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Published Date:04-07-2017
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Ecce Homo: Poems for Lent and Holy Week Compiled by Karen A. Keely For Individual and group meditation Image: Georges Rouault, Crucifixion 1 Reading Poetry Some people reading this book are probably long-time lovers of poetry, while for others this may be a new experience. For those of you who are new to reading poetry, I offer a few suggestions: Read the poem aloud, at least some of the time. Remember that reading poetry is supposed to be enjoyable. Read the poem out loud and enjoy the words rolling off of your tongue. Read the poem naturally, pausing at punctuation, such as commas and periods, rather than at the end of lines. Feel free to enjoy the beauty of a poem even if you can’t say specifically what every line is about. Re-read it. I like to say that poetry can’t really be read; it can only be re-read. So if at first you don’t know what’s going on in a poem, take a deep breath, relax, and read it again. Think about the poem. Ask yourself what the poem is primarily trying to do. Is it telling a story about characters? Is it painting a picture or presenting an image? Is it trying to say something to a particular audience? Is the poem is trying to tell us something, and if so, what? Is the poem about a great universal truth – about human nature, about God, about love? Or is it perhaps about current social conditions? Or does the poem relate a personal, individual experience or emotion, either the poet’s own, or something he or she has imagined? Poetry is, of course, an art form, so it’s worth thinking about the poet’s aesthetic choices. For example, does the poem have a central image? Several images? If so, how do the images relate to one another? Are there repeated words or lines? Are there words with specific connotations that are especially interesting? What words have unusual or special meanings? Why does the poet phrase things the way he or she does? (For example, think about the phrases “died,” “deceased,” “passed on,” “now with God,” and “kicked the bucket.” They literally mean the same thing, but the connotations are quite different.) Relax. If the poem as a whole is overwhelming to you, begin with the parts of the poem that you do get, and then work from there. Remember that there is no one right answer to the puzzle of a poem; your job is not to “solve” the poem but to respond to it, both intellectually and emotionally. It is okay not to understand everything And if, after reading a particular poem a couple of times, you simply are not getting much out of it, leave it. You could put the book down and try again later. Or, even better, go back to an earlier poem that really spoke to you and read it again. In fact, returning to poems you’ve already read and thought about is the best way to make them truly yours, to internalize them such that phrases or lines from the poems may come to you at odd moments. At that point, when you begin to live with a poem – or it begins to live with you – you will have gained the blessing of a new lifelong companion. 1 Talking about Poetry Some of you may be reading this book in community this Lent, and so I offer a few suggestions for conducting a discussion about poetry. The length of time you have to talk as a group will obviously affect how many poems you can discuss. Some poems may generate a lot of response from a group, while other poems may “fall flat” for any number of reasons. If that happens, then simply move on to another poem; it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s not a good poem or that you all aren’t good discussants Read the poem aloud. Even if all of the participants have already read the poem on their own, ask someone to read the poem aloud. This refreshes everyone’s memory and gives you one more chance to appreciate the poem. Ask if anyone has initial thoughts on or responses to the poem. Sometimes this opening question is all it takes to launch an interesting conversation about a poem. If discussion lags, try one of the following conversational gambits: Ask what people think of important images in the poem. Is there a central image to the poem? An interesting symbol? Ask about the language of the poem. Think together about any repeated words or lines in the poem, or about words with interesting connotations. If the poet seems to be making an argument about something, discuss whether you agree or disagree. Sometimes poets have a specific message to their audience; you can certainly enjoy a poem without agreeing with the poet Alternatively, you may agree with the poet’s argument but not care for all or part of the poem. All of these responses can be fruitful contributions to discussion. How does this poem speak to you theologically this Lent? You are talking about these poems as a spiritual discipline this Lenten season, so honor that commitment in your discussion. Do these poems express anything that you have not been able to put into words? Once discussion seems to wind down, read the poem aloud again. You may hear something new in a poem after discussing it with others. 