A Study of Religion

Some years ago at a difficult time, I wrote these words.
The first part is compiled directly from the Oxford English Dictionary, beginning with the word ‘religion’, finding its definition, and repeating that in turn with each keyword I found in the definition.
The second part is a short verse inspired by this, and the third, an introspection leading from it.
I present it as it may (or may not) help those who feel that faith comes easy to some, and that others do not share the same struggles.

I

Religion is the human recognition of,
and response to,
a living being,
higher than man,
possessing superhuman capability and powers;

Having a rightful claim and title
to possess and control the universe
and all creatures in it,
including mankind.

Having an absolute claim, in right and title,
to the reverence,
respect,
adoration,
and devotion of mankind;

Having power over nature and human fortunes,
known by mankind as GOD,
the Supreme Being,
inviolable,
morally and spiritually perfect.
whole, holy.

To this Supremacy,
this Divinity,
there is no other higher power or prior cause.

The universe proceeds from GOD alone,
GOD is its great creator and its king;
created from GOD’s own self by GOD’s own will,
sustained by GOD’s supreme and sole command,
copied from no model,
from no ‘other’ substance drawn,
placed in no ‘space outside’, apart from GOD.

II

Grown within the Earth-womb,
mankind, the child of GOD,
beloved yet poorly loving, lives by grace
herein is love: not that we love GOD
but that GOD loved us first,
we that give him pain
(for we do love, but hurt the one we love,
denying Him in blank and close-walled fear).

True religion
is this recognition
and its due response.

III

I am a Christian.
I believe in GOD the Father Almighty,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord.
and in the Holy Spirit,
Three in One.

I have never seen a miracle,
I have never heard the voice of GOD,
I have never seen an angel,
a vision,
or a ghost,
except at such a time
and in such a need
that I suspect it was hallucination
or a dream.

I have never seen the certain hand of GOD
intervening in His universe.
I have not seen one certain answered prayer,
I have seen many seeming prayers in faith Unanswered.
I have seen Christians go sad to their grave
and wondered why.

My only answer is that of Peter,
‘Lord, to whom shall we go?
Yours are the words of eternal life.’
The unexamined life is not worth living ,
Socrates
wherever Truth may lead us we must go.
To fail to do so is self deceit
and death.

If truth leads to death
we lose only what we never had.
If truth leads to life
we have gained the whole universe
and our souls.

I am not one who has seen and believed,
but one who has not seen, and yet believes.

Heaven and Earth may fade and flee,
First born light in gloom decline,
But while GOD and I shall be,
I am his, and he is mine!1’
                                         J. M. Muller

Julian’s 1st Showing – part 2

Introduction>

Chapter 7

“How our Lady, beholdyng the gretenes of hir Maker, thowte
hirselfe leste; and of the great droppys of blode renning from
under the garland; and how the most joy to man is that God
most hie and mightie is holyest and curtesiest. – Seventh chapter.”

To teach me this, our Lord God showed our Lady Saint Mary
also beholding the high wisdom and truth of her Maker,
so great, so high,
so mighty, and so good.

This great nobility seen in God
filled her with reverend awe,
seeing herself so little,
so low, so simple, so poor,
compared to her Lord God,
that she was filled with meekness.
By this she was filled with grace
and all manner of virtues,
surpassing all creatures.

As I said before,
all the time He showed this
I saw, in spiritual sight,
the continuing, profuse bleeding of His head.
Great drops of blood fell down
from under the garland like pellots
as though they came from the veins.

In coming out it was brown red,
for the blood was full and thick,
and in spreading abroad it was bright red,
and when it came to the brows it vanished.
This bleeding continued
’till many things were seen and understood.

It was clear and lifelike, full and undisguised,
profuse as drops of water falling from the eves,
dropping so thickly after heavy rain,
that no man may number them.
They were round as scales of herring
spreading on the forehead.
This showing was quick, lively, hideous,
dreadful, sweet and lovely.

Of all I saw this was most comforting,
that our Lord God, so reverent and awesome,
is so homely and courteous.
This filled me with most delight
and security of soul.

To help understand this
He showed this open example.

The most worship a solemn King or great Lord
may do a poor servant
is to be homely with him,
particularly if he shows it himself,
with full, true meaning and with glad cheer,
both privately and before all.

