Living Flame of Love: St. John of the Cross

Fireflies

“Living Flame of Love”

Flame, alive, compelling,
yet tender past all telling,
reaching the secret center of my soul!
Since now evasion’s over,
finish your work, my Lover,
break the last thread,
wound me and make me whole!

Burn that is for my healing!
Wound of delight past feeling!
Ah, gentle hand whose touch is a caress,
foretaste of heaven conveying
and every debt repaying:
slaying, you give me life for death’s distress.

O lamps of fire bright-burning
with splendid brilliance, turning
deep caverns of my soul to pools of light!
Once shadowed, dim, unknowing,
now their strange new-found glowing
gives warmth and radiance for my Love’s delight.

Ah, gentle and so loving
you wake within me, proving
that you are there in secret, all alone;
your fragrant breathing stills me
your grace, your glory fills me
so tenderly your love becomes my own.

Translated by Marjorie Flower, OCD: “The Poems of St. John of the Cross”

[ Amazing poem from St John of the Cross. I first came across this particular translation in Larry Crabb’s book “Shattered Dreams” more than a decade ago, and loved it then, but think I’m only really beginning to ‘get it’ now, as the ‘flesh’ begins to loosen its hold on me a little as I approach 60!]

Advertisements

St Thomas Didymus [the Twin]: Denise Levertov

And after the empty tomb
when they told me He lived, had spoken to Magdalen,
told me that though he had passed through the door like a ghost
He had breathed on them the breath of a living man—
even then when hope tried with a flutter of wings to lift me—
still, alone with myself, my heavy cry was the same:
Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

I needed blood to tell me the truth,
the touch of blood.
Even my sight of the dark crust of it round the nailholes
didn’t thrust its meaning all the way through to that manifold knot in me
that willed to possess all knowledge,
refusing to loosen unless that insistence won the battle I fought with life.

But when my hand led by His hand’s firm clasp entered the unhealed wound,
my fingers encountering rib-bone and pulsing heat,
what I felt was not scalding pain, shame for my obstinate need,
but light, light streaming into me, over me,
filling the room as if I had lived till then in a cold cave,
and now coming forth for the first time,
the knot that bound me unravelling,
I witnessed all things quicken to color, to form,
my question not answered but given its part
in a vast unfolding design lit by a risen sun.