2 Ash Wednesday and the First Week of Lent: The Journey Begins The forty days of Lent that begin on Ash Wednesday are a time for Christians’ self- examination, purification, and a closer journey with God. Many Christians adopt a spiritual discipline for the forty days, including fasting from certain foods or adding spiritual study and reading to their daily schedules. The forty days of Lent remind us of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism, fasting and being tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13), as well as the forty days that Moses spent in spiritual questing on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:18). There is also the spiritual legacy of the forty years that the Israelites spent wandering in the desert after their release from slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 8:2-4). All of these scriptural traditions give us a heritage of spiritual questing through prayer and self-discipline. The Lenten journey begins with Ash Wednesday, the day on which worshipers’ foreheads are marked with a cross of the dark ash of palms (often palms used in the previous year’s Palm Sunday observances) as a sign of penitence and mourning and as a foretaste of the death that is to come on Good Friday. The Lenten poems in this collection include a poem on prayer every Monday and one about the Crucifixion every Friday, a weekly rhythm we’ll continue throughout the Lenten season. We will also read poems of lamentation and pain – reminders of Jesus’s suffering – as well as of contemplation and praise, thanking God in the midst of woe. 3 Ash Wednesday: Lenten Discipline Many Christians adopt a new spiritual discipline for the period of Lent. George Herbert recognizes that human frailty may well result in many of those Lenten disciplines faltering before the season is over, but he reassures us that any spiritual discipline – even an incomplete, imperfect one – puts us on Christ’s pathway, where we will be more likely to meet Him. From Lent GEORGE HERBERT Welcome deare feast of Lent: who loves not thee, 1 He loves not Temperance, or Authoritie, But is compos’d of passion. 2 The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church sayes, now: Give to thy Mother, what thou wouldst allow To ev’ry Corporation. … It’s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day; Yet to go part of that religious way, Is better than to rest: We cannot reach our Savior’s purity; 3 Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he. In both let’s do our best. Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone, Is much more sure to meet with him, than one That travelleth by-ways: Perhaps my God, though he be far before, May turn, and take me by the hand, and more May strengthen my decays. Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast By starving sin and taking such repast As may our faults control: That ev’ry man may revel at his door, Not in his parlor; banqueting the poor, And among those his soul. 1633 1 “Temperance” – moderation, self-restraint. 2 “fast” – to eat little or to abstain from certain foods as a religious discipline. 3 “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). 4 Thursday of Last Epiphany: Lenten Discipline Fasting – complete abstinence from all food on certain days, or from a particular type of food for the entire forty days – has for centuries been a traditional Lenten discipline. In this poem, Robert Herrick explores the intended meaning behind such self-denial, emphasizing the spiritual rather than physical meaning of a fast. Herrick uses “fast” metaphorically as well as literally in his description of “fasting from strife/ And old debate,/ And hate.” To Keep a True Lent ROBERT HERRICK Is this a Fast, to keep The Larder lean? And clean From fat of veals and sheep? Is it to quit the dish 1 Of flesh, yet still To fill The platter high with fish? Is it to fast an hour, Or ragg’d go, Or show A down-cast look and sour? No: ’tis a Fast to dole Thy sheaf of wheat And meat Unto the hungry soul. It is to fast from strife And old debate, And hate; 2 To circumcise thy life. To show a heart grief-rent; To starve thy sin, 3 Not bin; And that’s to keep thy Lent. 1648 1 “flesh” – meat; many Christians fast from meat on Fridays during Lent but still eat fish, to which the remainder of the stanza alludes. 2 Circumcision is often used as a metaphor for spiritual conversion, as in St. Paul’s description of Abraham, who “received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” (Romans 3:11). 