For the past few years as a student, Advent has coincided with the busiest time of the semester. It has generally been an at least slightly stressful rush to finish papers and assignments and prepare for exams. This year was no different.
But I found that praying with poetry was an effective and incredibly beautiful way for me to enter into the Advent season. I’ve been using “Waiting on the Word,” an Advent anthology compiled by (of course) Malcolm Guite, my favourite poet.
This past week I have praying with his poems in response to the ‘O’ Antiphons. I was particularly moved by his poem “O Rex Gentium,” that brings together, in an interesting way, what I had been studying this term. I took courses on theological anthropology (how we understand creation and humanity’s relationship to God as Creator), eschatology (how we understand the ‘end times’) and early Christian history (the birth of the Christian churches). These themes are reflected in his evocative description of Christ, the King of the Peoples/Nations.
I leave this poem as a prelude to the Nativity, which we will celebrate in just a few hours.
O Rex Gentium
O King of our desire whom we despise,
King of the nations never on the throne,
Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone,
Rejected joiner, making many one.
You have no form or beauty for our eyes,
A King who comes to give away his crown,
A King within our rags of flesh and bone.
We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise,
For we ourselves are found in you alone.
Come to us now and find in us your throne,
O King within, the child within the clay,
O hidden King who shapes us in the play
Of all creation. Shape us for the day
Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.
– Malcolm Guite