Journey of the Magi: A Poem by TS Eliot

Journey of the Magi: A Poem by TS Eliot

A classic! Here it is.

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

— T. S. Eliot

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: The poet’s words move his readers through several stages of the Magi’s journey to Jesus, and back home. How many stages do you identify? Which part(s) of the journey feel most familiar to you?

A New Year’s Blessing

A New Year’s Blessing

A new year is here! A blessing from the Celtic tradition for you and yours as 2020 begins:

God, bless to me the new day,
Never granted to me before;
It is to bless Your presence
You have given me this time, O God.
Bless to me my eyes,
May my eyes bless all they see;
I will bless my neighbor,
May my neighbor bless me.
God, give me a clean heart,
Let me stay in the sight of Your eyes’
Bless to me my family,
And bless to me my work and possessions. Amen.

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: Which of these blessings will mean the most to you in the new year?

Where the Light Begins: For Christmas Day

Where the Light Begins: For Christmas Day

Perhaps it does not begin.
Perhaps it is always.
Perhaps it takes a lifetime
to open our eyes,
to learn to see
what has forever
shimmered in front of us —
the luminous line
of the map
in the dark,
the vigil flame
in the house
of the heart,
the love so searing
we cannot keep
from singing,
from crying out
in testimony
and praise.
Perhaps this day
will be the mountain
over which
the dawn breaks.
Perhaps we
will turn our face
toward it,
toward what has been

our eyes
will finally open
in ancient recognition,
willingly dazzled,
illuminated at last.

Perhaps this day
the light begins
in us.

~ From Jan Richardson’s “Circle of Grace”, 2015

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: Where is the light of Christ shining for you this season? What “ancient recognitions” are dazzling you right now?

A John the Baptist Bird for Advent (A Poem by PJ Kavanagh)

A John the Baptist Bird for Advent (A Poem by PJ Kavanagh)

John the Baptist is a familiar Advent character. Who knew he had a bird named for him! Here’s the poem:

A John the Baptist bird which comes before
The light, chooses an aerial
Toothed like a garden rake, puts a prong at each shoulder,
Opens its beak and becomes a thurifer
Blessing dark above dank holes between the houses,
Sleek patios or rag-and-weed-choked messes.

Too aboriginal to notice these,
Its concentration is on resonance
Which excavates in sleepers memories
Long overgrown or expensively paved-over,
Of innocence unmawkish, love robust.
Its sole belief, that light will come at last.
The point is proved and, casual, it flies elsewhere
To sing more distantly, as though its tune
Is left behind imprinted on the air,
Still legible, though this the second carbon.
And puzzled wakers lie and listen hard
To something moving in their minds’ backyard.

P J Kavanagh (Collected Poems, Carcanet 1992)

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: What is “moving in your mind’s backyard” this Advent season?

Advent calendar: A Poem by Rowan Williams

This, from the former Archbishop of Canterbury’s first book of poems:

He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.

For reflection in solitude or in the company of others: In how many strange or unexpected ways has Jesus come to you?