The Corner

Poetry

ALTAR

The altar of the great cathedral

brings indoors something of the majesty

of the open sky, as the architect

lifts the eyes of all from the altar

to the wide beauty and precision

of the ceiling, jeweler’s art in the sky,

a world, in its refinement and artistry,

of museums as much as of worship.

 

This is a hallowed ground far different

from the wilderness altar of Moses,

his burnt offering at the high place

at Gibeon. It is our place to be

grateful for different gifts at different times.

 

From a heritage of thousands of years,

of the written word, saints, orthodoxies;

of priests, interpreters, wars, revisions,

and renewals; worship wears very

different vestments from the rough cloth of

religion hewn from the desert, from the

wilderness, where orthodoxies are tribal,

and living by cohesion essential for

survival of both group and individual.

 

Weather permitting, the greater gift lies

with a cross lashed together from sticks,

deep in the forest, upon an altar

simple as a fallen log, brushed clean;

its moment of clarity, silence, and

prayer, through the tall trees, where great

shafts of light are the majesty of Heaven;

and the hand of man, an afterthought.

 

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