Then this poor creature thinks:
Ah, what more might this noble Lord do
in worship and joy to me
than to show me that am so simple
this marvelous homeliness?

Truly it gives me more joy and happiness
than if he gave me great gifts
but were himself aloof in manner.
This bodily example was so generous
that man’s heart might be ravished,
almost forgetting himself
in the joy of that great humility.

So it is between our Lord Jesus and us,
for truly it is the highest joy that can be,
as I see it,
that He that is highest and mightiest,
noblest and worthiest,
is lowest and meekest,
homeliest and most courteous.

And truly, genuinely, this marvelous joy
shall be shown us all when we see Him.

And our Lord wishes that we desire and believe,
rejoice and delight,
comforting and solacing ourselves
with His grace and help,
until we really see it.

For the fullest joy we shall have,
is, in my sight,
the marvelous courtesy and homeliness of our Father,
our maker, in our Lord Jesus Christ,
our brother and our Saviour.

But in this lifetime,
none may know this marvelous homeliness
except by our Lord’s special showing,
or by great plentiful grace
given inwardly by the Holy Spirit.

But faith, hope and love deserve the reward;
so grace is certain;
for our life is founded in faith,
in hope, and in love.

This showing, made to whoever God will,
teaches the same, plainly and openly,
declared with many matters of our faith
which are worshipfull to know.

And when the showing, given once, is past and hidden,
then, by the Holy Spirit’s grace,
faith holds until our life’s end.

Thus the showing is none other than our faith,
not less, nor more,
as may be seen as our Lord’s unchanging word
until it comes to the end.

Chapter 8

“A recapitulation of that is seid; and how it was shewid to hir generally for all. Eighth chapter.”

And as long as I saw this sight,
the profuse bleeding of the head,
I could not cease saying,
“Benedicite, Domine.”

In this showing I understood six things.

First,
the tokens of the blessed passion
and profuse shedding of His precious blood.

Second,
the Maiden, His precious Mother.

Third,
the blissfull Godhead
that ever was, is, and ever shall be,
almighty, all wisdom, all love.

Fourth,
all that He has made:
Heaven and earth and all that is made,
is vast – large, fair and good,
but it showed as so little in my sight
because I saw it in the presence of Him,
the maker of all things.
To a soul that sees the maker of all,
all that is made seems very little.

Fifth,
He that made all things for love;
by that same love it is kept
and shall be without end.

Sixth,
God is everything that is good, as I see it,
and the goodness everything has
is Him.

All these our Lord showed me in this first showing
with time and space to behold it.
The bodily sight faded,
the spiritual sight stayed in my understanding.
I remained in reverent awe, rejoicing in what I saw,
desiring, if it were His will,
and as much as I dared,
to see more,
or see the same for a longer time .

In all this I was greatly stirred,
in love for my fellow Christians,
that they might see and know that which I saw,
for I wished it to be comfort to them.
For this sight was shown for all.

Than I said to them that were about me,
“Today is doomsday with me”;
expecting to die,
and in my understanding,
the day a man dies,
he is judged for eternity.

I said this wanting them to love God better,
to remind them that this life is short,
as they might see in my example,
for I expected to die.
That was strange to me,
and somewhat sad,
as I thought this vision was for the living.

I say this personally, to all my fellow Christians,
for in our Lord God’s spiritual showing
I have learnt that He intends this.
I pray you all for God’s sake,
and counsel you for your own profit,
do not behold the wretch to whom this vision came,
but mightily, wisely, and meekly behold God,
who, in courteous love and endless goodness,
wishes it shown generally
to comfort us all.

For God’s wishes you to take it
with great joy and happiness
as if Jesus had shown it to you all.

Chapter 9

“Of the mekenes of this woman kepeing hir alway in the feith of Holy Church; and how he that lovyth his evyn Cristen for God lovith all thing. Ninth Chapter.”

This showing does me no good unless I love God better.
And inasmuch as you love God better,
it is more value to you than to me.

I do not speak to the wise, for the wise know it well,
but I say it to you that are simple
for your ease and comfort.
We are all one in comfort.

Truly I was not shown that God loved me better
than the least soul in grace.
I am sure there are many who have had no showing,
or sight other than Holy Church’s teaching,
that love God better than I.

If I look only to myself I am truly nothing;
but if I look to all I am one in hope and charity
with all my fellow Christians.

