Our Father Who Art In Heaven

Malcolm_Guite

Our Father

by Malcom Guite

I heard him call you his beloved son
And saw his Spirit lighten like a dove,
I thought his words must be for you alone,
Knowing myself unworthy of his love.
You pray in close communion with your Father,
So close you say the two of you are one,
I feel myself to be receding further,
Fallen away and outcast and alone.

And so I come and ask you how to pray,
Seeking a distant supplicant’s petition,
Only to find you give your words away,
As though I stood with you in your position,
As though your Father were my Father too,
As though I found his ‘welcome home’ in you.


Have you ever considered what poem in the English language is spoken daily more than any other?  What poem has been memorized by the most people?   I would place a small wager that it is The Lord’s Prayer.  Malcom Guite may have considered this when he wrote a series of sonnets reflecting on The Lord’s Prayer. As beautiful as Guite’s words are, it is impossible to improve on the collective artistry of the words that have become our modern version of this poem;

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give
us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us
not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

There is a lot going on in The Lord’s Prayer.   It is the one prayer/poem that I have spoken in unison with a group of people more than any other.  Yet, I always wonder how my interpretation of this poem may be similar or different from others as we say it aloud in Church? 

I have always been fascinated by the start, the first sentence; “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”  I learned The Lord’s Prayer prior to being confirmed as a teenager and it became anchored in my memory by saying it frequently at church.  However, after saying it many times over my life, I run the risk of it becoming so rote,  that the words roll off my tongue nearly without thinking.  In recent years,  every time I say it, I ponder a split-second on the word “art” to bring me mindfully back to the moment of what I am saying. 

Like all great poetry, The Lord’s Prayer contains several uses of words in ways that are not common to our traditional or common use or understanding of those words, allowing our minds to acquire their own unique interpretation and associations around those words.  I have noticed standing next to people in Church that some people replace the word “art” with “is.”  In doing so, the speaker creates a straightforward relationship with a distant God that is separate from our realm and in some ways separate from ourselves, a rather traditional view of an all knowing, almighty.  In starting that way it creates a theme of a distant benign relationship with a giving God throughout the rest of the poem.  That is not how I have come to think of The Lord’s Prayer.   As someone who has wrestled his entire adult life with the idea of who is an artist and what is achieved in the act of creating art, I look at the first sentence differently.  “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” means to me, that the earth and every living thing on it are God’s art in heaven.  For that to be a literal reading it would require changing the word “who” to “whose.”  But poetry is not intended to be read literally, rather its a way to be moved through words into a new appreciation of things that cannot be explained solely by words. 

When I read or speak the first three sentences, thinking about myself as art, God’s art, not as an artist, but as an actual art form, surrounded by God’s other works of art in the biology, geology and beauty of this planet and all the people and creatures who inhabit it, it allows me to think of the planet earth as the most spectacular art gallery in the universe! Building on that thought, the rest of the sentence takes on a different meaning; ‘hallowed be thy name” becomes a reminder that my name is hallowed as a piece of God’s art, God’s signature is upon me and everything else.  In this context, the word art becomes a noun whose common meaning now fits the sentence; “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing or of more than ordinary significance.” 

My interpretation of The Lord’s Prayer affirms that each of us has more than ordinary significance.  The next sentence also becomes more earthly and immediate if I drop a word –  the word “in.”  The third sentence then reads, “Thy will be done, on earth, as it is heaven.”   Try this word play and thought process next time you need a boost in feeling a bit more beautiful.  In doing so, the rest of the poem becomes an affirmation of all life here on earth through our collective glory, forever and ever.  Amen.

Our Father, who(se) art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy Kingdom come.  Thy will be done, on earth, as it is heaven….


