The gathered glories

Malcolm Guite’s collection of poems, Sounding the Seasons, includes short sonnets for the Christian year. As All Saints’ Day approaches, I am reading his poems for the day. “The gathered glories” is especially provocative. It reads:

Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards,
Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,
It glances from the eyes, kindles the words
Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright
With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,
The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.
Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing,
He weaves their threads into the web of being.
They stand beside us even as we grieve,
The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,
Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above
The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,
To triumph where all saints are known and named;
The gathered glories of his wounded love.

“The gathered glories,” Sounding the Seasons, p. 58.

What I love is the tension Guite creates between my tradition’s custom of remembering the physically dead and the broader Christian concerns for those who are, in a number of ways, dead to the world. The “gibbet and the grave” conjures an image of one on the verge of death and one already dead. We remember not just those in the grave but those who, by Satan’s cruel hand and our shunning and shaming, stand at the edge of the grave.

Guite invites us, along with this week’s reading from Ephesians, to have the eyes of our heart widened, so that we may recall all the saints, in life and in death, not just those we’ve known.

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