For in this unity stands the life of all mankind
that shall be saved.
For God is all that is good in my sight.

God has made all that is made
and loves all that He has made;
and he that loves all his fellow Christians,
for God’s sake,
loves all that is.

For in mankind that shall be saved,
all is understood as saying 
all that is made,
and also the Maker of all;
for God is in man,
and God is in all.

And I hope by God’s grace, that he that sees this,
shall be truly taught,
and strongly comforted when he needs comfort

I speak of those that shall be saved,
for at this time God showed me no other.

But in everything I believe as Holy Church believes,
and preaches and teaches.

The faith of Holy Church, was always in my sight.
I hope, by God’s grace, I kept with all my will,
in use and custom, forever willing and meaning,
to receive nothing that might be contrary to it.

With this intent I beheld this showing
with all my diligence, for in all its blessedness
I saw it at one with God’s meaning.

All this was shown three ways,
in my bodily sight,
by word formed in my mind,
and by spiritual sight.

But I cannot, may not, show the spiritual sight
as openly and fully as I would wish.

But I trust our Lord God Almighty,
that He shall in His goodness,
and for your love,
make you take it more spiritually,
more sweetly, than I can or may tell it.

This ends Dame Julian’s first showing.
I shall post her second in the first week of April.

Introduction>

Julian’s 1st Showing – part 1

Introduction>

Many of Julians ‘showings’, or visions, were short, but this first is longer and I have divided it. The second part will be at the beginning of March.

(The ‘Julian’ tab is no longer accessible as I considerably reworked those pages which I had previously condensed.)

Chapter 4

“Here begynnith the first revelation of the pretious crownyng of Criste etc. in the first chapter, and how God fullfilleth the herrte with most joy, and of His greate meekenesse; and how the syght of the passion of Criste is sufficient strength ageyn all temptations of the fends, and of the gret excellency and mekenesse of the blissid Virgin Mary. The fourth chapter.”

In this moment suddenly
I saw the red blood trickle
from underneath the Garland,
as hot, and fresh, and plenteous,
as in His Passion when the thorns
pressed on His blessed head.

He who was both God and Man,
who suffered thus for me,
showed me this directly.
I knew, truly, mightily
and in that showing suddenly
the Trinity filled my heart.
I understood with greatest joy:
it shall be so in Heaven without end
to all that shall come there.

the Trinity is God:
God is Trinity;
the Trinity, our Maker, Keeper,
our everlasting love,
our everlasting joy and bliss,
in our Lord Jesus Christ.

In that First Showing, and in all:
wherever Jesus Christ appears,
I feel the blessed Trinity.

And with a mighty voice I cried,
said and meant for reverence
“Benedicite, Domine!”

I wondered and marvelled that He,
so reverend and awe-inspiring
would be so homely with me,
a sinful creature in wretched flesh.

Awe-inspiring: in the original the word used is “dredfull” but in Mediaeval English, dread implied awe rather than apprehensive fear.

This I took for my time of temptation,
for I thought God would have me tempted
by fiends before my death.

With this sight of the blessed passion,
with the Godhead I saw and understood,
knowing well it was strength enough for me,
yes, and to all creatures living,
against all fiends of Hell
and spiritual temptation.

Then He brought our blessed Lady to my mind.
I saw her ghostly, in bodily form,
a simple, meek maid,
young, and little waxen above a child,
in that stature she had
when she conceived with child.

And God showed me in part
the wisdom and truth of her soul.
I understood the reverence
with which she beheld her God, her maker,
marveling that He would be borne of her,
a simple creature of His making.

And this wisdom and truth,
knowing the greatness of her Maker
and the littleness of herself,
led her to say meekly to Gabriel,
“Lo, me, God’s hand-maid.”

In this I truly understood
that she is more than all that God has made
all else is beneath her
in worthiness and grace.
Above her, I could see,
nothing that is made
but the blessed manhood of Christ.

Chapter 5

“How God is to us everything that is gode, tenderly wrappand us; and all thing that is made, in regard to Almighty it is nothing; and how man hath no rest till he nowteth himselfe and all thing for the love of God. The fifth chapter.”

In this same time our Lord showed me
a spiritual sight of His homely love.
I saw He is to us all that is good,
and comfortable for us.

