we want. God’s got a say in it. In fact, God laid down some rules, some guidelines. I usually think it’s wise to consult the owner’s manual first. Only very unimportant things like websites and TV shows come without instruction manuals. More important things: Marriages, Childrearing, Jobs, these all come with instruction manuals. It’s only the silly that ignore them.

Children know this, sorta, until we school it out of them: there are rules. Some things are fair. Somethings are bad. We use the same skills to teach them otherwise that a child molester uses in grooming victims: Yes, Mommy just told a lie about your age to get a free ticket on the plane. But don’t tell anyone it’s ok. Yes, we’re cheat on our taxes, but they were stealing from us first, and we can buy you more presents. Yes, there is a Santa Claus would Daddy lie to you? It’s ok, i didn’t mean to hurt them, but they deserved it. You have to learn to punch back. You can have anything you want. Sure, you can watch TV. Don’t bother me kid, until I need you… Before you know it the kids are real citizens of the world, schooled in lies, covert action, coy betrayal, and manipulation. They’ll do it their way as well.

When we stumble around going everyone to his own way, we are breaking communion, not only with God, but with each other. The Church defines us a persons in communion with God through our communion with each other. We’re not persons without that. We are merely, to borrow Cicero’s word, a bunch of homunculi: automatons. Highly efficient, as far as the state’s control is concerned, but failing to live up to the God given personhood we each are called to be.

As an homunculus, “My way” is always just like everyone else’s. We are, as far as “my way” goes, as unique as penguins. But we close our eyes to that fact because it burns us, my precious. If you watch the Godfather, even Frankie had to do it someone else’s way.

So, Jesus calls us to the minds of Little Children, instead of stunted individuals. Lay aside the selfish ideas of “I know I’m right anyway” and open up to the reality of revelation. Take up the humbling and yet highly obligated throne of human responsibility. Lay down your paper crowns before the King of Kings and learn that to serve is to reign.


This happened…

Preparing to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on Saturday Night, gathered in one room, not knowing it about each other, were:

  1. A Fraternity Brother whom I’ve known for 30 years.
  2. A Coworker whom I hadn’t met yet.
  3. A Goddaughter from the Orthodox Church, and her husband, now returned home.
  4. A musician with enough Anglican History to pick all the right sort of music and keep me singing most of the night.
  5. Two people with whom I’ve spoken maybe 20 words? Who had a gift for me I wasn’t expecting.
  6. A man with a bad pun on my name.
  7. A whole lot of new friends I didn’t know I had.
  8. Quite a lot I already knew.

That, in a nutshell, has been my experience of the Catholic Church. “Here comes everybody.” The Anglican, Prot, Eastern, Benedictine, Marian… all meet here. And some new things: the Courage Apostolate, the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, the Jesus Psalter. I used to be afraid of Dominicans… cuz of the Inquisition, you know. I didn’t know my family included a Catholic martyr. The number of Lapsed Catholics – or as my friend, Bernardo says, “Collapsed Catholics” – that are in my life is astounding. Everything is here.

There are good places and bad places in the Church. There are good and bad people. There are corners of Mother Church that are nuttier than the darkest pools of Orthodox Converts on the internet; there are folks more triumphalist and sectarian than the bazillion Holy Remnant “True Churches” of Orthodoxy. Yet there is a wideness in God’s Mercy, and a depth in the Church that cannot be obscured by the shallow bywaters. For every Saint Maria of Paris there is a Dorothy Day, for every Czar Martyr Nicholas, there is a St Louis. There’s something else as well: I can’t put my finger on it. Only half-jokingly it seems, Tu Es Petros really is a thing, after all.

Maybe it’s just sheer numbers for in Russia or Greece it must be the same for the Eastern Church. Orthodoxy preaches the same divinely revealed moral teachings as the Roman Church. Yet in this country she rarely gets accused (other than by her own members) of interfering in modern secular “values” and “moral choices”. Orthodoxy is “Mystical” whereas the Catholic Church is political and scary. Those politics can be viewed as isolated from the Church’s Doctrines and thus as “Left” or “Right”. Or they can be taken as an integral whole and seen as transcending earthly partisanship. But these political actions can (nearly) never be confused with “mystical” and “spiritual but not religious”, therefore, “safe” for the modern world.

Perhaps in Russia or Greece, she does hospitals and orphanages and food for the poor. I say “perhaps” but I’m reasonably certain of it. Were I in Russia, it’s Catholicism that would be the Boutique. Here, it’s hard for a member of the Orthodox Parish Council to donate a sign to hang outside with service times for fear the wrong sort of people will come in the door.

Some would say I’ve left the Boutique and gone to Wal*Mart. But the grace is no less dearly given, nor the piety less deeply prayed, the teachings no less strongly struggled for or lived. The podcasts tend to be about beer, politics, and birthin’ babies. The priests tend to sound rather like Bros and Bubbas. Or – and I’m hella lucky here – Surfer Dudes.

I’m on Aisle 42, near the avocados, hunting camo, and inflatable pools. I’m trying to engage the culture and learn New Evangelism, Theology of the Body, and Rosary-based-but-not-the-Rosary forms of prayer.

Also I’m in love.

Sonnet for Friday’s Dawn

X – Peter
Now Peter, liar, rock, Apostle, friend
Here come I carefully to you: for pot
& kettle are both black. May we be not
That far by prayer each from the other’s end.

The Priceless One betray’d by campfire hot:
Your Galilean drawl just cant. Yet I
Without a legal threat will try
To hide by options crafty, Christ forgot.

Dear Peter, threats make you our Christ belie.
and watching here in pity & with fear
We hear betrayal as the dawn grows near:
Despair not lest away you trod & die.

Lo e’en the very Church’s rock will bend

Until unfailing grace God to him send.

For late Thursday night

IX – The Garden
In lunar brilliancy they walking show
mid leafy branches’ budding scented bloom
& grasses warmed in vernal sun now groom
Gethsemane, in paschal light aglow.

We waiting here, he forward goes for room
To falling, praying, moaning, sighing, bled
To sobbing, straining, weeping, sweating, red
Till far away is heard the tramp of doom

Apostles wake upon their grassy bed
To find the traitor with the temple guards
Is come. And boldly striding cross the yards
Afore Messiah stop’d he smiling said

Hail Master! Teacher surly me you know.

With both lips with no words the nails in go.