On the Glad and Glorious Resurrection of Christ (2)

Angels, blow your trumpets! Seraphim ring out and sing

Jubilate, jubilate you happy heavenly choir!

Sun and stars, shine and dance before your conquering hero!

Mountain and hill, cliff and crag, leap in glad rejoicing!

You most blessed people, who have won salvation,

praise, honour, thank, and lift on high

the one who rose and raises you from death to Heaven’s choir.

His resurrection restores to you the innocence of Paradise.

Shall sin’s might overpower the Almighty

who is Himself eternity? No, sin must submit.

Christ’s sea of righteousness puts out, not merely sparks, but the whole fire.

The long longed-for saviour has destroyed all horrors.

What will the World, Death, Hell or Devil wrest from a Christian?

They are disturbed, destroyed: the Saviour reigns in heaven.

On The Glad and Glorious Resurrection of Christ

Earth could not hold the one whose mouth

once spoke her into being. How could there be decay

while the Spirit of the Highest nurtures Life?

How could the Sun’s Source cool the sun’s heat?

Through rays of light from sun’s split centre

the Prince of Life emerges from the realm of Death.

His mere breath can blow away great Atlas.

His might prevails through all the earth.

What is the death of one small mouse to you,

strong Lion, who overcame the Dragon and the Tyger,

the hosts of Sin and Hell? You lay down in the grave

from where we find, not death, but life.

Your rising opened up my not-yet-opened grave.

You brought to mortals, immortality.

The Last of the Seven Wonder-Words

The Seventh: The Wounded Side

My Saviour, can even your most holy heart be wounded?

Ah! It becomes for all the world and me

the spring of life, so gently and love-filled the blood flows out.

Oh, that my mouth were honored to receive that love.

Even in death it flows and does not wane,

its warmth not wrung from it by death’s last chill.

In His death, it has escaped mortality.

Oh, that I could hide myself within his heart.

My heart, lie down and live within His Life.

Though Life has died, it only died to give

true immortality. Oh, fill the wounds

with love, praise, thanks, unending honour,

loyalty a thousand-fold, and worship.

In faith, bow down and never cease to kiss. 

The Sixth of the Seven Wonder Words

The Sixth: The Conversion of the Bystanders 

And so, it is fulfilled: the work has now borne fruit.  

Diamond-hard hearts are softened by his blood;

the Holy Spirit’s magnet attracts iron minds;

the sharp Crown of Thorns draws fresh repentance.

We see Him on the cross, believe Him now enthroned

in high divinity just like the Father.

He is Eternal God. Though deathly pale,

appearing as a worm, he is the Son of God.

O Miracle of faith! To cancel curse with blessing,

to seek in the Forsaken One true refuge,

life out of death, comfort for the comfortless

and hope of help from him who underneath his yoke

himself is languishing.  God has ordained  

that He, by suffering all, saves us from all.

The Fifth of the Seven Wonder-Words

The Fifth: The Graves Opening

We must open because we are unlocked

by the World-Redeemer’s death, which is our key.

Resurrection, from within the grave, prepares for victory,

and makes of Death itself the greatest mockery:

it has shot itself with its own arrow.

Death ate itself to death on Life—oh, such a trick!

We, companions of His victory, willingly release

the pawn entrusted to us for a time.

Up, up, you sleepers! Help us rejoice!

The Prince of Life has triumphed; celebration has begun.

Follow the All-Conquering Hero—as in suffering,

so now in glory—to adorn the splendor of his victory.

On Resurrection Day, our mouths will open,

as will the ocean’s throat, and you will rise. 

The Fourth of the Seven Wonder-Words

The Fourth: The Rocks Split

Yes, even were we diamond, we would crack and break.

With never-before-felt fear, a shock, a flash

drives through me, and my hard armor cracks in two.

The sound announces Christ’s death to the world:

He, the True Rock, whom the Romans pierce

brings Heaven’s Honey, Wonder-Wound’s water

and fights for you, rock-strong, with Death and Devil

who take their fierce revenge against His innocence.

What hard hearts must you mortals have!

Were you sired by a snake, suckled by a tiger?

In that case, we would incline to mercy.

Shock reveals the alphabet of heartache

written in dread and haste. Ah, learn from me

how the heart splits with love, remorse, sorrow and thirst.

