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Haiku Meditations on the Church Year

by Lionel E. Deimel

 

Prologue:

Day after Thanksgiving

 

Cars cruise endlessly;

Spaces are ephemeral.

Thanksgiving is past.

 

 

Advent

 

Advent comes again.

Are we ready for Jesus?

Will Christmas kill faith?

 

Christmas

 

Christmas has arrived.

Why do we see an ending,

Not a beginning?

 

Epiphany

 

Eastern kings arrive

To celebrate royalty:

No thorn-crowns, but gold.

 

First Sunday

After Epiphany

 

Day for Baptism:

Christ claims us; the Church claims us.

Sins are washed away.

 

Shrove Tuesday

 

Shrove Tuesday dinner:

Pancakes and sausage at church.

Thoughts now turn to Lent.

 

Ash Wednesday

 

We wear black crosses,

Dismissed to a holy Lent.

How shall we keep it?

 

Palm Sunday

 

Today, Palm Sunday.

Then Good Friday five days hence.

Easter but a dream.

 

Maundy Thursday

 

Christ dies tomorrow.

Today we eat bread and wine.

The altar’s left bare.

 

Good Friday

 

The cross before us

Blocks out the rest of the world.

The Lamb of God dies.

 

Easter Vigil

 

We start in darkness.

New light proclaims the Good News—

Jesus is risen!

 

Easter

 

Gathered Sunday morn,

We worship a risen Lord,

Greeting much-missed friends.

 

Ascension Day

 

Christ ascends cloudward

(In ancient cosmology).

Where is heaven now?

 

Pentecost

 

Come, Holy Spirit,

Enabler of Christian lives.

We celebrate you.

 

Trinity Sunday

 

Blessed Trinity:

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—

Holy mystery.

 

All Saints’ Day

 

Sing a song of saints,

God’s patient and brave and true.

I mean to be one.

 

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

 

The haiku form is intriguing; it lets the writer express but a single thought. The poems seem to write themselves once aim is taken at that thought. The verses above conform to the meter of haiku, but they abandon the traditional subjects. They are seasonal, but they are not about nature.

This collection began inadvertently. “Day after Thanksgiving” resulted from thoughts about the madness at the mall. (Do not miss the ambiguity of the last line.) Writing it lead to composition of “Advent.” Both poems were written in December 1996. The collection has evolved over nearly seven years, and, although it addresses most highlights of the church year, I might continue to expand “Haiku Meditations” as inspiration strikes.

“Easter Vigil” was written in November 1997; “Ash Wednesday,” “Palm Sunday,” and “Maundy Thursday” were written in April 1998; “Good Friday” was written in February 2000; “Epiphany” and “Christmas” were written in December 2000; and “Shrove Tuesday,” “Pentecost,” “All Saints’ Day,” “Trinity Sunday,” and “First Sunday after Epiphany” were all written on Ash Wednesday 2001, in a sudden frenzy to “finish” the collection. I made some minor editorial changes in April 2002. “Trinity Sunday” was completely rewritten the day before Trinity Sunday 2003. The original verse was:

Godhead Trinity:

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost;

Revelation blest.

The current verse better reflects my understanding (or lack of understanding) of the Trinity.

I borrowed shamelessly for “All Saints’ Day.” Most Episcopalians will know where from. 

“Day after Thanksgiving” is an odd opening verse, both because it lacks the liturgical references of most of the other verses and because it is, technically, out of order—the church year begins with Advent, two days later. As a practical matter, however, the verse captures the mindset of most American Christians as they face the beginning of Advent. (I hope I have solved the problem of the opening verse by calling it a prologue.) This poem and “Shrove Tuesday” (and to a lesser extent, “Christmas”) make it clear that church of the title is not the Church Universal, but the local church and the lives that revolve around it.

On Good Friday 2017 (4/14/2017), I added “Easter,” a poem whose absence no doubt seemed odd to some readers. The new poem, like others, emphasizes the local church and the fact that some members show up seldom but are usually seen on Easter.

It does not fit here, but “Ordination” is a related haiku about an irregularly scheduled church event.

— LED, 10/3/2005, rev. 4/14/2017

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