Monday, 9 January 2023

The Holy Family. 'Prayer to Creatures' and 'Bruges, - Caryll Houselander.



Wishing everyone a blessed and peaceful New Year 2023.

Today, Sunday, 8th January, is the Feast-day of ‘The Holy Family’.


‘Holy Family with the Lamb’ (1504) - Raphael (1483-1520)

Museo del Prado (Spain)


A PRAYER TO CREATURES (Caryll Houselander, 1901-1954)

I beseech you,

be gentle,

Be gentle to the men and the women

and to the children,

who hold their life in their hands,

like a flower.


They have all gathered

the flower of life,

and because it is gathered

it is fading,

it fades swiftly,

like the loveliness of a candle

that is lit.


Dying and flowering

are one thing,

but men, not knowing this,

weep for the dead,

be gentle to them.


Each is intent

upon the flower of his own life.

For each it is the secret

of his particular love,

the joy of it and the sorrow,

flesh and blood is consumed in it,

like the wax of a candle,

consumed by the flame.


Some lift the blossom up,

like the torch in the runner’s hand,

and shower its petals down

like stars in the darkness.

Some are folded upon it:

devout, like the child on the bus

home from the one day in the country,

her white face closed in sleep

and a smile of ecstasy

burning quietly through the closed

sad eyes.

Her soul

and her thin body

fending the faint blue light of harebells,

brought from the green woods

to fade in the city.


Men and women

and children,


in endless procession

and are forgotten,

we are among them.


Come let us pray

that the seed of our life’s flowering,

falls not upon rock

falls not upon thorns

or the hard frost

or among weeds.

But that today’s sorrow,

prepare the world’s soil

and sift for sowing tomorrow.


I beseech you

be gentle.

Because, when the flame is lit,

the wax is consumed quickly.

When the leaf flowers,

swift is the withering.

But if the seed falls

into the heart in fallow,

the passing loveliness,

the flicker of light,

will remain in the dark night

to flower with eternal life.


Caryll Houselander (1901 -1954).   ‘The Flowering Tree’, first published 1945 by Sheed and Ward, London; (this edition published 1973).


The Foreword to her book states: -   ‘ These rhythms are not intended to be poems in a new form, but simply thoughts, falling naturally into the beat of the rhythm, which is all around us and which becomes both audible and visible in the seasons of the year, the procession of day and night and the liturgical cycle; they are arranged so that the rhythm and stress shall be easily seen, as well as thought, by people who are unused to reading verse, the theme which recurs in them is the flowering of Christ in man.’


Bruges  (Caryll Houselander 1901-1954)



Oh, my Beloved!

Nest of the Pelican.


Here are still waters,

and bells

weaving my thoughts

with the solemn joy

of the carillon.

Here are birds

in dark orderly flocks

crossing the steeple.

Here is the Host.

nourishing Bread,

of a devout people.


All-mothering Christ,

patient Love!

Water and birds and bells,

and flowering steeple,

shrine of the Gentle God,

intimate here with man.


Oh, Bruges!

Oh, my Beloved!

Nest of the Pelican!


When I am far from here,


little city of bells,

keep my heart

in the Shrine

with the Sacrament.


When I have gone,

keep my heart,

in the peace of the still water.

And my desire Heavenward,

growing up from the Altar,

with your flowering spires.


When I am far from here


little city of love,

keep my heart

in the measured beauty

of bells,

ringing their carillon

in the grey steeple.


Keep my heart in the shrine

with the Sacrament.

In communion

with your gentle,

devout people.


Caryll Houselander, ‘The Flowering Tree’, as above.


The Basilica of the Holy Blood, Bruges. 

The beautiful city of Bruges in Belgium is so well maintained it is said that strolling through town is like walking through a gallery of European architecture. But it’s not only the buildings which bring it fame. The city is home to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, said to hold one of the most venerated relics in all of Christianity – a cloth with the blood of Jesus. 

Interior of Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Belgium ( Cezary Wojtkowski / Adobe Stock) 

 In 1150, it was reported that the Count of Flanders returned to the city from the 2nd Crusade, with a relic of St Basil, a phial that is said to hold a scrap of cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ.

This chapel holds the relic of the blood of Christ and is lit by magnificent stained-glass windows.

Behind the altar, which has alabaster figures depicting the Last Supper, is a mural of the Trinity and scenes relating to the Holy Blood and Passion of Jesus. The relic is kept in a small glass cylinder and stored in a spectacular silver tabernacle.


(Ack. ‘Ancient Origins’ Ed.Whelan. 2.11.20)


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