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  • Writer's picture Brian E Pearson

Sacred Words

Photo Credit: Nicolas Messifet on Unsplash

Talking with poets is like strolling through a mountain meadow. You start noticing things you've been taking for granted. The colours suddenly explode, surprising and delighting you, the ground feels soft and yielding beneath your feet, and the fresh spring air awakens you to every electrifying nuance of the moment. It is enlivening.

Juleta Severson-Baker

Since leaving the church, I've often wondered how to recapture something of the great movements of the unfolding year. How do I enter the busy fall season without a "Start-up Sunday" in September? How do I celebrate Christmas without the candlelight and carols? How do I observe Easter without the moving drama of Holy Week? Poetry, perhaps.

Last Easter, I invited poet Juleta Severson-Baker to the Mystic Cave to share with me the words of poets, including her own words, to illuminate and express the hope of the Easter season. The poems we chose and read aloud to each other created a rich blanket of imagery and sound that settled on our hearts, filling us with reassuring joy and wonder. I felt we were on to something.

Then, early in the fall, I spoke in the Cave with poet Richard Osler about the sacred dimensions of poetry. Poetry, he said, was a form of prayer. Our words both emerge from and return to the Mystery we call God. They praise, they lament, they explore, and they open our hearts to the Source of all things. Similarly, poetry can also be seen as a kind of sacred text, not taking the place of scripture from the various religious traditions, but supplementing those texts, like an open-ended Book of Psalms--new words that remind us of the Divine that is hidden deep within the commonplace.

Paul Grindlay

With those promising poetic encounters, the foundation was laid for a full-on Eastertide poetry fest this year. I invited Juleta back to the Cave, along with poets Rosemary Griebel and Paul Grindlay, to share their words about that soulful movement from Good Friday to Easter morning.

Those events, as memorialized and celebrated within the Christian tradition, tell the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. But Jesus is not the only martyr to die a cruel death, nor the only loved one to rise and walk among us afterward. Surely, his death and resurrection redirect us to our own, though for us, in this lifetime, it's all shrouded in mystery.

Rosemary Griebel

In other words, Easter may be about Jesus, but it's also about ourselves, returning us to our own experience--our fear of death, our hope of resurrection, and our wondering in the times between. Why else would we tell that story year after year?

Meeting around the Table of Talk down in The Mystic Cave, Juleta, Rosemary, Paul and I reflected on these great themes as seen through the evocative words of their poetry. Even the experience of sharing those poems with one another was illuminating, causing Paul to note that we all bowed our heads and closed our eyes as we listened. Then, after each poem was read, we observed a reverent pause, a reflective silence, in which our sighs and out-breaths can be heard.

It felt like we were on Holy Ground. Only with reluctance did we begin filling the air with new words, as we shared with one another the impressions we were left with, the images that lingered, and the truths that offered themselves. Had it occurred to us, we might have ended each reading with a collective response, as in an act of worship, saying: "Amen."

To listen to our conversation, press the Play button below. To access the show notes, including information about my three guests, please press the Information (i) button and scroll down the page that comes up.

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