National Poetry Month A week of Sacred Poetry
John O'Donohue, an Irish mystic and poet, was also a philosopher and theologian. F, was born in 1956 in Ireland, and died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2008. O’Donohue’s poetry reflect a very practical and earthy spirituality that is grounded in his background in theology and philosophy. He captures the universals that connect all spiritual traditions. His work is considered by some, to be that of a modern-day mystic and saint.
From John O’Donohue’s book, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings:
A Morning Blessing
I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.
All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.
I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.
May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.
Turkish, Sufi Muslim poet, Yunus Emre (1238-1320) who lived much of his life in Anatolia. He was a contemporary of Rumi, though while Rumi wrote in the Persian language for the well-educated, urban dwellers, Emre lived, traveled, and wrote about those he met and taught among the rural poor. He wrote, sang, and recited his poetry in the language of the common people, Turkish.
I am Before, I am After
I am before, I am after
The soul for all souls all the way.
I'm the one with a helping hand
Ready for those gone wild, astray.
I made the ground flat where it lies,
On it I had those mountains rise
, I designed the vault of the skies,
For I hold all things in my sway.
To countless lovers I have been
A guide for faith and religion.
I am sacrilege in men's hearts
Also the true faith and Islam's way.
I make men love peace and unite;
Putting down the black words on white,
I wrote the four holy books right
I'm the Koran for those who pray
. It's not Yunus who says all this:
It speaks its own realities:
To doubt this would be blasphemous: "I'm before-I'm after," I say.
Hildegarde von Bingen was born into a noble family in Bremershein, Germany in 1098. Born the 10th child in her family, she was given as a tithe to the church at the age of 8. She was given to a woman named Jutta who had chosen a life of solitude and seclusion. Jutta’s education was limited, but she did teach Hildegarde to read and write. All her life, Hildegarde had visions, starting as early as the age of 3. She remembered seeing and feeling “a presence so great it made [her] soul tremble”. She was gifted with clairvoyence and prescience, and was well-respected as a healer and herbalist. She wrote extensively about the medicinal value of plants and herbs as well as natural history. In her early 40s, her visions were finally respected and she was urged to write them down. Her work Scivias, was a collection of her visions, poetry, writings about the relationship of human persons to God. A second collection, Symphonia, was another collection of music and poetry. A woman ahead of her times in many ways, she ran into opposition from the Church, but her works and ideas have lived on.
De Spiritu Sancto/To the Holy Spirit
Holy spirit, making life alive,
moving in all things, root of all created being,
cleansing the cosmos of every impurity, effacing guilt,
You are lustrous and praiseworthy life,
You waken and re-awaken everything that is.
Laus Trinitati/Antiphon for the Trinity
To the Trinity be praise!
God is music, God is life
that nurtures every creature in its kind.
Our God is the song of the angel throng
and the splendor of secret ways
hid from all humankind,
But God our life is the life of all.
Hildegarde’s music is hauntingly beautiful, and connects the listener to the Divine Spirit in ways that transcend time, place, and tradition.
Caritas abundtat in omnia...love lies in everything.
Saint Therese of Lisieux’s poem, To the Sacred Heart, expresses the passion of Christ exquisitely.
Hear O Israel the Lord our God,
the Lord is one.
Blessed is his name,
Whose glorious kingdom is forever.
And you shall love the Lord with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your might.
And these words, which I command you this
shall be upon your heart: and you shall
teach them always to your children, and shall
talk of them when you sit in your house, when
you walk by the way, when you lie down,
when you arise.
And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand,
and they will be seen as a badge between
And you shall write them on the door
your house, and upon your gates.
In 570 CE when the holy city of Mecca was being attacked by the Abyssinians armies who were intent on destroying the Kabbah, Abdul Muttalib, the Prophet Mohammed’s grandfather, went to the Kabbah and prayed for God’s intervention. As the story goes, as the armies were beginning to attack, Ababil birds, carrying stones in their beaks, began dropping the stones of the invaders and stopping the invasion. This was considered a great sign, and the year was named, the Year of the Elephant. Abu Talib was 30 years old, and it was the same year that his grandson, Mohammed, was born. Mohammed’s father and mother both died shortly after his birth, and his grandfather, Abu Talib raised him.
Hazrat Abu Talib, was charged with protecting the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and to proclaim his prophethood. Abu Talib did this through his poetry.
Here are some lines from one of Abu Talib’s poems, thought to have been spoken on his death bed:
Let all of the people know that Muhammad is the Vizier of Musa and Isa (Jesus)
He came to us with guidance which Allah had given him
Everyone is guided by their love of Muhammad
Allah has honoured the Prophet Muhammad
and the most honourable of human beings is the Prophet Muhammad
He (Allah) ripped His name Mahmud and brought out (the name) Muhammad
By Allah, they (kuffar) will never reach you, their whole group
Until I have dust completely covering my face!
So go ahead with your mission
You are under my eyes
You invited me and knew I was a guide to you
And you invited me and knew that I was trustworthy of you
And you invited me because you knew that I knew that Islam is the greatest religion in the eye of Allah
The TANAKH has some of the most beautiful sacred poetry to be found anywhere.
The Shema, with its beautiful call to unity in God, is one of the most beautiful passages to be found in sacred literature.
Hear O Israel
the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Blessed is his name,
Whose glorious kingdom is forever.
And you shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart: and you shall teach them always to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you arise.
And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they will be seen as a badge between your eyes.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house, and upon your gates.
For more sacred poetry, visit the following sites: