Sunday, April 13, 2014

What would Jesus think about Lent?: an exceptional new poem from Mark S Burrows.

 Stephanie Dowrick writes: "One of my favourite contemporary poets is Rilke scholar and translator Mark S. Burrows. Here is a poem that can be read (ideally, read aloud) with deep appreciation at any time of year but has a particular poignancy when read as Easter approaches." More details of Mark Burrows and his work follow the poem. We thank him wholeheartedly for allowing us to publish the poem here. It is of course copyright.

Painting: Hans Memling (1430-1494), "Christ giving blessing"

    “Amor ubique loquitur."
(Love speaks everywhere.)
        Bernard of Clairvaux

I sometimes wonder what Jesus
thinks about Lent, the long slow
season when we try to get an
honest bead on our mortality –
“ashes to ashes, dust to dust” –
and often lose ourselves in
remorse, discovering that we like
all other creatures are finite and
fallible.  Like them, we crave
comfort and give ourselves to the
shape of our needs, stumbling along
with instincts that sometimes avert
crisis and hold tragedy off a little
but never finally, our intentions
not always noble, our actions
occasionally radiant but usually
flattened by the same measure
of worry and envy, jealousy and
fear, we lament in others.  Perhaps
Jesus isn’t worrying about what
we didn’t do, or blaming us for
what we did so poorly.  Maybe
he’s just confused by why we
seem so unable to be awake
to wonder and fail to be alive
to what is still rising in us all
of possibility and joy.  Perhaps
after all he’s puzzled by our
persistent sadness, by how ill
at ease we seem in this world
that flows on and on without
any work of ours, its beauty
overpouring the boundaries
of what we can ever fully know. 
“Consider the lilies,” he said,
meaning all that rises from
the dust and endures all winter
tucked into that dark bed of soil. 
“Look at the birds of the air,” he
cried, meaning something like
the delight which has little to
do with a way of seeing shaped
by exact or certain knowledge.
“Don’t worry about your life,”
he advised, and finally I begin
to grasp what it might mean
to remember him, his large heart
and soul, his warm flesh, his
kindness to strangers, his sharp
tongue, and wonder why we’re
so often overcome with sadness
and ill at ease in this world he
so loved.  Perhaps he meant us
to think about that wedding
and the miracle which began
when his mother noticed the
empty jugs and called him to
serve, turning water to wine,
the ridiculous excess of it all;
or the way he touched those
lost at the margins and healed
their wounds and lingered
(as his biographers did not)
to know them by name. 
And, yes, how he laughed
as he must have done when
he saw the little man who’d
crawled high up in a tree
to get a better view, and
surely not only then,
and how he also wept
when he noticed how
those busy in the city
of their lives found no
room for the unprofitable
work of grace, how they
refused to belong to others
in the neighbourhood of need. 
I imagine he’s still wondering
why we reserve a single day for
Easter as if love and resurrection
could be so exactly contained,
when they are happening all
the time and everywhere for
those with eyes to see.

Painting by Piero della Francesca (1450-1492)


Dr. Mark S. Burrows is Professor of Historical Theology on the faculty of the University of Applied Sciences in Bochum, Germany.  His research focuses on the monastic literature of the medieval West, with a particular interest in mystical and visionary texts, and the field of poetics.  Recent publications include a new translation of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke’s, Prayers of a Young Poet (Paraclete Press, 2013) - click on the link for our admiring review - and another volume of poems in translation by the Iranian/German poet SAID (Paraclete Press, 2013).  Dr. Burrows was the recent recipient of the “Witter Bynner Fellowship” at the Santa Fe Art Institute, where he served as writer-in-residence in the summer of 2013.  His translations of Rilke's poetry are among the finest in Dr Stephanie Dowrick's In the Company of Rilke. Dr Burrows writes and lectures widely on spirituality, poetry, and the contemplative path.  

No comments:

Post a Comment