The Beheading

This poem is a re-post from last year, in honor of the 21 Coptic martyrs who were killed by ISIS on this date in 2015.

The Beheading
Their faces held no fear. A solemn gaze,
Grave as the fabled majesty of kings,
Was all that greeted us, as if to say:
“We too must die; be strong, and hope all things.”
The King who stood at Pilate’s judgment seat
Arraigned with blood, looked silently as they
On evil’s triumph and its cruel deceit.
His realm’s not of this world. His are no men
Of swords and bloody shouts and conquerings:
His war is Love, to life’s own laying down.
He is immortal. He shall rise again
In every place Love’s blood was ever shed:
Love’s dead shall rise (fear not), and at their feet
The kingdom of this world shall cast its crown.

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Take what God has given. The great is in the small,
The gold is in the dross, though we neglect it all.

~ Angelus Silesius, CW IV.14

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Trust him in the common light;
Trust him in the awesome night;

Trust him when the earth doth quake:
Trust him when thy heart doth ache;

Trust him when thy brain doth reel
And thy friend turns on his heel;

Trust him when the way is rough,
Cry not yet, “It is enough!”

But obey with true endeavour,
Else the salt hath lost his savour.

~ George MacDonald (1824-1905)

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Today is Candlemas, otherwise known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

And the Lord, whom ye seek,
Shall suddenly come to his temple,
Even the messenger of the covenant,
Whom ye delight in:
Behold, he shall come,
Saith the LORD of hosts.

But who may abide the day of his coming?
And who shall stand when he appeareth?
For he is like a refiner’s fire,
And like fullers’ soap:

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver:
And he shall purify the sons of Levi,
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer unto the Lord
An offering in righteousness.

~ Malachi 3:1

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Song-Prayer: After King David

I shall be satisfied
With the seeing of thy face.
When I awake, wide-eyed,
I shall be satisfied
With what this life did hide,
The one supernal grace.
I shall be satisfied
With the seeing of thy face.

~ George MacDonald, 1824-1905

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On a passing

David Oestreich has passed away. It may be true that “They die young whom the gods love”–but he was too good a poet to die young.

Here is my favorite poem of his, originally published on

The Hypostatic Union

The Word set forth before the world began
Wrote out the mournful tune in minor key:
The crying of the infant Son of Man.

There was no way that they could understand
How that small and helpless child could be
The Word set forth before the world began.

Joseph wondered at the tiny hand,
The scrunched-up face, the frail intensity
Of crying in the infant Son of Man.

The angel host deployed and took its stand
To sing out with celestial harmony
The Word set forth before the world began.

Mary marveled at the shepherd band
Who came to hear, while bowing awkwardly,
The crying of the infant Son of Man.

Yet it was in accordance with the plan
Articulated from eternity:
The Word set forth before the world began
Was crying in the infant Son of Man.

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Epiphanytide is what we’re in right now. It’s the stretch between the adoration of the magi and the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, or Ash Wednesday, depending on your tradition.

That’s because there’s not just one Epiphany. “Epiphany” is the Western word for what the Orthodox call more accurately a “Theophany.” An epiphany/theophany is an event that reveals Christ’s Godhead. The adoration of the magi is such an event. So is the presentation of Christ in the Temple, His baptism in the Jordan River, and His first miracle.

Hymn writers sometimes capitalize on this. And so you get the hymn below, which we (mostly) just sing on Epiphany, but which includes all the epiphanies.

*       *       *       *       *

How vain the cruel Herod’s fear,
when told that Christ the King is near!
he takes not earthly realms away,
who gives the realms that ne’er decay.

The eastern sages saw from far
and followed on his guiding star;
by light their way to Light they trod,
and by their gifts confessed their God.

Within the Jordan’s sacred flood
the heavenly Lamb in meekness stood,
that he, to whom no sin was known,
might cleanse his people from their own.

Oh, what a miracle divine,
when water reddened into wine!
He spake the word, and forth it flowed
in streams that nature ne’er bestowed.

All glory, Jesus, be to thee
for this thy glad epiphany:
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Ghost for evermore.

~ Caelius Sedulius (fl. 450); trans. J. M. Neale

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