3 “bin” – container for storing food. 5 Friday of Last Epiphany: Crucifixion This traditional spiritual asks the listener to imagine him or herself at Jesus’s crucifixion. Such an imaginative step is particularly powerful for oppressed people, such as the American slaves who traditionally sang this song, who are thus reminded that Jesus has experienced terrible suffering and understands their own pain. The repetition of lines allows for ease of communal singing; when combined with the song’s slow, somber melody, this repetition also gives the spiritual a meditative quality. Note the physical response to the spiritual contemplation; picturing oneself at the scene of the crucifixion leads one to “tremble, tremble, tremble.” Were You There? TRADITIONAL Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they pierced him in the side? Were you there when they pierced him in the side? O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? 1 Were you there when the sun refused to shine? Were you there when the sun refused to shine? O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord? before 1865 1 A reference to the darkness that comes over the land for the three hours before Jesus’s death (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44-45). 6 Saturday of Last Epiphany: Lenten Journey The speaker in Joyce Rupp’s poem equates the black ash of Ash Wednesday with black humus, decayed organic material that facilitates new life. Notice the scope of her poem, including both the small and concrete (“little blip of life,” “palms, fried and baked”) and the entire cosmos (with which the poem begins and ends). Lent is a season of reflection on both of these extremes, from the finite to the infinite. Notice also that the fourth stanza has an extra line, such that “I am one in the One” alters the rhythm of the poem somewhat and therefore stands out when one reads the poem aloud. Lent 2001 JOYCE RUPP The cosmos dreams in me while I wait in stillness, ready to lean a little further into the heart of the Holy. I, a little blip of life, a wisp of unassuming love, a quickly passing breeze, come once more into Lent. No need to sign me with the black bleeding ash of palms, fried and baked. 1 I know my humus place. This Lent I will sail on the graced wings of desire, yearning to go deeper to the place where I am one in the One. Oh, may I go there soon, in the same breath that takes me to the stars when the cosmos dreams in me. 2001 1 “humus” – black or brown organic substance, consisting of partially or wholly decayed vegetable or animal matter; provides nutrients for plant life. The word “humility” comes from the same Latin root as does “humus.” 7 First Sunday in Lent: Brokenness As Dylan Thomas movingly argues in this poem, the very bread and wine of the Eucharist are themselves signs of brokenness, for they are produced by destruction. Only when oats and grapes are broken do they become bread and wine, which are in turn consumed by people who will harvest more oats and grapes. This is an eternal life, but one only made possible through brokenness. This Bread I Break DYLAN THOMAS This bread I break was once the oat, This wine upon a foreign tree Plunged in its fruit; Man in the day or wind at night Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy. Once in this wine the summer blood Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine, Once in this bread The oat was merry in the wind; Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down. This flesh you break, this blood you let Make desolation in the vein, Were oat and grape Born of the sensual root and sap; 1 My wine you drink, my bread you snap. 1936 1 In the King James translation of the Bible, the brokenness of the bread is emphasized: “the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24, emphasis added). More accurate recent translations delete the second reference: “This is my body that is for you.” 8 Monday of the First Week of Lent: Prayer Thomas More’s poetic prayer asks God for the strength and commitment to turn away from sin and towards God. In particular, the speaker in this poem imagines that, for a person who has sought to reject sin, the moment of death would be not a terrifying experience of judgment but rather the embrace of “a very tender, loving father.” Notice the repeated imagery of fire and heat in the first part of the poem; clearly escaping sin’s “thrall” and setting one’s heart on God is not easy work. (The poem below is the final two stanzas of Thomas More’s “A Prayer of Picus Mirandula Unto God.”) A Prayer SIR THOMAS MORE Grant I thee pray such heat into mine heart, 1 That to this love of thine may be egall; 2 God grant me from Sathanas service to astart, 3 With whom me rueth so long to have be thrall; Grant me good Lord and creator of all, The flame to quench of all sinful desire, And in thy love set all mine heart afire. That when the journey of this deadly life My silly ghost hath finished, and thence 4 Departed must without his fleshly wife; Alone into his lord’s high presence, He may thee find: O well of indulgence, In thy lordship not as a lord: but rather As a very tender, loving father. Amen c. 1510 1 “egall” – equal. 2 “Sathanas” – Satan’s. “astart” – to escape. 