A Christmas Poem

Poems can mean more than the poet realizes. It is interesting to look back on this poem, written in 2011 while I was still an Anglican, and realize that I was feeling the ‘twitch upon the thread’ that would, in a few months time, become a steady and undeniable pull toward the Catholic Church, to the fullness of finding Christ there.

The occasion of this poem was that I went to the Christmas morning Eucharist at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. My flight had only gotten in at seven that morning; I was rather groggy, quite hungry, and extremely cold. The cumulative effect was that some parts of the service were rather blurry but others extraordinarily ‘sharp': receiving Communion was in the latter category. Hence this poem.

You can click on the title of the poem to hear my reading of it.

St Paul’s Cathedral, London, seen from inside the (blessedly warm) cafe where I had breakfast afterwards.

St Paul’s Cathedral, Christmas Day Eucharist

I am among the last to take my place
(it is pure grace that I am here at all).
Into my outstretched empty hands is placed
A broken half, a fragmentary Host,
To have enough for those who wait behind.
A wisp of bread, and then a sip of wine,
And I return to sit, and wait, and pray.
A benediction; closing hymn; and then
We all disperse. I do not know a soul
In this great city; not a soul knows me,
But those most dear to me are never far,
Are bound up in the web of living prayer.
I step out to another day, new made.
A tiny flake of bread, a taste of wine;
So little, yet so much: eternal God
Who gives Himself within the things He made.
That broken bread, pressed down into my palm:
So light: yet all the gold of earth and all
The works of man would never tip the scale.
If this were all I had, it is enough.

***

Dr. Holly Ordway is a poet, academic, and Christian apologist. She is the chair of the Department of Apologetics and director of the MA in Cultural Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (revised and expanded 2nd ed. forthcoming 2014, Ignatius Press). Her work focuses on imaginative and literary apologetics, with special attention to C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.