Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dom Julian Stead's "There Shines Forth Christ"

If you've heard of Dom Julian Stead, it's probably because you've read "A Severe Mercy" by Sheldon VanAuken. And if you've read that, you probably remember Stead's lovely poem which ends, "For He is He, and I, I am only I."

What some people don't know is that Dom Julian Stead wrote much more than that one poem, and many of his poems are collected in the volume "There Shines Forth Christ." I received this from my sister-in-law, and have slowly read through it.

These poems are not great for their meter, nor are they concise and precise. But they have a beauty of imagery and a depth of devotion that makes them a pleasure to read, and I kept coming across lines that stopped my breath, like this one from "Fiftieth Birthday" (emphasis mine):

"I ran two miles

and half a century had ticked away.

But the beam was carried in my eye.

I asked for healing

and you gave me repose."

It reminds me of Donne's "Teach me to repent, for that's as good/As if thou hadst sealed my pardon with thy blood." Because, of course, in each case, the thing given was the thing asked for, in another guise. We could not repent without Christ's blood sealing our pardon, and we could not heal without repose.

It's full of imagery that makes you think, "yes, that's exactly what that looks like" - imagery you recognize, like this from "Nothing Can Remain":

". . . the leaves reflected back the sun's own music

In a thousand blades of light."

Can't you remember days when the trees looked like that? Days in the mountains when the air was so clear that every individual leaf flashed in the sun?

There is also imagery that captures not just the material world, but the spiritual, like these lines from his meditation on 2 Peter:

"You are the fountain

light-thirst can flee to".

Yes. Indeed. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

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