Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

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“From the abundance of his spirit [the poet] pours out secrets and mysteries rather than rational explanation” (Prologue, The Spiritual Canticle).

“In contemplation God teaches the soul very quietly and secretly, without its knowing how, without the sound of words” (Chapter 39, The Spiritual Canticle).

In the spirit of St. John of the Cross, this blog reflects on the contemplative experience and the poetic experience, sometimes separately and distinctly, sometimes in common, as mutually enlightening.

I will also post to this blog, from time to time, my own poetry, with a short interpretive note attached.

~ Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD

Five Poems for Lent and Easter – Part 1

I.

To Jerusalem


I joined the little band of followers to fight the good fight,
To stand face to face, toe to toe, with the Temple's faceless,
Toeless tyranny.  For too many years the pleas of my people
Had hurled themselves out over the wide land, only to be
Baked and dried under the white sun like a mule's corpse.

How often I braced myself to receive full-on the high tide of
The news of the coming of the Anointed.  "He has come," one
Would whisper.  But it wasn't true, not until, that day, without
Warning, He said to me, "Gather up your nets.  There are
Fish to catch, fish past counting."  And faith glittered in me

Like gold in broad daylight, faith as strong as a legion of
Heavy-footed soldiers, their breastplates and helmets gleaming,
Wending their way past hamlet and village, down dusty roads,
Onward, to Jerusalem, the hills of Judah to the left and right
Languishing sadly untended and matted with thorny brush.

We were marching, marching, as though one thing formed
Of many.  "We're going to Jerusalem," we shouted.  "There
Victory will be ours."  Armed only with a fierce compassion,
Our empty hands will brandish the meekest touch, one that
Lingers where it touches like a widow sitting at her window.

How full of assurance I was.  Sleep claimed me at day's end,
And happy dreams followed.  Oh, how true it is that
Ignorance is bliss.  None of us dared imagine that there,
In Jerusalem, our cause would crumble away completely,
Its mortal remains feeding themselves to the air like dust.

*

O Jerusalem, Mother of all born of such bitter tears, tears
That fall from us heavy as heartache, I walk through your streets
Like someone hiding in a dark corner.  Probing looks
Dart past my face.  How fragile our faith is, how fragile
Our courage.  The thought of it clings to my prayers like a bad

Aftertaste.  I've forgotten why I ever lifted myself up upon
My feet since only my soul's knocking knees remain to me now.
I lunge forward from the shadows of this narrow street, out
Into a plaza blasted open by sunlight.  A fountain strains upward
Like a palm tree.  An uprush of startled doves follows, like

The steeds that once drove Elijah's fiery chariot.  My head spins,
It will spin again tomorrow.  This city holds back from me
Any sign of hope.  Yet I've decided to hold fast to the fact
That here, in Jerusalem, the Spirit never stays aloof.  Not for long.
Within three days, I'm sure, it will move again.  It will.  It must.


Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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