3 In this line, the speaker expresses remorse for having been enslaved by Satan for so long. 4 “silly” – pitiable. That is, upon death, the “silly ghost” of the soul leaves behind the “fleshly wife” of the body to enter into God’s presence. 9 Tuesday of the First Week of Lent: Lamentation This sonnet of lamentation expresses both fear of judgment but also a tentative faith that we may be spared judgment. The speaker asks that Christ show the same mercy he did towards the disciple Peter, whose attempts at faithfulness regularly failed. Jesus in this poem is both the strong savior who can walk on water and the man with “the weary human face.” 1 E Tenebris OSCAR WILDE 2 Come down, O Christ, and help me reach thy hand, For I am drowning in a stormier sea 3 Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee: The wine of life is spilt upon the sand, My heart is as some famine-murdered land, Whence all good things have perished utterly, And well I know my soul in Hell must lie If I this night before God’s throne should stand. “He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase, Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name 4 From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.” Nay, peace, I shall behold before the night, 5 6 The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame, The wounded hands, the weary human face. 1881 1 “E Tenebris” – out of darkness (Latin). 2 Perhaps addressed to the representation of Christ on a crucifix. 3 A reference to the gospel scene in which Simon Peter and other disciples, having spent the night at sea in a storm, are amazed to see Jesus walking on the water toward them. Peter, taking heart, walks on the water toward Jesus but then becomes afraid of the storm and begins to sink; he calls out in fear, “Lord, save me” and is rescued by Jesus, who asks him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:16-21). 4 A reference to the Biblical scene in which the Lord’s prophet Elijah triumphs over the priests of the deity Baal in a competition on Mount Carmel, a mountain in what is now northern Israel. Baal’s priests, who have been calling out to their god for hours with no answer, are mocked by Elijah, who scornfully wonders whether their god “has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be wakened.” The Lord helps Elijah to win the prophecy competition, after which all of the priests of Baal are killed (1 Kings 18). 5 “feet of brass” – In John’s Revelation, Christ is shown with “feet … like burnished bronze or brass, refined as in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15). 6 White robes are used as a symbol of purity in several Biblical texts, including the Book of Revelation, in which “they who have come out of the great ordeal … have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). 10 Wednesday of the First Week of Lent: Fear Langston Hughes contrasts joy and fear: the joy of spring and of Jesus, destroyed by those who fear such joy. Hughes recognizes Jesus’s blessed nature (“the Son of God”) but concentrates far more on Jesus’s humanity, referring to him repeatedly as “Mary’s Boy” and “Mary’s Son.” The crucifiers also seem all too human – confused, fearful – in their terrible contribution to the “awful thing” that happened in the midst of a joyful spring. The Ballad of Mary’s Son LANGSTON HUGHES It was in the Spring The Passover had come. There was feasting in the streets and joy. But an awful thing Happened in the Spring – 1 Men who knew not what they did Killed Mary’s Boy. He was Mary’s Son, And the Son of God was He – Sent to bring the whole world joy. There were some who could not hear, And some were filled with fear – So they built a cross For Mary’s Boy. 1954 1 “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34). 11 Thursday of the First Week of Lent: Thanksgiving One May 11, 1661, the American Puritan Anne Bradstreet wrote in her journal about her mixed feelings about the four months of illness she had been suffering. In the journal entry, she wrote of her physical distress, acknowledged that she was now feeling better, and confessed that she was not as consistently grateful or faithful as she felt she should be: “… it pleased the Lord to support my heart in His goodnes, and to hear my Prayers, and to deliver me out of adversity. But, alas I cannot render unto the Lord according to all His loving kindnes, nor take the cup of salvation with Thanksgiving as I ought to doe.” She then wrote the following poem, in which she expressed the gratitude and submission that she confesses she cannot always feel as she ought. My Thankfull Heart with Glorying Tongue ANNE BRADSTREET My thankfull heart with glorying Tongue Shall celebrate Thy name, 1 Who hath restor’d, redeem’d, recur’d From sicknes, death, and Pain. 2 I cry’d thou seem’st to make some stay, I sought more earnestly; 3 And in due time thou succour’st me And sent’st me help from High. Lord, whilst my fleeting time shall last, Thy Goodness let me Tell. And new Experience I have gain’d, My future Doubts repell. 