The Good Morrow

by John Donne

I WONDER by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved ? were we not wean’d till then ?
But suck’d on country pleasures, childishly ?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den ?
‘Twas so ; but this, all pleasures fancies be ;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear ;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone ;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown ;
Let us possess one world ; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest ;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west ?
Whatever dies, was not mix’d equally ;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

Either We Hear You Or We Don’t Survive

 

Hildegard_von_Bingen
Hildegard Von Bingen

“She is so bright and glorious that you cannot look at her face or her garments for the splendor with which she shines. For she is terrible with the terror of the avenging lightning, and gentle with the goodness of the bright sun; and both her terror and her gentleness are incomprehensible to humans…. But she is with everyone and in everyone, and so beautiful is her secret that no person can know the sweetness with which she sustains people, and spares them in inscrutable mercy.”
Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen

by Malcolm Guite

A feather on the breath of God at play,
You saw the play of God in all creation.
You drew eternal light into each day,
And every living breath was inspiration.
You made a play with every virtue playing,
Made music for each sister-soul to sing,
Listened for what each herb and stone was saying,
And heard the Word of God in everything.
Mother from mother earth and Magistra,
Your song revealed God’s hidden gift to us;
The verdant fire, his holy harbinger
The greening glory of viriditas.
‘Cherish this earth that keeps us all alive’
Either we hear you, or we don’t survive.

The World’s True Lover

Malcolm Guite
Malcolm Guite

“Some things are too great to come at directly. Just as we may weave back and forth as we climb a hill, and appear to be going round in circles, yet all the while are coming closer to the summit, so in our religious and spiritual life things may seem circuitous; we may think we have come back to the same spot, but always, if we press on, it is a little higher, a little closer to the truth.”

Malcolm Guite

The Anointing At Bethany

by Malcolm Guite

Come close with Mary, Martha , Lazarus
So close the candles stir with their soft breath
And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
Lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
In quietness and intimate encounter
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
Is broken open for the world’s true lover,

The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
Here at the very centre of all things,
Here at the meeting place of love and loss
We all foresee, and see beyond the cross.

 

A friend asked me recently, “Do any of us really see what is going on in another person’s life?” It was in reference to an unimaginable tragedy, the death of a beloved spouse. My answer was yes we do.  Its what death brings, a spotlight into the reality of our friends and families lives.  There’s no hiding in death for the grieving. Grief is a public, communal act.  An act of giving to each other the gift of remembrance, support, and sharing of sadness.  But that spotlight doesn’t last very long before the community moves on, because it must move on, beyond the place of just love and loss, and back to the place of love and life, to see beyond the cross.

Malcolm Guite is one of those big minds whose energy comes through his poetry, his oratory, his intention.   He is a fellow lover of sonnets.   The video below is an example of his clever wisdom and a good reminder on the power of words.

To Entertain A Company Of Words

One year
It’s Fourteenlines.blog One Year Anniversary

Life is too important to be taken seriously.

Oscar Wilde

Success
(From The Ladder of St. Augustine)

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.

The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions of the skies,
Are crossed by pathways that appear
As we to higher levels rise.

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.


A year ago I sat down and decided to create a blog.  I had been thinking about it for awhile but didn’t know a thing about creating a website or using WordPress. I dove in head first and haven’t looked back. This is my 173 blog post. There have been nearly 6,500 visitors to Fourteenlines this past year. I have shared over 300 poems from 152 different poets with people from over 30 countries around the world.

What have I learned in the past year? Mostly that my appreciation for poetry continues to grow. Writing this blog is a self taught course in English literature. Surprisingly my obsession with sonnets is showing no sign of abating.  A testament to how deep the well of sonnets for exploration. Most importantly, one year into writing this blog I am still having fun!

I have given some thought to my goals with this blog, knowing that my creative pursuits tend to have a beginning, a middle and an end. I am shooting for 1,000 blog posts. At a pace of 3 postings a week this project will carry me onward for another 5 years.

In researching sonnets about writing for this anniversary edition, I came across the fine sonnet by Malcom Guite called Hospitality. I rather like his idea that some words are “shy and rare, unused to company” and must be coaxed out of the darker recesses of writer’s imaginations to take center stage on the starkest of white stages.

To read the entire blog in which the sonnet Hospitality is published click on this link:

https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/entertaining-words-a-sonnet-about-writing/


Hospitality

by Malcom Guite

I turn a certain key within its wards,
Unlock my doors and set them open wide
To entertain a company of words.
Whilst some come early and with eager stride
Others must be enticed and coaxed a little,
The shy and rare, unused to company,
Who’ll need some time to feel at home and settle.
I bid them welcome all, I make them free
Of all that’s mine, and they are good to me,
I set them in the order they like best
And listen for their wisdom, try to learn
As each unfolds the other’s mystery.
And though we know each word is my free guest,
They sometimes leave a poem in return.