He is our clothing that wraps us in love,
embraces us and all encloses us
for tender love,
that He may never leave us.
I know He is all that is good to us.

In this He showed a little thing
the size of a hazel nut
in the palm of my hand,
round as a ball.

I looked at it, in the eye
of my understanding and thought,
What may this be?

The answer was all-inclusive:
It is all that is made.
I marvelled how it could last.
I thought it so little
it might suddenly fall to nothing.

And I was given to understand:
It lasts and always shall,
for God loves it;
so by God’s love everything has its being.

In this little thing I saw three properties:
God made it,
God loves it,
God keeps it.

But what my maker, my keeper,
and my lover, truly is
I cannot tell,
for till I am fully one with Him
I may never have full rest nor true bliss;
that is to say, till I am so joined to Him
that there is truly nothing made
between my God and me.

We need to know the littleness of creatures
and to count as nothing all things made,
so as to love and hold to God
that is unmade.

For this is why we are not all
in ease of heart and soul,
for we seek rest here in those things
that are so little,
in which there is no rest,
and do not know our God
who is almighty, all wise and all good;
for He is true rest.

God wishes to be known,
and likes us to find rest in Him.
For all that is less than Him
is less than enough for us.
This is why no soul has rest
till it sets at nothing all made things.

Whoever sets all aside for love,
to have Him that is all,
can only then have spiritual rest.

Our Lord God showed His full, great pleasure,
when a simple soul comes to Him
unadorned, plain and homely.

This is the kindred yearning of the soul
by the Holy Spirit’s touch,
as I understand this showing:
“God of Thy goodness, give me Thyself,
Thou art enough for me,
I may ask nothing that is less
that it may be my full worship to Thee.
If I ask anything less I remain wanting;
only in Thee do I have all.”

And these words are full and lovely to the soul,
touching, full, and close, to God’s will and goodness.
For His goodness includes all His creatures
and all His blessed works
surpassingly without end.

He is endlessly over all,
He has made us only for Himself
restored us by His blessed passion,
keeps us in His blessed love;
and all this by His goodness.

He is endlessly over all,
He has made us only for Himself
restored us by His blessed passion,
keeps us in His blessed love;
and all this by His goodness.

Introduction

Swirls in a Vast Depth

The universe seems to be made of fundamental particles –
photons, quarks, electrons-
but these in turn appear to be nodes,
points of action,
resonances in the vibrance
of a universal frame;
infinite resonating fields
whose interacting harmonies
we see as particles,
nodes of waveforms in the deep.

We cannnot pin down a single node,
but how can they be points of action
if the energy that drives them
pervades the whole cosmos?
They are, perhaps, not points of energy
but pointers to energy,
mere signposts,
eddies in a greater stream,
swirls in a dark, vast depth:
the whole cosmos.

Homo Sapiens Sapiens

Man, Wisely Wise –

    The right words, 
but not necessarily in the right gender.

The title comes with blessing and a curse,
somewhere along our way we learned
that we know that we know.

Knowledge for knowledge’s sake sets us apart;
it is in our species name:
Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
Homo Sapiens Sapiens has desire and power.
This world is where we live and breathe and are.

We have moved beyond merely sentient,
simply sensing the world,
to being sapient, knowing our place in it.
We have moved beyond merely sapient,
knowing our place,
to sapient sapient.
We have tasted the bitter-sweet fruit.
We know that we know.

Man did not mean male,
it was a species,
in which the male was husbandman,
from hus-bound-Man,
tied to humus, to soil,
our house and home.

Of course it became husband,
but an earlier term was wer-Man
‘male-Man’

The female was wif-Man, which became wife,
then, probably via wi’-Man, became wo-man,
woman.

And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’

…out of Man, not …out of man;
the gender word man was yet unformed

wo-Man meant female-Man
wer-Man meant male-Man.
The human gender term wer survives,
in the human male part of were-wolf.

‘male’ in male and female are unrelated

Female comes from Latin femella,
female-Man.
Male comes from Old French masle
from Latin masculus or malus, male-Man.
Man is the species word,
human regardless of gender,
as were he and she, which were once accents of the same word,
simply meaning a person.
Man is derived from Old English mann,
or earlier Proto-Indo-European mon or man.
Human comes from humus (soil).

Possibly the h at the beginning of human and he
caused a shift of use towards he 
for a person,
leaving she with no role.
so it came to be used for a woman.

