There is something about the quiet, still wonder of the Advent and Christmas seasons that inspires some of the most remarkable poetry. We see this in the variety of songs and music of the seasons, as well as the gentle rhyming books that are staples of our tradition (who didn’t grow up hearing, “‘Twas the Night before Christmas, and all through the house…”?)
But it isn’t just professional writers who are inspired to write poetry and song for Advent and Christmas. Oh no! We also have a treasure-trove of Christmas poetry from the saints. From many countries and across the history of the Church, the saints have written in worship of the God who made man.
We can see a particularly striking example of this type of poetic worship in the mystic, John of the Cross. This Spanish saint of the 16th century is well-known for his poetry. Classics such as The Dark Night of the Soul and The Living Flame of Love are titles known to believer and unbeliever alike. The following poem, less known, is particularly stirring for these weeks of Advent:
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy and say,
“I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart, my time is so close.”
Then, under the roof of your soul,
you will witness the sublime intimacy,
the divine, the Christ, taking birth forever,
as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yes there, under the dome of our being
does creation come into existence eternally,
through your womb, dear pilgrim
– the sacred womb of your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help:
for each of us is his beloved servant, never far.
If you want, the Virgin will come
walking down the street
pregnant with Light and sing.
– St. John of the Cross, Translated by Daniel Ladinsky
As average people on the path to sainthood, we can learn something through these poems about engaging the beauty of the season. As we enter into Advent, a season particularly suited to expectant worship, perhaps it’s our turn to put pen to paper and write some prayerful poetry to celebrate the coming of the new-born King! It can be easier than you think:
- Take a scriptural passage or spiritual reading relating to the coming of Jesus to meditation. Jot down your inspirations and themes as they come.
- As your ideas begin to take shape, begin to gently mold them into a form. Perhaps your ideas are suited to a structured format such as a sonnet. Maybe free verse is your jam. Don’t judge, just write: the purpose of this is primarily worship!
- Give yourself time to come back to your poem several times in prayer. Allow this to become a quiet way of deepening your worship, so personally expressed, and bring your finished poem as a gift to the new-born King.
- Don’t be afraid to share with others! Evangelization through beauty is a real thing, and sharing your art with others is a powerful witness to your true heart for the Gospel!
We can take advantage of what is, for many of us, a slower pace of life than usual this December, and allow this slow and quiet waiting to lead us into worship.
Source: An Advent Poem
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