Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cynthia Erlandson's "These Holy Mysteries"

Cynthia Erlandson studied writing at Wheaton College (Illinois). Since 1990, she has been writing poetry that reflects her love of the sonorous language and liturgical themes of the Book of Common Prayer. I'm not sure which edition inspires her the most, but it probably isn't the 1979 prayer book, which falls short on poetic beauty, liturgical elegance, and theological substance.

In her volume of poems, These Holy Mysteries (a line taken from the Eucharistic Prayer), Cynthia treats the liturgical seasons of the Church. Her poems are rich in alliteration and explore the contrasts of light and darkness, drought and flood, and feast and fast.

Cynthia Erlandson's poems have appeared in Touchstone and in A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation (edited by my friend Luci Shaw, with whom I used to worship at Bethany Chapel in Wheaton). Here are 2 of the poems that appear in These Holy Mysteries.

Easter Monday

-Luke 24:13-35

With hearts eclipsed by Friday’s three-day night
And eyes still blinded to their master’s face,
They hear his sermon, senseless that his light
Has thrown the flames of hell to dark disgrace.

The evening sun begins to set its fire,
Their hearts to burn, the longing lenten night
To roll away, and dawning of desire
To rise, lit by a death-defying light.

His broken hands break bread in sacred rite;
Their sudden vision flares to brightest mirth.
Their blindness gone, he vanishes from sight;
And they, with fiery hearts, will light the earth.

Autumn Pentecost

Shining wine-red trees tremble
in a rushing Whitsuntide wind
that rattles the breathing, bornagain world
with vibrant revival,
quickening ten thousand quaking tongues
to sing a fiery sanctus.
Flickering sun-colored flames crackle,
shake, break the blue,
rejoicing in orange exuberance.
Golden glorias explode in October ecstasy,
quickening the pentecostal pulse.
Burning bushes burst into sursum corda for
the season’s second coming.
The zealous horizon resounds:
variegated voices
sing staccato doxologies,
speaking of him who spake by the prophets,
shouting their credo:
I believe in the Holy Ghost.

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