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

The Hours ~ 7 Poems – Part 6 of 7



VI.

In the Wee Hours of the Morning:  Matins (2)

~Visiting a Cathedral Crypt

I strained toward You, was inconsolable.
Then I remembered to sing to You at night;
my searching Spirit talks with You in my heart.
(Ps 77:6-7)

Dear Archbishop, buried here,
Deign to humor me.  Let me ask,
When you lay down here and fell asleep
Within this crypt, sleeping the sleep

Of death, did you ever say to yourself,
“You know, I just might never
Awaken”?  “Or shall I?” you asserted
Without pause.  That I know, for

Thus we believe.”  Yes, your reply
Was confident and clear, firmly
Dismissing all doubt; and the look in
Your eyes had the smooth look of marble.

Then you added, “That’s why I chose
This very spot to lie down in death and sleep 
An impenetrable, unreachable sleep, for
In vision I saw bodies floating on air.”

You looked on in wonder as these bodies
Unwrapped themselves like woolen
Cloaks.  I will slip into mine and begin
To breathe, and out will come an infant soul.”

*

You have no need of anything but yourself
To protect you from winter’s icy grip,
Or the curvaceous breezes of summer.
Your body, when at last you awake, will find

On its lips words set to be sung.
Words of a newfound wonder at God’s golden
Sheen, it being our great hope for health and
Wholeness in the world to come.

The insufficiency of these your praises,
Exceeding both mind and mouth
Even to the point of bursting and spilling over
Like a ripe melon.  Yet this itch to speak

Torments you.  “Tell me more,” you plead
Of the wind, image of delight and
Anguish.  “I need something more,”
You exclaim in full voice, words that give

Comfort, expelled slowly, wisely, like
A long, drawn out sigh.  Look above you, your
Excellency, there like children playing
Dreams are achieving many of

Those rare moments where mystics
Appear to be swimming in an ever expanding
Ripple of prayer as though in a sea of
Self-forgetfulness.  They have opened their hearts

To the greenish glow of the water’s spiritual
Light, waving broadly as if from the bottom of
The sea, where mermen frisking court
Frisking mermaids.  Later, in exchange for

What they've been shown, these mystics
Improvise from memory images of human love
Sketched on blankness as if on blank paper:
Simple scenes of happiness after harvest,

Or the village square first bustling, then empty;
The odor of deep green deep in the forest,
And the road that climbs up the hill, then
Down; the riverbank where deer stop

In summer bending to quench their thirst,
And the river itself traced to its source in
A mirror of clear, brisk water; a hippopotamus
Yawning a great cavern of a mouth as he
Shakes himself from centuries of sleep.


Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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