If so, then for a time, he meant a person of either sex
while she was only used for women.
Gradually he was applied to men only,
she to women only.

Female stands alone,
It is not fe- prefixing male.
Its origin is in Latin,
coming from femina, or femella,
a female human.
Its use for other species came later.

Male comes from Old French masle
from Latin masculus, or malus,
a male human.

So male in each word is coincidence,
a 14th century spelling confusion,
of similar sounds with similar sense.

But -man in woman and in man
does share the same root:
the word for our species,
Man, any human person.
In Old English the word for male was wǣp or wer
which, with the species suffix mann,
became wǣp-mann, werman.

Werman shortened to man in or before the 13th century
We still use wǣp- or wer as man in were-wolf.
but the word served also as gender neutral
until the last century.
Old English for woman, female-Man,
was wīf-mann or wif.
Wif became wife
wīf-mann became wi’man, woman.
So, unlike female and male,
man and woman have the same root,
Man,
human regardless of gender.

Revelations of Love, Chapters 1-3

Julian’s introduction to what is to follow.

These first three chapters outline the whole book:

  • first, a summary of the chapters to follow (omitted for brevity).
  • second, how when younger, she prayed to share or understand more of Christ’s pains.
  • third, her  serious illness in 1373, in which, during receipt of the last rites, she received the ‘shewings’ or visions which occupy the rest of the book.

In fact she survived. The last record of her still living was in 1413.

What follows is far more than I originally intended. Two or three years ago I began a free verse précis of her book, promising completion in a few months, then a year. But I found such richness and compassion in her writing that the précis became a fuller translation and the timescale grew.

Although written in English it is that of the early middle ages. Spelling was elastic then, not only from writer to writer but within a writer’s own work, hence it is very much a translation into modern English. Fortunately I did not have to work from the original mediaeval alphabet or, worse, from handwritten originals. This has been done by far better writers than myself, particularly Georgia Ronan Crampton.

I have kept Julian’s chapter introductions in her Middle English wording in italic, but using our modern alphabet. Her book, as mentioned in an earlier post, was written in a dangerous and unforgiving age; a time of post- Black Death fear of heresy. The shewings should be read in order.

Revelations to one who could not read a letter. Anno Domini 1373.

A Particular of the Chapters, Of the tyme of these revelations, and how shee asked three petitions, and Of the sekenese opteyned of God be petition.

Chapter 1.

 A Particular of the Chapters. The first chapter, off the noumber of the Revelations particularly.

This is a Revelation of love that Jesus Christ, our endless bliss,
made in sixteen Showings or special Revelations.

I have omitted this chapter’s summary of her sixteen revelations as, in the light of the historical background in which they were written, they are better read in in order.

Chapter 2

The second chapter. Of the tyme of these revelations, and how shee asked three petitions.

These Revelations were shown to a simple unlettered creature in the year of our Lord 1373, the eighth day of May, which creature had desired previously, three gifts of God.

The first was to understand His passion.

The second was bodily sickness in youth at thirty years of age.

The third was to have God’s gift of three wounds.

As to the first gift,
I thought I had some feeling of Christ’s passion,
but desired more by God’s grace,
as though I were there with Mary Magdalen
and others that loved Christ;
desiring an actual sight
to know more of our Saviour’s physical pains,
our Lady’s compassion,
and of all His true lovers that saw them,
in that way I would be one of them
and suffer with Him.

I desired no other sight
nor showing of God
till my soul departed from my body,
so that by this showing alone
I should more truly understand Christ’s passion.

The second gift came to my mind with contrition,
freely desiring a sickness so deathly hard
that I might undergo all rites of Holy Church,
believing I was dying,
and that all that saw me might suppose the same,
for I would get no comfort from earthly life.

In this sickness I prayed to have
all manner of physical and spiritual pains
that I would feel if I were dying,
with all the dreads and tempests of the fiends,
except the outpassing of my soul.

By this I meant to be purged by God’s mercy,
afterward  to live more to His worship
because of that sickness;
and that it might speed my death,
for I desired to be soon with my God.

These two desires, the passion and the sickness,
I desired with a condition, saying,
“Lord, you know what I desire.
if it be Thy will, may I have it,
and if it be not Thy will,
good Lord, do not be displeased,
for I want nothing but Thy will.”

