Dec 24, 2013

Posted by in New poetry | 8 Comments

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.

Share this post...
  1. Very touching and insightful! Much of what I read that passes for solid, poetic utterance seems to me to be incoherent garbage, to put it bluntly. But this reads and feels genuine, especially the “wisp of bread, and then a sip of wine”. I feel as though I was given a wonderful gift in the body of this poem, Holly (Dr. Ordway?). Thank you! I will coming back to this blog often for more blue jean nourishment! Happy New Year to you and yours!

  2. Holly Ordway says:

    Thanks! It’s always nice to find that a poem has made a connection, & that a particular image works (the wisp of bread). Happy New Year to you as well!

  3. Excellent. As one who, like you, has been Eucharistically nourished at St Paul’s, this is especially poignant. Thanks.

    • Holly Ordway says:

      Thank you, Robert!

    • Holly, just now randomly reading the July 2013 Chronicle article The New Theist and seeing your name mid-way as a leading apologist inspired by Tolkein and Dunn — that’s enough for me. Found your blog and this poem. Yours is an important work and I wish you all the best — and write to thank you.

  4. Dear Holly,
    Would you share with me more about your being pulled toward Catholic Church? My entire family is catholic, but I am not attending this church for over 20 years. There are so many apologists such as Michael Brown, William Lane Craig, James White, and many others whom I greatly respect, and I wonder what could be so convincing in your transformation that could sound plausible even to them. Alex