Sunday, May 30, 2010

For Thoughts Like These on Trinity Sunday

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. I have no doubt that my friend Wu Li, SJ was exposed to the Athanasian Creed. Because Wu could not have written the orthodox poems below without having understood the Mystery of the Triune God. Wu wasn't just parroting something he had heard from his Jesuit catechists either.

Like all great poets, Wu parsed the words of the creed and reduced them down in a manner that leaves us better able to understand the Mystery of God in Three Persons. I know it helps me anyway. And if I haven't yet convinced you that Wu Li is a master poet, then let me step up to the plate again and share with you two more poems from his series Singing of the Source and Course of Holy Church. Be prepared for a grand-slam home run.

A quick note before I share the poems with you. The last time I posted a poem by Wu, I used a stock portrait of a wise-looking, elderly Chinese man. Jonathan Chaves, the translator of these beautiful verses, sent me the portrait above noting, "there appears to be one authentic portrait of Wu Li, anonymous and probably going back to his lifetime." So the image you see above is the actual likeness of Wu Li, for all the world to see.

And now to Wu's thoughts on the Trinity,

In the very highest place, deep within a mansion

dwells a family perfectly united, loving and devoted.

Beyond past, beyond present, the three Persons are one;

penetrating heaven, penetrating earth,
            the one family is three!

Those who are known as "daily improving"
            to praise the Spirit are worthy;

the world possesses a wondrous flower
            fit to protect the holy.

On painted walls, year after year,
            we contemplate their images:

pure incense rises in orderly spirals
            to where their noses inhale.

                        *  *  *

"The Supreme Ultimate contains three"—
            muddled words indeed!

In fact, they start with primal energy
            to speak of original chaos.

From books of the past, we learned of old
           of sincerity, wisdom, and goodness;

the mysterious meaning now we understand
          of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Persons distinct: close at hand, consider
          the flame within the mirror;

the Essence is whole: far off, please note
          the wheel that graces the sky.

The Holy Name has been revealed,
          His authority conferred;

throughout the world in this human realm,
          the sound of the teaching supreme!