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‘… His Sepulchre Shall Be Glorious.’

From the Armadio degli Argenti of Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), c. 1450

In that day the root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious.’

Isaiah 11: 10

‘Let Him Not Lose What He So Dear Hath Bought.’

From Cell 25 of the Convent of San Marco, by Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), 15th Century

Think on the very làmentable pain,

Think on the piteous cross of woeful Christ,

Think on His blood beat out at every vein,

Think on His precious heart carvèd in twain,

Think how for thy redemption all was wrought:

Let Him not lose what He so dear hath bought.

–Pico della Mirandola (translated by St Thomas More)

‘… He Shall Be Led as a Sheep to the Slaughter …’

From the Armadio degli Argenti of Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), c. 1450

‘He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.’

Isaiah 53: 7

Darkness

 

From the Dominican Office of Tenebrae (‘Darkness’) for Good Friday, A.D. 2009, at Blackfriars, Oxford.

The text for this portion of the service is the Benedictus, or Canticle of Zechariah. Though this canticle, comprising Luke 1:68-79, is part of the Church’s morning prayer every day of the year (at the hour of Lauds), it has a special resonance on these days.

Because of the compassionate kindness of our God,
the dawn from on high shall break upon u
s

To shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet in the way of peace.

‘…My Victim, Which I Slay for You…’

From the Armadio degli Argenti of Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), c. 1450

‘Assemble yourselves, make haste, come together from every side to my victim, which I slay for you, a great victim upon the mountains of Israel: to eat flesh, and drink blood.’

Ezekiel 39:17

“Quel Giorno Più Non Vi Leggemmo Avante.”

                          —Inferno V.138

We lean above the book and fateful page
    And lean into its words. You speak. I hear
    The husked seeds split, and they bleed down the page:
You tuck a strand of hair behind your ear
    And strings that knit the constellations twinge
    Like mandolins beneath the earth —so near
Commingled shade and soil to unhinge
    The grave; yet far as moonlight in a pond
    That blinks with nightjars rippled on the wing.
Though grassy spring now shimmers green with frond
    And shoot within your eyes, your beauty stares
    From violet shadow, Cimmerian, beyond
The swallowed source of bowered light that flares
    Within your eyes. They tear my heart away
    With a single glance. Eurydice wears
Your smile — anticipating hope, yet fey
    As autumn apples dropping from their limbs
    Will roll, gather into gullies, and lay
In wait: a sudden winter rain floods and brims
    The world in multiples of fallen time,
    The same that fuel in sullen throb the hymns
Of Orpheus, hemorrhaging grief in rhyme.
    But different tunes ignite our desire’s root –
    Their trace, emerging vines that merge and climb
The walls within the halls of Hades. Mute
    And vanished as night, yet here you remain
    A muse that breathes her fire upon a flute:
The pomegranate and its crimson stain
    Upon your lips, at dawn, upon my lips —
    Yet I am sure of nothing but the train
Of Venus, gown of ebony which strips
    This morning’s meaning, held out as a gift.
    My tongue takes these words as one, but trips
Upon your name. I hear each quench and sift
    It murmurs, blown upon the wind, and us
    With it, now bound by cords, now set adrift,
Regret our only landfall, tremulous
    Desire our only compass – this final page,
    The desperate map that charts us in our loss.
You arch your back and lean into the page
    Again, again I dare to lean as near —
    And further — but no farther than this page,
The compass needle driving through the air.

Must See

“This footage has been around for 100 years and these men had been buried behind a fog of damage, a mask of grain and jerkiness and sped-up film. Once restored, it’s the human aspect that you gain the most.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/16/movies/peter-jackson-war-movie.html

The Secret of Phantom Lake

(To the tune Identikit, by Radiohead)

Our country club was one tennis court
in the middle of a marsh,

and a large, rectangular pool

doubling a small, moon-shaped lake,
whose surface was always as black

as cannonballs stacked in the sun.

The girl was saved from drowning
in the deep end under the diving boards,

as I ran back and forth along the edge,

dripping dry, nothing to assuage
my guilt choking on action

even as it tried to swallow inaction.

Anger, that dispels all phantoms
and then creates more of its own.

To have a will as clear as water
without urine and chlorine.

Next morning, steam rose from the lake,

pieces of a ragdoll mankind,
that we can create, that we can create

as witnessed by reeds and cattails.

I.N.R.I.

INRI

A rough quiet was universal in the grain,
The world was sunk with a thud in its post-hole,
The land planed smooth with a dead calm
On a length of rude wood. This somber season
          Lends itself to bare scenes
          Seen in bone white of moon.
Sorrow’s sisters, the winter constellations
Sink below spring’s crowned horizons
To lend the cruel thorn of remembrance to time
As old cares cease with cold easterlies
          Like history’s cessation itself.
Seasons hewn down and lumbered out,
          These ordinary passages
          Are timbered to mean less with knowledge.
          And so, drawing us close to a return
          From exile, our souls, sand blasted
          In desert treks, are polished like bone
To dry exultations. Cuttings and witherings
Are tossed to burn, texts of ash on our tongues.
          —It is the loneliest madness to know.
          And yet, even as the moon rises,
          Dividing the sea up in a surge,
          So, too, the huge will of the eternal
          Will interpolate exalted
Histories, bitterly salted, old and new,
With nature dethroned, denuded as never before
And man besieged, bereft as never again.
          So, our wills now testify to deserts
          Our minds return to wilderness
Our hearts hold crossed-lengths of wood
Blood-soaked in a single word saying,
          “All time is made minion of
          The rising horror of love, love
          Risen once in a creak of wood
          Rising ever in a darkened sky
          Risen again, in the closing book,
          Rising ever in the suffering eye.”
So we give up the world’s passions
For one passion. And naked thus we pray:
                We will drink not now to drink no more
                We will eat not now to eat no more
                We will feast not now to eat and drink forever.

“Natural order? You sound like one of those insane Neo-Catholics.”

Altered-Carbon-2

…is an actual line of dialogue from Altered Carbon, Netflix’s dense and gorgeous sci-fi series about life after death has been digitally defeated. Consciousness has been codified, so you can get “spun up” into a new bodily “sleeve” for all eternity — provided you have the means. But wouldn’t you know it, there’s this weird bunch of religious zealots who object — who make noises about soul and body having more to do with each other than ghost and machine, who think it devilish to deny death and what comes after. Who make noises about human dignity. Remarkable.

It’s chock full of sex and violence, and the dialogue isn’t always the strongest, and the acting isn’t always spot-on. But there’s a lot there, and I’m kinda fascinated. It’d be fun to see some smart Catholic critic dig into it. Heh.