21 December 2013

Bethlehem's Lament

Matthew 2:16-18

Lully lulla
thou little tiny child,
bye bye lully lullay.
God, can you count
these tears I cry,
falling like bitter rain?
For this my child
so brutally died -
bye bye lully lullay.

Lord can you hear
these cries of pain?
Are all our tears in vain?
Where is your justice
in this night
where innocents are slain?
Your child goes free,
mine dies for thee -
my child in your child's place.

O Lord above,
you know my pain,
yours are the tears I cry;
for even you have lost a child
given for all our sakes.
Mankind goes free,
you die for me -
your child in my child's place.


[21. December 2013 - at 2.30 because I couldn't fall asleep]

Written as the lament of a mother of one of the babies murdered on King Herod's command, when he was trying to kill Jesus. In case you haven't noticed, it is based around Coventry Carol, a 16th century carol about the murder of the innocents. In fact, it is (kind of) singable to that melody!

Main idea of this one was "my child for yours" (which is also the alternate title). I noticed this recently and find it rather interesting: the baby boys of Bethlehem died in Jesus' place; later, he would die in mankind's place.

A long time ago while writing something else I realised that God knows exactly what it means to lose a child. Because he went through just that, when Jesus died on the cross. Of course, the mothers of Bethlehem could not know that yet. But since I write from the perspective of the Cross and Easter, I wrote it like this.

Here's proof again that I can't write a Christmas poem without the cross in it. Though I think that's perfectly fine theologically, and given in the Bible already, which has this story as part of the story of Jesus' birth. We have watered down the Christmas story into an idyllic, sweet thing, which it definitely wasn't. There's political oppression, bloodshed, poverty and dirt in it, and I think people would find it way easier to identify and accept the truth of Jesus if we stopped cutting out the gruesome, dark - but realistic! - bits.

Let us not forget this part of the Christmas story, but use it as a reminder, even as we celebrate Christmas, of Jesus' suffering for our sake - and use it as a reminder to pray for the innocents being murdered all over the world even now, the children suffering in wars or being abused.

Picture by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

19 December 2013

Maria: Selig

Matthäus 5,1-12

In Kälte und Nacht,
Schimpferei und Gedränge -
alle Habe auf einem Esel
und das Kind kommt.
Wohin soll ich es legen?
Was soll ich ihm geben?
Ich habe nichts.
Selig ihr Armen.

Vor geschlossenen Türen,
unter starrenden Augen;
ich weiss, weshalb sie flüstern
und die Tür zufällt.
Wird auch mein Kind so verstossen,
behandelt wie ein Sünder,
der Welt nichts?
Selig seid ihr,
so euch die Menschen hassen
und ausstossen
um des Menschensohnes willen.

Unter dem Kreuz
in tiefster Finsternis -
dich in meinen Armen,
mein Kind, mein Gott!
Ein Schwert durchdringt
auch meine Seele.
Bleibt denn nichts?
Selig ihr Weinenden.

O selig bist du,
die du geglaubt hast!
Denn es wird vollendet werden,
was dir gesagt ist vom Herrn.

Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn
und mein Geist freut sich Gottes,
meines Heilandes.


[November 2010]

Eines meiner extrem wenigen Gedichte auf Deutsch. ;-) Ihr müsst euch bei meiner Mamma bedanken, die mein Maria-Gedicht im Rundbrief mitschicken wollte, das ich zur Zeit nur auf Englisch hatte. Statt Übersetzung ist was anderes (m.E. Besseres) daraus geworden! :-)

Hier funktionierte nämlich die Idee, die ich schon für das Englische hatte aber mir dort nicht gelang: die Verbindung zwischen Marias Geschichte und den Seligpreisungen.

Anfänglich sollte es ein Weihnachtsgedicht sein, aber irgendwie habe ich eine Tendenz, schon an Weihnachten das Kreuz zu sehen (und warum nicht; mit der Menschwerdung fängt Jesu Opfer ja eigentlich an, könnte man sagen - Phil 2,6-11). Mich hat das Wort des Simeon an Maria beeindruckt: dass ein Schwert auch ihr Herz durchdringen wird (Lukas 2,35). Irgendwie denken wir nicht genug an das, was Maria am Kreuz durchgemacht hat. Kann uns das vielleicht nicht auch helfen, uns vorzustellen, wie es für sie war? Ich sehe Maria als ein starkes Vorbild für die Gläubigen. An ihr können wir den Preis der Nachfolge sehen - aber eben auch die Seligpreisungen, die an ihr wahr wurden. Sie tat frei und freudig, wozu Gott sie bat, stellte sich ihm zur Verfügung.

