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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Archangel Gabriel to the Men of St. John's Seminary - a Commencement Poem

Salve, brothers of this New Day,

In-shadowed in early silences before first light, Framed in Renaissance cloistered sight Vestiges of Paradise cloaked in failing light Palms and pines, rosemary and roses -- right Reminders strewn of Him who before you lay. Enter those Sienese walls of Catherine’s garden Where mirrored Sphinx of Pietas find Woman’s son offered, where tabernacled glories bind Fast bended knees seeking unfamiliar sound Of fiery words from Word aflame, where resound Ache and wonder through yawning vastness within. Before rising hymns of stained-glass sails. Shot with splendor through mysterious painted veils, Echoing heart-piercing shadows, secret radiances disclose Priests – by whose mysterious ministry angelic choirs propose That Silent Presence hastening to free with Love’s wound.

Here, under Byzantium sky, unfolds the battle for the hearts of men Waged in mind, paid in flesh, and fought to free from sin Those who have fallen yet strive to rise again New martyrs of that banquet blessed, broken, given, Blood amid palms and pines, rosemary and roses -- Charges forth the Lamb with His war arrayed forces. Will you too step into the arena of life and for life stand?

Not with shadows, nor mere flesh, to contend But against worldly powers and spiritual forces to defend:

When humiliated, stay unvanquished and fight, not yield;

When victorious, not on laurels sit lest for certain ruin;

Instead, for those littlest ones take courage wherein

To shield those unable themselves to shield; For holy humanity, for Heaven’s Queen, for your true homeland.

Citizens of Heaven, on that ground of truth which alone can bear The weight of your existence, as innumerable hosts process, As cherubim and seraphim with Spirit and Bride profess, As mysteries given on and under signs from above, As born anew on silent canticles in each humble act of Love That Bridegroom Who, by sacrifice blessed, broken stays No spirit, no myth, but enfleshed -- for those whose feet He baths. Call His Name on bended knee, a fellowship of lifted hearts breathing incensed air. As day and life run their course and close their story Renew again that oath that once you made in water To sail beyond sunsets to the shores of Our Father, To sing with her who magnifies Who is blessed, broken, given - To offer a paternal blessing not your own, yes, Anointed One, As priests in palms and pines, rosemary and roses. For even on the remotest horizon courses The eye of Him who at the sight of you, his son Will run with robes, and rings, and endless glory.

Dean Anthony Lilles, May 13, 2019


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