The Third of the Seven Wonder-Words

The Third: The Earthquake

What’s this! I should not merely tremble but explode,

and pour out my heart’s core in sympathy.

I should convulse and shudder in the tumult

of the wind’s groaning as it vaults up from the caverns.

The storm-sword should pierce my heart and soul.

Mountains hide the tempest of wondrous agony

as deepest cliffs conceal the highest eagle-aerie

while Death steals in to murder life.

The word that gave me life, breath that created me,

my soul and source, is dying. Should I not, terrified,

express my agony and sorrow? This quaking is my outcry:

God loves and suffers; dies in every corner of the earth.

And you, who are also of the earth, quake with fear!

The treachery of your sin has now killed Life.

The Second of The Seven Wonder-Words

The Second: The Tearing of the Temple Veil

Why should I hide the Holy of Holies any longer,

now that it’s laid bare before all the world?  

The heart of the Holiest burns fiercely with desire   

to reveal itself, to show God’s will.

God’s own blood will not cease flowing       

until, mingled with water, it’s all spilled out.  

Before this flood the glory of the Mercy Seat retreats.

See: here the mind’s plan, there the work fulfilled!

The divine mystery, curtained in darkness    

in metaphors of patriarchs and prophets,      

steps from the shadows under the Sun’s true clarity.

Its breaking-forth has also broken me;           

it tears away all veils of falsehood, reveals the blood

of holy Christ, and the pain of true repentance.

As Holy Week begins

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. During Lent, three of us poets—Joanne Epp, Sarah Klassen and Sally Ito—decided to translate the poetry of 17th century Austrian poet, Catharina Regina Von Greiffenberg (1633-1694) from German to English. We selected a sonnet series she wrote for Easter: Die Sieben/ In dem Tod Christi geschehene/ Zeichen oder Wunder-Worte (The Seven Signs or Wonder-Words that Occurred at the Death of Christ).

We began our Lenten journey of translation by meeting at Sarah Klassen’s home on Thursday, March 27, the day after Ash Wednesday. We had all ordered the Holzinger German edition of Geistliche Sonnette, Lieder und Gedichte, a collection of Greiffenberg’s poetry first published in 1662. Sarah had selected Die Sieben for us to consider translating for Lent because this was a set of sonnets specifically written for Easter and would be appropriate for translating this time of year. We agreed to meet every Thursday during Lent and work our way through the seven sonnets with an aim to one day publishing them in a book or magazine.

Then came the pandemic.

One by one as things began to close or shut down, we were forced to figure out how we could continue our work without our weekly meetings. We switched over to meeting on Messenger video chat around the time we began translating Sonnet No. 5. At no time did we abandon the idea of giving up our translating—in fact, translating became something even more important to us. It gave us a meaningful and structured way of approaching the coming days of anxiety and idleness that lay ahead. It provided us with sustenance—the bread of Catharina’s devotion fed our minds and souls as we marveled at and puzzled over her syntactical jumps and turns-of-phrase, her ecstatic and exuberant expressions of conviction and praise, her playful and paradoxical leaps with language.

Die Sieben is a collection of sonnets that meditate on the seven wondrous events that occurred during the Crucifixion, from the darkening of the sun to the conversion of the bystanders, as told in St. Matthew’s account of the Passion (Matt. 27:51-54). Each sonnet speaks in the voice of the wonder itself, except for the seventh, which speaks in the poet’s own voice.

We hope you enjoy the fruit of our translations of these sonnets during this unusually fraught and difficult Holy Week of 2020.

The Seven Signs or Wonder-words that occurred at the death of Christ

The First: The Sun Darkening

Because the Soul- and Angel-Sun, clear light of heaven,

the very God-self radiance, shrouds itself in cloud,

it’s only fitting my sorrowing beams must also hide.

Who would not, when God suffers, suffer too?

They are unworthy of my rays who view Him undisturbed.

This darkness-terror wakens a new Mercy-Sun,

whose heat and flash my ardor and favor cannot match.

No foggy air nor cloud can interrupt that shining.

Ah, I simply cannot watch the Source of my life die,

or hear the noble mouth that spoke me into being, sigh.

I’d rather, for this Light of Light, choose my own dimming.

Oh, you blind people, see the gruesome horror of your sin

whose dark iniquity will darken God’s illumination.

Out of extreme extremity shines out the sun of your salvation.