Category Archives: poetry

The Most Common Occurrence

by Howard Hain

 

Christ lives in the Eucharistic Prayer.

He listens carefully.

The Father listens too.

We listen with Them.

The Holy Spirit speaks.

He speaks a great silence.

He listens to the listeners.

We collectively hear.

God.

Three Persons.

His Entire People.

All Creation.

The Sound of One Breathing.

The Sound of Life.

Communion.

Amen.

 

(Jan/4/18)

Still Life with Nativity

by Howard Hain

 

Can’t keep it neat

Bunched-up cloth

Shifting sand

An avalanche of gifts

Those toward the outside move the most

The trough is fixed in place

The world turns, the Cross stands still” *

Manger, manger, what happened to you?

Sprouted roots

Began life as a tree

…..A table

……….A sawhorse

……………A wagon wheel

Dusty bumpy road

Excitement of a coming feast

Not quite yet

To and fro

Which place is home?

Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem

The land of Cana

A wedding toast

Now a wooden throne

Plenty of wine to go around

The world turns, the Cross stands still” *

Manger, manger, what happened to you?

Sprouted roots

Began life as a tree


 

* this line is a loose paraphrase of the Carthusian motto: “Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis” (The Cross Stands Firm, While The World Turns)

Communion with Saints

by Howard Hain

 

A man named Paul lives in my home.

He’s an excellent house guest.

He never imposes.

He’s never and always alone.

My daughter and I talk of him often.

He brings wisdom to our kitchen table.

I’m not exactly sure when he moved in.

But it wasn’t so long ago.

Before and with him there are others.

Theresa, Francis, Bruno, John…just to name a few.

But Paul for some reason never seems to leave.

The others, they kind of come and go.

Paul on the other hand always hangs around.

But then again, I could say the same about the rest.

Is it cliché to say it’s a mystery?


 

Mary’s Mother

by Howard Hain
durer

Albrecht Durer, “Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”, ca. 1519 (The Met)

Christmas is a time for grandmothers.

They bake and cook and decorate. Their homes become mini North Poles, diplomatic outposts of Santa’s Castle.

At its core, Christmas is of course all about Jesus. All about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. All about the Holy Family.

The Holy Family is an extended family though. And it doesn’t stop at grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, or even cousins and distant cousins.

Just ask Saints Joachim and Anne, Zechariah and Elizabeth, or John the Baptist—not to mention all the unknown relatives whom the child Jesus surely encountered throughout His Galilean days. Ask any one of them about the far-reaching ripple effects of family grace.

Those touched by Jesus have a tendency to appear bigger than life.

Look at Santa Claus.

Most of us are aware that he is really Saint Nick.

But do we stop to wonder who Mrs. Claus really is?

I think she’s Saint Anne.

After all, Mrs. Claus is seen as everyone’s grandmother, especially when it comes to holiday cheer. But when it comes to truly celebrating the birth of Jesus, it is through Saint Anne that we approach the gates of Christ’s Nativity.

Mary’s Mother holds a special key. She is first among grandmas, first among those who pinch chubby cheeks, who pass along one more extra sugary treat.

———

Saint Anne help us. Speak to us. Show us how to be grand parents to all those around us, especially the little ones. Stir up the spirit of Advent. Bake away the holiday blues. Cook up a dish of Christmas love that only your hearth can serve.

———

Come one, come all, to the home of Saint Anne. Come with me to Grandma’s house for a holiday visit. Taste and see. Enter her kitchen, where the hot chocolate can always fit a little more whipped cream, where you hear the constant refrain: “eat…eat…eat…”

At Grandma’s your plate is never empty.

Her table is continually set.

She always sees Jesus as having just been born.

She is always wrapping Him up tightly in swaddling clothes.

It is simply grand.

To Grandma, Jesus is always an innocent child.

And she can’t help but see Him deep within both you and me.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com


Web Link: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Albrecht Durer, “Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”, ca. 1519

 

Little Drummer Boys and Girls

by Howard Hain

Yesterday I witnessed a “dress” rehearsal for a live nativity. The cast was made up of first and second graders, and the audience was mostly composed of residents of a retirement home for religious sisters, Franciscans. It was spectacular.

Last week I was at Radio City Music Hall to watch the Rockettes in their “Christmas Spectacular”. It was quite a production.

Sitting in the dark this morning I cannot help but contrast the two.

I also cannot help but relate to the seven-year old who played the part of The Little Drummer Boy.

As that child walked so slowly toward the foot of the altar, where the rehearsal was being staged, I saw my vocation in an entirely different light.

The children were all singing their hearts out, and many of the eighty and ninety year-old sisters were mouthing the words. The boy with the drum didn’t utter a sound. He just kept walking, slowly, extremely slowly toward the altar, every once in a while ever so slightly pretending to tap two tiny sticks upon a toy drum. He was beautifully awkward.

There was no greater spectacle on earth at that very moment. Shall I dare to say, no greater event that heaven or earth has ever known?

For a child was born. We were all being born.

———

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.*



Little Drummer Boy was composed by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone in 1958.


Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

 

A Man Named John

by Howard Hain

A Man Named John

There is a man named John. He was born and raised to be good. He believes that if he is a good person when he dies he will enter heaven. So while here on earth he prepares for death. The result is John lives a simple life. His home is simple. His occupation is not one many would find out of the ordinary. Yet John spends much of his time quietly bettering himself. In short, John is a good man.

It has been a long process. And John knows that his time is coming to an end. He also knows well that the end of his life is not in his own hands. He tells himself again and again “all one can do is prepare.” And prepare is what John has done since birth: He spent his youth lassoing his passions, his middle years harnessing his ego and pride, and his later years in private reflection upon the afterlife—an afterlife in which he hopes and prays he will be permitted to share. But it is his recent days that have been the most difficult. He battles to stop himself from thinking that he has been good and is one of the few who deserves to enter paradise. So each morning, before he rises and meets the day, John prays in bed. He prays in these final days, the days that matter most, for humility. He asks God for nothing but to remain within His glorious will.

Morning after morning John continues to pray. With each day he senses that his preparation is coming closer to an end. He feels his body slipping away and his spirit being freed. He senses he is on the verge of being born into salvation.

One morning as John is praying in bed the door is thrust open. A man and a woman walk into the room. The woman immediately applies a large metal clamp to John’s head. She holds John in place while the man begins to rip John’s body apart. Piece by piece, limb by limb, the man cuts away. The man and woman chat about their weekends as if John were never alive. Piece by piece John is pulled apart. Oblivious to John’s screams, indifferent to his fear, ignorant of his pain, in denial of his life, the man continues to tear away, as if John never breathed nor was ever born—as if dismantling an unwanted couch that won’t fit through the door.

Now what if I told you that John was never born, never lived, never prepared for the afterlife, never ripped into pieces and pulled from his bed. What if I told you that instead of being born John was conceived, instead of living he developed, instead of preparing for the afterlife he prepared for this life? What if I told you that instead of being ripped into pieces and pulled from his bed he was ripped into pieces and torn from the womb?



 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com