My first encounter with Malcolm Guite came when he visited Grove City College years ago. A poet-priest-musician, my heart echoed with his song. Though I did not get up to the chapel to see him face-to-face, multiple friends of the family brought me excerpts of his work. Years later, we now own multiple collections authored or collected by Guite, including The Word in the Wilderness: A Poem a Day for Lent and Easter, Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year, and Waiting on the Word: A poem a day for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. The latter has been our focus for the month of December.
One constant during the busy days that regularly lead up to Christmas day – especially this year with basketball practices and games, final exams at college, tea parties, and unforeseen trips to the optometrist – has been our faithfulness to read from Guite’s book at the dinner table each night. I used to be adamant that EVERYONE needed to be at the table to move forward with any family reading, but reality has taught me to move forward with those who are present; the others will reap the benefits of the days they are able to share in our readings.
Last night’s reading for December 17th especially delighted my soul. Guite’s sonnet, O Sapientia, draws upon the seven Advent prayers known as the “O Antiphons.” What so stood out to me in his discussion of the poem after the reading itself was the power of calling on Christ without ever mentioning his name, using “[t]he mysterious titles and emblems given him from the pages of the Old Testament” (Guite 67). Guite goes on to suggest that perhaps “[b]y calling on Christ using each of these seven several gifts and prophecies we learn afresh the meaning of a perhaps too familiar name” (67). For me, as Guite noted, it is an opportunity to see Christ afresh and remember the deep yearning of my heart that drew me to him in the first place.
I strongly suggest you follow the link to Guite’s site to read his comments on the poem and hear him read the poem himself!
O Sapientia – Malcolm Guite
I cannot think unless I have been thought, Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken. I cannot teach except as I am taught, Or break the bread except as I am broken. O Mind behind the mind through which I seek, O Light within the light by which I see, O Word beneath the words with which I speak, O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me, O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me, O Memory of time, reminding me, My Ground of Being, always grounding me, My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me, Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring, Come to me now, disguised as everything. Source: Waiting on the Word: A poem a day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany by Malcolm Guite, Canterbury Press (2015)