4 An humble, faitefull life, O Lord, For ever let me walk; Let my obedience testefye, My Praise lyes not in Talk. 5 Accept, O Lord, my simple mite, For more I cannot give; What Thou bestow’st I shall restore, For of thine Almes I live. 1661 1 “recur’d” – cured, healed. 2 “stay” – delay. That is, she cries out to God about the delay in her recovery. 3 “succour’st” – succor; to give assistance in time of difficulty. 4 “faitefull” – faithful. 5 “mite” – a reference to the widow’s mite (Mark 12:42; Luke 21:2). 12 Friday of the First Week of Lent: Crucifixion Christina Rossetti’s poem laments the hardness of the human heart, that it is possible to contemplate the Crucifixion and not weep in terrible grief as did the women at the cross, the disciples, and nature itself. The poem ends with an entreaty to Jesus to break that hardness of heart; she compares a “stone” heart to the stone in the wilderness that Moses, obeying God’s command, strikes with a staff, bringing forth water from the stone so that the thirsty Israelites could drink (Exodus 17:6). Note that in the first line she contrasts a stone and a sheep but by the end recognizes that even a stone-hearted person is a sheep to be cared for by the Shepherd. For Rossetti, no heart is so stony, no sheep is so lost, that it is beyond redemption. Good Friday CHRISTINA ROSSETTI Am I a stone, and not a sheep, That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross, To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss, And yet not weep? Not so those women loved 1 Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee; Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly; 2 Not so the thief was moved; Not so the Sun and Moon 3 Which hid their faces in a starless sky, A horror of great darkness at broad noon – I, only I. Yet give not o’er, But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock; Greater than Moses, turn and look once more And smite a rock. 1862 1 A reference to the women followers who gathered at the Cross (Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49; and John 19:25-27). 2 A reference to the thief on the cross who asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom (Luke 23:42). 3 A reference to the darkness that comes over the land for the three hours before Jesus’s death (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44-45). 13 Saturday of the First Week of Lent: Meditation In this poem by Li-Young Lee, a child’s curiosity about the world becomes the basis for a man’s spiritual inquiry into the nature of the universe. For the child, this inquiry is a way of reassuring himself within the warm embrace of his family of his place in the universe; for the man, such reassurance is harder to come by but is a necessary discipline in spiritual questing, as the last stanza proclaims. Nativity Li-Young Lee In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world? just to hear his sister promise, An unfinished wing of heaven, just to hear his brother say, A house inside a house, but most of all to hear his mother answer, One more song, then you go to sleep. How could anyone in that bed guess the question finds its beginning in the answer long growing inside the one who asked, that restless boy, the night's darling? Later, a man lying awake, he might ask it again, just to hear the silence charge him, This night arching over your sleepless wondering, this night, the near ground every reaching-out-to overreaches, just to remind himself out of what little earth and duration, out of what immense good-bye, each must make a safe place of his heart, before so strange and wild a guest as God approaches. 2001 14 Second and Third Weeks of Lent: The Journey Through the Desert We’ve been in the desert, in the wilderness, for several days now, and there is no end in sight. We must rely on faith to continue on our journey. We begin this next week, as every week, with a Sabbath celebration, a feast day in the midst of our Lenten fast. Sundays are not included in the forty days of Lent as they are always feast days of the Resurrection. Then, fortified by our worship, we return to our Lenten journey, traveling through lamentation, sacrifice, and Crucifixion once again. We have a long tradition in the Psalms both of calling out to God in distress as well as in praise and of using music in our devotional life. Several of the poems in the next two weeks are psalms or hymns, and of course poetry itself is a musical form, one that relies on sound and rhythm to create beauty. 