Archive for February, 2008

February 14th, St. Valentine’s day, has just passed us by. There is nothing specific about Valentine which should lead us to revere his day of remembrance as somehow linked with romanticism. Indeed, it is actually to Geoffrey Chaucer that we may attribute the connection between Valentine’s and love. For in his “Parliament of Fowls,” Chaucer sets the day (for no obvious reason) as the day upon which birds would annually join together in council to choose their mates. “For this was on Seynt Valentynes day, Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make” (309-10).

It is in this poetic reference that the Valentine’s love tradition finds its origins. Chaucer could have chosen any other day (or at least any other spring day; in Chaucer’s time February 14th would have been considered part of the season of spring). But it happens that he chooses St. Valentine’s Day. And so it is in our time.

While in the contemporary era Valentine’s has been degraded to a day of mass commercialism, the concept of true love is one worthy of respect and praise. Paul admonishes us: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Certainly within these things, we may include the noble pursuit of true love between man and woman.

Thus, to commemorate such love, I here provide some minor sampling of my own feeble poetry on the subject. Within Scripture there are many examples of what true and goodly love can be like. This particular sonnet borrows imagery from the Book of Genesis in its attempt to portray romantic love.

It is not good for man to be alone

The LORD God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18a)

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:23-24)

When God created man, He soon declared,
“It is not good for man to be alone.”
And so, while Adam slept, the LORD prepared
To fashion flesh from flesh, and bone from bone.
God took a rib; a woman He returned,
The perfect match for Adam’s lonely lot.
God willed that they should live in bliss unearned,
To love each other, and to love their God.

And so, my love, I give to thee this poem,
And speak to thee of that which God hath willed
To be the cause for man to leave his home,
To seek his second half; his void be filled.
My rib thou art; be now rejoined to me,
And may we two be one in sanctity.


This Wednesday (for those of us who still remember such days) marks the beginning of Lent: forty days spent in repentance before Easter – (the forty days do not include Sundays as they remind us of Easter and are celebrations of the resurrection of Christ). Lent is a period of fasting, of meditation, and of self-reflection. It is an opportunity to search our hearts and consider that it was our own sin which drove Christ to the cross. As such, it is a period of immense gravity.

The number forty has often been the duration of time God sets for important periods of cleansing and preparation. The rain fell forty days and nights to wash away the world’s filth during the time of Noah. Moses remained on the Mountain of God forty days to receive the Law from the LORD. Even Jesus Himself was led into the wilderness to be tested forty days by Satan, an important preparation for the greatest struggle He would later face: His crucifixion. Reflecting on these types of events, we set aside forty days each calendar year and think of our own need for cleansing. And we prepare ourselves for the memorial of how that cleansing came. That is to say, we look forward to our bitter-sweet Good Friday.

Today is Ash Wednesday. In biblical times, people, when they recognized their sin and repented, would put on sackcloth and sprinkle ashes upon themselves. It is a sign of contrition and brokenness before God. In some liturgical churches, this practice is symbolically invoked today. After spending time in personal reflection, congregants each receive ashes in the shape of the cross on their foreheads. It is an act of both individual and corporate confession.

Traditionally, the ashes were the remains of branches waved at Palm Sunday the Church-year previous. It is a solemn reminder that, while we praise God with our lips, shouting, “Hosanna to the King,” too often we deny him with our lives; our praises turn to bloodthirsty cries of “Crucify!” Truly, “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

And so we wear the ashes, symbol of our repentance. Yet we do not remain entirely forsaken. The ashes, as has been said, are applied in the shape of a cross. In the midst of our deep contrition, we recognize that forgiveness has been bestowed upon us. But at what cost! The Son of God slain – for thirty pieces of silver! And it was I who did it. It was you who did it. It was each of us who nailed His precious hands down, and it was each of us who forced the barbarous thorns into His beautiful head. Yet, in love, He called out for us, calls out for us even now, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

It is this forgiveness we seek during Lent. We know our sins. And so we watch, we wait, and we prepare for the day of remembrance, trusting in the blood of our Passover Lamb. So may this be our attitude throughout this Lenten season.


Almighty and everlasting God, who hates nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthy lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect for Ash Wednesday
The Book of Common Prayer

When that ends the month of Janvier
And Queen of Cities deep in slumber lays
Beneath the hoary ice and biting snow,
And for the weather none would dare to go
From out their sleepy homes, wood-warmed and sealed
‘Till Boreas’ season be repealed,
Then unto me came blessed news so sweet
Which softened all my heart, and so t’was meet
To take up pen and page to frame the day
Within its good and pleasant jolitée.

A message swift as light flew from the west
And settled here within my beating breast,
A word which came from Captain George’s land
Vancouver, city ever old and grand:
“Unto us this day a child is born
Within the rooster’s sounding of the morn.”

A blessing be he to his parents both
And through his life bring peace whe’er he goeth.
One name “strong” and “brave” at every time.
The other “King of All,” his name sublime.
So may he be a valiant monarch true
And emulate the King of All Virtue.

Oh, rear this child in godly living, friends
And when he ages up, his will shall bend
To love the LORD his God with heart and soul
And mind, as well with all his body whole.
My words be on you, father, mother, son,
That God will bless you all. E’en so. Amen.

And so I end my writ. Down pen, I lay.
And thus so sends this blessèd Janvier.

January 30-31st, 2008

Oh Justice, be not blind
Nor be deceived with twisted scales unholy.

Ulysses tricked the wise and did them wrong.
Son of Tantalus, illegitimate child,
Outwitted gods and men,
Two-eyed, one-eyed.
How much more facile the eyeless to outwit?
Take care thou, in some such moment’s short-sight,
Do not declare No Man guilty.

Yet eyes alone do not insight impart.
Old Argus, hundred-visioned, Panoptes
Was deceived by Hermes’ flute,
So much like Syren’s song.
What treachery may pleasant words conceal?
To what foul men may horse’s womb give birth?

Scripture taught it long ago
That he who grasped the stone did justice break.
Let No Man covet what his brother earns,
Nor red of brother soak the ground again.
Oh, the Furies’ wrath when Justice sleeps
And from appointed work herself would keep.

Oh Justice, be not blind
But see the case with eyes alert, discerning.
And as thou open up thy sight,
Unstop thy ears to victim’s supplication.
Last of all, thy lips now break
To speak the traitor’s guilt and condemnation.

January 28, 2008