Volume > Issue > Song of God’s Body

Song of God’s Body

A POEM

By Oliver Barres | May 1984

Who is this alive from heaven, hidden

Beneath the Church’s bread,

Who comes in sacramental presence bid­den

By ancient words,

More swift in love than the flight of birds

Homing high overhead?

 

Who is this so humbly clad, concealing

His reign of splendor within

A little thing of taste and touch, reveal­ing

No beam of light

Unbearable to weakened sight

Since Adam’s primal sin?

This is One whose word is instant being:

“Come, fire, trees, and men,”

And bright bees swarm the orchard night for seeing.

His word is warm

To win from nothing or transform

Reality again.

 

Desert manna day by day descending

Prefigures better fare:

God’s house of bread receives the gift transcending

Man’s common need

For earthly aid with heaven’s deed,

A Child for children’s care.

 

Hold Him gently, gracious maid, and ponder

What angel words have brought;

Lift Him slowly, aged seer, and wonder

How souls will draw

New life from an Infant laid in straw

By heaven’s designing thought.

 

Desert place apart, the silence broken

By crowds He will not shun,

Who hear in strife the kingdom’s con­cord spoken

And feed their fill,

White sheep on a Galilean hill

Green from the April sun.

Bewildered by the loaves from nowhere, shaken

As a midnight tempest raves,

The twelve toil at the oars, feeling for­saken

On a windy sea,

Until His body, weightless, free,

Comes walking on the waves.

 

Capharnaum streets fill up with faces ea­ger

For a bread-dispensing king.

He answers, “Do not work for food so meager

As to perish in use.”

But care and children sing excuse

To seek another thing.

“Unless you eat My flesh. . . .” Is this the raving

Of a lunatic in love

With strange ideas, or the Father’s plan for saving

A wretched race,

Blind but made to see His face

In lasting realms above?

 

Many follow Him no more, believing

Nothing of things never dreamed.

“Bread come down from heaven! What deceiving

Of foolish minds!”

And so the road from Cana winds

Where enemies have schemed.

 

It winds by troubled pools, where para­lytics

Lie waiting to be healed,

By cloven words of legalistic critics,

Confessing rocks.

Deep hidden holes of Herod the fox

And many a whitening field.

 

Thirsty, it seeks the next poor village fountain,

Then down to the depths of need,

Up the wild heights of the marvelous mountain.

Where dazzling white —

In closed conference with prophets of light —

He speaks of redemption’s deed.

 

Jerusalem, the prophets’ city, thriving

Yet soon thrown down in shame,

Receive your wagonloads of wheat arriv­ing

Through many gates,

Million-grained, mill-ground weights

Bound for the baker’s flame.

 

Starlit dawn sees oven fires starting;

The vintner tells his toll:

This pascal feast will be the final parting

Of table friends

Whose Master breaks the bread that ends

Starvation of the soul.

 

“This is My Body, given for you.” Hold­ing

This thing, no longer a thing,

Inner substance changed to Life infold­ing

Our lesser life,

He comes to conquer thwarting strife

And close salvation’s ring.

 

“Do this in commemoration of Me.” Re­peating

This memorial act

Prolongs the sacrifice once offered, meeting

All ages of men,

Until the Lord shall come again

And show the Faith a fact.

 

His crossing change — the moment of consecration,

When priestly human breath

Renews the celebrating Priest’s oblation.

But what avails

The print of Caesar’s iron nails

If Christ be not risen from death?

 

Who is this inspired Stranger, walking

Beside His friends in flight,

Unrecognized on the road to Emmaus, talking

Of prophets plain?

They see when He breaks the bread again

And disappears from sight.

 

O Jesus, joy of hearts forever burning,

Your body glorified

Ascended from the Mount of Olives, yearning

To send us Him

Whose love surrounds the seraphim:

For this You lived and died.

 

And now all heaven sings in exaltation

To see unleavened bread

Become Your Being, fit for adoration:

“Come, touch the Word

And taste the Truth your ears have heard

And join your risen Head.”

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