Für mich wäre eine "protestantische Mariologie" so etwas dieser Art: Maria als Vorbild sehen, als eine Art exemplarische Gläubige, der wir nachahmen können. Wie sie dürfen wir dann auch hoffen, dass, auch wenn der Weg mit Gott und im Gehorsam zu ihm nicht immer leicht ist, er seine Verheissungen erfüllt, und uns die Freude gibt, gerne zu tun, was er uns aufträgt. Mit ihr das Magnificat singen. :-)

16 December 2013

Mary: Blessed

highly favoured one,
the Lord is with you;
are you among women.

Shaken around
in the middle of the night
by an old donkey
and labour pains.

Standing in the cold
before locked doors,
a shape unsightly
and forbidden.

Crying in the rain
with you in my arms,
my child; my God -
a sword through my soul.

to bear on my body
the shame of you,
the foolishness of God.
Full of grace.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my Spirit has rejoiced
in God my Saviour.

[October 2010] 
[Commentary December 2013]
Mary is sometimes called the "Blessed Virgin Mary" - but her life was not at all easy and probably not what many of us would, at first sight, find particularly "blessed" (depending on how you define blessing). Becoming pregnant out of wedlock must have caused some scandal, rejection and ostracism (would conservative Christians accept Mary if she came knocking at their door, or would they send her to the stable or even leave her outside in the cold??). Being the mother of the Messiah was not all roses. She had to flee to Egypt with a baby, live in a foreign country. Afterwards she had to put up with the strange things Jesus did and the Gospels show us she did not always understand. In the end, at the cross, she had to watch her child die a gruesome death.

Mary chose obedience - obedience is not the easy way. But nonetheless, she can be called blessed. Because God's ways are higher than ours, and Mary recognised that. Obeying God and doing His will can be hard, but it is worth it, because HE is worth it, and knowing His love is better than anything. Are we willing to go as far as Mary did, to say YES to God even if it means pain, rejection, and loss? Can we, like Mary, still sing the Magnificat - see beyond our own pain to what God is doing for the world, and doing through us for the world?

Here's a story from Chiara Lubich that has been inspiring me lately: she was asking God why he had not left a way for Mary to remain present among us the way Jesus is. And then she felt his answer was: I did not leave her with you, so that you can be another Mary. (or something like that)
Protestants need more of a "Mariology", if only to recognise her as the important example for the Christian life she can be.

In case you're interested in the cogs and wheels stuff behind the poem:
stanza 1: Luke 1:28 / The Annunciation
stanza 2-3: Bethlehem
stanza 4: beneath the cross (had the Pietà in mind) (and Pergolesi's Stabat Mater keeps playing in my head every time I even glance at this poem). I honestly can't think of Christmas without thinking of the cross. Important here is also Simon's prophecy from Lk 3:23, "a sword will pierce through your own soul also."
"My child, my God" reflects how Jesus is at the same time fully man and fully God.
stanza 5: see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 
stanza 6: the Magnificat / Lk 1:46-55
And the Beatitudes were at the back of my mind a bit too; though I did not succeed in weaving them in the way I wanted to - until I wrote the German version of this same poem, which is a little different mainly in that it's closer to the Beatitutes.

01 December 2013

Elisabeth: Barren as a Desert

Luke 1:5-25

I'd come to terms with it.
No longer cried about it,
though I still felt the pain.
Nor did we talk about it,
though we still felt a pang
every time we saw them:
pregnant women, babies, children.
I'd come to terms with it,
but it still hurt.

It hurt to wonder:
It hurt to hear my friends
gossipping behind my back,
questioning why someone
who lives by faith
and walks with God
can go without blessing,
as a desert.

I'd come to terms with it.
We no longer even tried.
We hardly even prayed -
it was too late anyway.
I'd come to terms with it -
I had no other choice.
I trusted you knew
what you were doing,
though I could not understand.

How much greater the wonder,
how much greater the joy,
to see you turn this barren desert
into blossoming spring!
You have answered the prayers
I forgot that I said,
and in such a way
as I'd never imagined.
In me grows
the fulfillment of promise,
the beginning
of more wonders to come.

A voice cries out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord!
He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.


[December 2011]

Verses quoted at the end are Isaiah 40:3 and and Psalm 107:35. Isaiah 35:1 and 51:3 would also have done very nicely here. Actually the whole desert image comes pretty often in Isaiah, and it's what I suddenly had to think about while writing this. :)

Written while I was supposed to be listening to a lecture on Bultmann (well, I half listened...)

Note: the first two stanzas are hinting at the common belief back then that if someone lives a godly life, it shows itself in blessing; i.e. people expected God to answer a good person's prayers, and bless that person.

Picture by Louis Jean François Lagrenée