For the third gift, by the grace of God and the teaching of Holy Church,
I conceived a mighty desire to receive three wounds in my life:

the wound of full contrition,
the wound of kindred compassion,
and the wound of willfull longing for God.

And all this last petition I asked without any condition.

The first two desires passed from my mind,
but the third dwelt with me continually.

Chapter 3

Of the sekenese opteyned of God be petition. Third chapter.

When I was thirty and a half years old,
God sent me a bodily sickness
in which I lay three days and nights.
On the fourth I had rites of Holy Church
and did not expect to live till day;
but after this I languished
two days and two nights.

The third night I often thought I had passed,
as did they that were with me;
still young, I thought it great pity to die;
not for anything in earth
that might give me pleasure to live,
nor fear of any pain,
for I trusted in God in His mercy.

But to have lived to have loved God better
and for a longer time,
that I might have more knowledge and love
of God in the bliss of Heaven.

For I thought,
the time I had lived here was too slight,
too short to deserve that endless bliss.
It seemed nothing.

I thought,
“Good Lord, may the end of my life be Thy worship?”
And I understood by my reason,
by my feelings of pain,
that I should die,
and assented fully, with all the will of my heart,
to be at God’s mercy.

Thus I endured until day,
and by then my body was dead
with no feeling from the middle down.

Then I was stirred to be set upright,
and was leant back with help,
to have more freedom in my heart
to be at God’s will,
thinking on God while my life might last.

My curate was sent for to be at my end,
by the time he came my eyes were fixed
and I could not speak.

He set the cross before my face and said,
“I have brought the image
of thy maker and Saviour.
Look thereon and have comfort therewith.”

I thought I needed no comfort
for my eyes were set upward to Heaven
where by God’s mercy I trusted to come,
but I assented to set my eyes, if I could,
in the face of the Crucifix
and so I did,
thinking I might endure longer
looking ahead than right up.

After this my sight began to fail,
the chamber dark as night about me
except in the image of the Cross
which I saw by its own light,
I knew not how.

All beside the Cross was ugly to me
as if greatly occupied with fiends.

The rest of my body began to die.
I had scarcely any feeling,
with shortness of wind;
and believed I had truly died.

And in this, suddenly, all my pain was taken from me,
I was as hale, and sound in body as ever before.

I marvelled at this sudden change,
I thought it was God’s secret work
and not of nature,
yet feeling this ease
I trusted no more in living.

This ease was no full ease to me,
for I would rather be delivered from this world.

Then came suddenly to my mind
that I should desire the second wound
of our Lord’s gracious gift,
that my body might be fullfilled
with mind and feeling of His blessed passion,
I wanted His pains my pains with compassion,
and afterward to belong to God.

I desired neither bodily sight nor showing of God,
but compassion,
as a kindred soul might have with our Lord Jesus,
who for love became a mortal man.
I desired to suffer with Him.

Julian’s visions follow approximately monthly, interspersed with other posts.

In the Beginning

In the beginning God,
who had no beginning,
created waves of darkness;
dark, vital waves of energy,
a vast outpouring constancy,
that streamed beyond all knowing,
powerful, steady, flowing.

His spirit brooding, moving,
stirred eddies in the darkness,
eddies around eddies,
round eddies around eddies,
which were and yet were not.
A sea of possibility,
potential and intensity,
chaotic, void and dark.

God, with no beginning,
created our beginning,
brooding on creation,
until the first conditions
were settled and were right.
God spoke, ‘Let there be light.’

Eddies spinning, lasting, shining,
light and dark in harmony,
light in darkest energy,
and time began.

Then –

In a new beginning,
God who is eternal
entered His creation.
He who is eternal, other,
entered space-time in Christ.
He who created time and space,
who is other than time, other than space,
energy pervading, streaming through creation,
whose spirit brooded over the waves,
in that Trinity revealed in Christ,
celebrated by shepherds,
wise men, kings,
came to a human birth,
to an earthly mother,
to us.

Now –

Near fourteen billion years since first creation,
four thousand years since Abraham,
two thousand plus since Christ,
we celebrate a feast of flesh and wine,
and giving of gifts as a sign
of the greatest gift.

We decorate our darkest hours
with thorn-bearing holly,
poisonous mistletoe,
and a tree.