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Malcolm Guite: Poet’s Corner

10 June 2022

Inspired by George Herbert, Malcolm Guite offers a sonnet to mark Trinity Sunday

I HAVE been away for the feast of the Ascension, away for the Jubilee, away for Pentecost, but I shall, at last, be home for Trinity Sunday. And, on Trinity Sunday, I can make up for lost time; for in some ways it gathers into itself all the other times and seasons: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, bringing us the Son who reveals to us who our Father is; Holy Week and Easter, showing the full extent of his love; Pentecost, releasing the power and comfort of the Spirit — all these are involved and rolled together in the feast of the Trinity.

I rather liked it in the old dispensation when all the Sundays from then on until the next Advent were Sundays after Trinity; for even all those Sundays were not enough to fathom that mystery of the Three-in-One.

On Trinity Sunday, I notice that, quite often, incumbents shy away from preaching, and leave it to the curate or the visiting preacher. Is it modest hesitancy before the awesome mystery? fear of falling into some obscure heresy they half-remember from church history? dismay in the face of an incomprehensible Athanasian Creed? Whatever the reason, there’s a certain reluctance to preach on this day, or to go much beyond St Patrick’s approach of holding up a shamrock and hoping for the best.

I was determined, therefore, to include a poem, “Trinity Sunday”, in my sequence of sonnets for the Christian year, if only to offer all those hard-pressed curates a get-out-of-jail card: the chance to substitute a sonnet for a sermon.

Of course, George Herbert got there before me, with his lovely little poem “Trinitie Sunday”, its three verses, each of three lines, gently acknowledging the part played by the whole Trinity in his life: formed by the Father, redeemed by the Son, sanctified by the Spirit; and concluding with his own trinities — of heart, mouth, and hands; faith, hope, and charity; running, rising, and resting with God.

Trinitie Sunday

Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
And hast redeem’d me through thy bloud,
And sanctifi’d me to do good;

Purge all my sinnes done heretofore:
For I confesse my heavie score,
And I will strive to sinne no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charitie;
That I may runne, rise, rest with thee.

So, I borrowed Herbert’s title, and also his little hint that the image of God in us is also Trinitarian, for my own poem:

Trinity Sunday

In the Beginning, not in time or space,
But in the quick before both space and time,
In Life, in Love, in co-inherent Grace,
In three in one and one in three, in rhyme,
In music, in the whole creation story,
In His own image, His imagination,
The Triune Poet makes us for His glory,
And makes us each the other’s inspiration.
He calls us out of darkness, chaos, chance,
To improvise a music of our own,
To sing the chord that calls us to the dance,
Three notes resounding from a single tone,
To sing the End in whom we all begin;
Our God beyond, beside us, and within.

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