This Precarious Faith

Last week I was able to go on a retreat to St Bueno’s, a wonderful Jesuit retreat house in North Wales. In the main chapel, there is an altar that rests on large boulders. It inspired me to write this poem.

The altar at St Bueno’s, St Asaphs, North Wales

This precarious faith
Balancing on the boulders
of fears, doubts and wanderings.

One strong push and it’s scattered
The table toppled
and all that was stable
broken. In pieces.

Wondering if we should pick up
the rocks and throw,
hurl and shatter.
It feels so weak.

This precarious faith
Resting on the boulders
of the one who gathers, mends, and makes whole.

©Clare Hayns, January 2022

Window in the Rock Chapel, St Buenos by Claire Mullholland

A poem for Christmas 2021

Happy Christmas to you all. It’s been a difficult year for so many, in so many ways, and at times it’s been hard to see light in the darkness. This poem, by Jan Richardson, has helped me and so I’m sharing it with you in hope that ‘the blessed light’ might seek you out and bring you joy and peace.

How the Light Comes, by Jan Richardson

I cannot tell you
how the light comes.

What I know is
that it is more ancient
than imagining.

That it travels
across an astounding expanse
to reach us.

That it loves
searching out
what is hidden,
what is lost,
what is forgotten
or in peril
or in pain.

That it has a fondness
for the body,
for finding its way
toward flesh,
for tracing the edges
of form,
for shining forth
through the eye,
the hand,
the heart.

I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you,
though it may seem
long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape
you did not foresee.

And so
may we this day
turn ourselves toward it.
May we lift our faces
to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies
to follow the arc it makes.
May we open
and open more
and open still

to the blessed light
that comes.

—Jan Richardson
“How the Light Comes” appears in Jan’s new book Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons.

A poem for Christmas 2020

One of my favourite authors of all time is Maya Angelou, who never fails to move me with her poetry and prose. I have only just recently come across this poem, written in 2005 for the White House Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and so I’d like to share it with you. This month I’ve listened a lot to the carol ‘In the Bleak Mid-Winter’, and the verse ‘Snow had fallen, Snow on snow’ has resonated. I’d always thought of that line as being about more beautiful snow falling, but this year it seems to me to be about more struggle, more disease, more tiers. This is echoed in Angleou’s poem ‘Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche’.

But this is indeed the ‘Glad Season’, a time where, even in this bleakest of winters, we can have hope and joy because the God of Peace has entered into our world. I love the image that, ‘Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us;
As we make our way to higher ground’.

And so wherever you are, whoever you are with, whatever tier you’re in, peace be with you and all those you love. Happy Christmas. Clare

AMAZING PEACE:  A Christmas Poem
by Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

Poem: ‘Oxford’, by Keith Douglas

A Poem read at Leavers’ Evensong on June 16th 2019

Keith Douglas, 1920-1944

At home as in no other city, here
summer holds her breath in a dark street
the trees nocturnally scented, lovers like moths
go by silently on the footpaths
and spirits of the young wait,
cannot be expelled, multiply each year.
In the meadows, walks, over the walls
the sunlight, far-travelled, tired and content,
warms the recollections of old men, touching
the hand of the scholar on his book, marching
through quadrangles and arches, at last spent
it leans through the stained windows and falls.

This then is the city of young men, of beginning,
ideas, trials, pardonable follies,
the lightness, seriousness and sorrow of youth.
And the city of the old, looking for truth,
browsing for years, the mind’s seven bellies
filled, become legendary figures, seeming
stones of the city, her venerable towers;
dignified, clothed by erudition and time.
For them it is not a city but an existence;
outside which everything is a pretence:
within, the leisurely immortals dream,
venerated and spared by the ominous hours.

Used with kind permission by the Douglas Estate