Category Archives: poetry

Tanner, Tolkien and A New Age

March 25 marks the beginning. Whether you consider it the beginning of the end or the beginning of something new depends a bit on perspective.

The church calendar has both moveable feast days such as Easter, Ascension Day, and Pentecost as well as feast days that are fixed. One of the fixed feast days is March 25. For many the most recognizable fixed, feast day is Christmas. There is a lot of debate as to why December 25 was fixed as the date of Jesus’ birth. The date has more significance than some historian’s ability to discover what day the event took place, Some say that Christendom sought to hijack Saturnalia, others see Christmas as the reappropriating of Sol Invictus celebrations while others believe newly converted pagans desired to continue with Celtic solstice practices.

In actuality, December 25 was a relatively late addition to the dates recognized by the church. What is known and widely recognized is that the church very early on believed it had calculated the date of Jesus’ death. You can read more about “How December 25 Became Christmas,” but basically Christmas was set as December 25 because they believed that Jesus was conceived on March 25, and March 25 is the fixed feast day of The Annunciation which falls nine months before December 25. And so, March 25 is a beginning.

Here is a painting by African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner of the Annunciation.

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

Henry Ossawa Tanner [Public domain]

It is one of my all time favorite paintings. Tanner’s use of light to depict Gabriel envelops you in its warmth. The red which crosses the field of view behind Mary foreshadows what is to come, and the traditional blue in which Mary is depicted wearing, lays on the chair to the right and is something she has yet to take up. There is Mary, hands folded, at her morning prayers with that quizzical expression. You can almost hear her saying, “What sort of greeting is this?”

Speaking of the Annunciation and Mary’s question, Michael Kuehn has written and recorded a wonderful song which tells the story of Mary’s encounter. The song begins with Mary’s question, “What sort of greeting is this?” It continues to include the words of the Magnificat. It is a part of Michael’s EP, Where Are You. It would not be bad to have this song’s tune and lyrics rolling around in your heart today. The song is titled, “Mary.” You may listen via the player below.

So is The Annunciation an ending or a beginning? J.R.R. Tolkien saw it’s significance. Though he doesn’t make a big deal of March 25 in the narrative of the Lord of the Rings, he obviously spent some time considering it’s significance.

IMG_4411

And so, under King Elessar the Fourth Age and the New Year was reckoned to begin on March 25 which is the day when the Ring of Power was destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom and the stronghold of Barad-dur fell and Sauron, defeated. A coincidence? Not at all. The Annunciation marks the beginning of the New Creation.

You may read the text of The Annunciation here: Luke 1:26-35. I have written sonnet recounting the moment. In it I am influence by Malcolm Guite’s sonnet of the same moment titled, “The Annunciation” in which he writes, “the Word himself was waiting on her word.” I love that. The announcement of new creation in some measure begins with meekness, a moment of pause as the Trinity waits on her response, “Let it be unto me as thou hast spoken.” Here is my take.

In a no-where’s stillness while at thy prayers
By thy lamp’s light came a presence holy
Who drew thy life into cosmic affairs
Mary, the Nazarene maiden lowly.

Gabriel hails, Lo, the Lord is with thee,
Favored one. Blessed, be ye not afraid,
For at thy word new creation is conceived
In thy womb’s waters the world is remade.

Mary, in this moment ‘neath Nazareth’s sky,
We await thy word when all words come true:
When thy meek willingness undoes the lie
By bearing the Son who makes all things new.

Taking in hand what is giv’n to thee,
As thou hast spoken, let it be unto me.

In these troubling days. Mary later goes to stay with her cousin, Elizabeth who herself is pregnant and bears John the Baptist. In their greeting of one another, Mary breaks out in worship. Let us take up with Mary her Magnificat, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.”

Bread of Heaven

At Grace Presbyterian’s Christmas Eve service, we heard of the the implicit connection which is drawn from the meaning of the name of Bethlehem (house of bread) and that Jesus is laid in a manger. In Jesus’ birth, Luke is showing us that the Desire of Nations spoken of in Haggai has in fact, come. In John’s gospel, Jesus makes the connection more explicit when he says in John 6:35-40,

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

I read this spoken word piece in which I re-imagined Jesus’ words and my own response in which you may listen to me read here. The text is below. Merry Christmas!

They asked him about the Bread of Heaven.
And so he told them:
“There’s no work that can earn it.
There’s no sin that can’t be overcome by it.
If you are in it you can’t resist it.
If you want it you won’t be denied it.
Moses didn’t give it.
He merely told them about it.
For it was the Father who gave them manna
And in a place they couldn’t make it.

And now, even as you hunger,
I am telling you that you are looking at it.
I am the bread come down from heaven.
The bread which nourishes,
Satisfies, sustains — upon which you can rely,
To which he testifies.
Don’t go spending your work and your toil on food that will spoil.

I am the bread.
The bread of all fulfilling,
The Cosmic Gospel-filling,
The fast-ending feast.
A table set for the least.
I have come to end the slow, hard, soul-famine
And give thrilling, life, joy, and peace.
And all fear ended.
I tell you, I am the bread of heaven.”
Now, are you hungry yet?
Do you want that filling?
Tired yet of that life you are killing yourself for
And your spouse and mother and father and friend?

He’s the bread come down from heaven.
The bread of God unleavened.
Pierced and scored in the furnace of affliction,
Bearing for us, God’s malediction.
Cursed for our benediction.

Given for you and your Cosmic Hunger-Thirsting.
Given for you–to you.
It’s him, I’m telling you.
He feeds, nourishes, satisfies, justifies, makes holy and does it solely.
The door is wide open. If to him you’ve been given,
Give in. He’s gonna win
‘Cause the Father has called you–the Spirit will draw you.
Believe in him.
Receive him. Look to him.

Are you hungry yet?
Afraid you’ve been left out of the feast?
Afraid you’re the least?
He said, “Whoever.”
That’s not you?
Never!
He said, “Whoever comes
I will never drum out of line — drive away.
Come while there’s time.”

“I am the bread of heaven,” he said.
“And it’s the will of him who sent me
That I should lose none of those he’s given me.
But I shall win for them a standing in eternity
One long, glorious Olympic victory.
Forever singing the anthem,
‘Worthy, worthy, is the Lamb that was slain!'”
Praise Jesus name.
His love-banner flying overhead in his house of wine.
The love we’ll proclaim and enjoy for all time.
Eternal banquet filling and life
And telling: we believed.
But with the angels shaking,
Stumped, a new breaking in a glorious humility
A person quake,
Shaking our heads, saying,
“Who would’ve believed, that he was the bread
Even for me?”
He said, “I am the bread of heaven.”
Do you hunger?
Do you wonder, “Will I ever be satisfied?”
Believe.
Believe in the Son who is himself now alive
Even though crucified.
And even if you die or have died,
On that the last day you’ll be there
Alive.
Justified.
Sanctified.
Glorified.
Alive.
And full for time upon time
With the Bread of Heaven.

© Randall Edwards 2010.
This is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks

Ashes to Eternity Exhibit

GPC’s Ashes to Eternity Lent to Easter exhibit, reception, and discussion is set for Sunday, April 30 at 6pm in the church foyer. Come see and hear artists: Jennifer Edwards, Randy Edwards, and Asher McClain share their work. A brochure containing high definition images as well as a compilation of all the poetry and artwork explanations is available for download HERE. Hope to see you there.