15 Second Sunday in Lent: Sabbath Wendell Berry’s commitment to a weekly Sabbath is apparent in his series of Sabbath poems, which he has been writing for more than twenty years now. In this poem, he explores the terrible effects of not taking such a day of rest and worship. He concludes that the loss of this rhythm of work interspersed with rest is ultimately the loss of the world itself, of “all light and singing.” Sabbath Poem V, 1980 WENDELL BERRY Six days of work are spent To make a Sunday quiet That Sabbath may return. It comes in unconcern; We cannot earn or buy it. Suppose rest is not sent Or comes and goes unknown, The light, unseen, unshown. Suppose the day begins In wrath at circumstance, Or anger at one’s friends In vain self-innocence False to the very light, Breaking the sun in half, Or anger at oneself Whose controverting will Would have the sun stand still. The world is lost in loss Of patience; the old curse Returns, and is made worse As newly justified. In hopeless fret and fuss, In rage at worldly plight Creation is defied, All order is unpropped, All light and singing stopped. 1980 16 Monday of the Second Week of Lent: Prayer Prayer can be poetry, as we see in this poem from a 1506 Sarum Book of Hours – that is, a devotional compilation of prayers, illustrations, psalms, and poems, used for daily and weekly worship. The prayer asks for God’s presence in every part of one’s life, both one’s actions and emotions. The earliest known version of the poem is below, followed by a contemporary English translation. The poem has been set to music several times and is to be found in many hymnbooks. God Be in My Head ANONYMOUS God be in mihede And in min vnder ston dyng God be in myn hyyesse And in min lokeyng God be in mi movthe And in myspekeyng God be in my hart And in my thovgvt God be at myneyende And ad myde partying God be in my head And in my understanding; God be in mine eyes And in my looking; God be in my mouth And in my speaking; God be in my heart And in my thinking; God be at mine end, And at my departing. 1506 or earlier 17 Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent: Lamentation The Lenten path is in part a journey through grief and anguish. Jesus’s cry on the cross – “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” – is an expression of agony of spirit and flesh. His question is one that may rise on the lips of his followers, especially during this season of traveling towards the Cross. Jesuit priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who suffered depression for much of his life, offers a window into the desolation that can come in the middle of the night, even to believers who trust in God. In the last stanza, Hopkins uses a metaphor of bread-making to reflect on the effect that such bitterness has on the spirit. This poem is one of a series of “Sonnets of Desolation” that Hopkins wrote during a particularly difficult period of desolation. I Wake and Feel the Fell of Dark, Not Day GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS 1 I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day. What hours, O what black hours we have spent This night what sights you, heart, saw, ways you went And more must, in yet longer light’s delay. With witness I speak this. But where I say 2 Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament 3 Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent To dearest him that lives alas away. 4 I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me; Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse. Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see The lost are like this, and their scourge to be As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse. 1885 1 “fell” – a moor, a stony hill; lethal, destructive, cruel nature. 2 This sentence has two complementary meanings: Both that the hours of sleepless anguish seem to last for years rather than simply one night, and that the sleepless night is merely the latest anguish in a lifetime of desolate suffering. 3 “dead letters” – letters that are undeliverable because the addressee is deceased or unreachable. This sentence thus compares lamentations to letters that are never read. 4 “gall” – bitterness. 18 Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent: Discipleship During Lent, many Christians reflect on and try to improve their own discipleship, their sense of the work that God has given us to do. But of course such discipleship has costs, not least the scorn of others. Lucille Clifton explores discipleship through images drawn from gospel stories: Jesus’s calling of his first disciples through the miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11), his walking on water (Matthew 14:22-23, Mark 6:45-52, and John 6:16-21), and his feeding of the crowds (Matthew 14:13-21 and 15:32-38, Mark 6:32-44 and 8:1-10; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13). In the poem below, notice which words Clifton does and does not capitalize. And what does it mean to be “God’s fool”? the calling of the disciples LUCILLE CLIFTON some Jesus has come on me i throw down my nets into water he walks i loose the fish he feeds to cities and everybody calls me an old name as i follow out laughing like God’s fool behind this Jesus 1972 19

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