In the calendar of the church, we remember today Thomas Traherne, one of the trio of great English poets and lyricists including John Donne and George Herbert. Traherne, Donne, and Herbert, each in their own way, expressed their profound awareness of the depths of God intertwined in all of creation. They articulated the Christian faith in the Middle Ages, which had a bewildering a maze of conflicting opinions about the meaning of life, not unlike today.
Traherne was born in 1637, the son of a humble shoemaker. He studied at Oxford, from where he earned three degrees, and was ordained priest in 1660. He died at age 37. Traherne’s poetry went unpublished and unknown until it was found in manuscript form in a London bookseller’s stall at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Using startling images and seemingly contradictory metaphors, Traherne expressed the cohabitation of the sacred and what is not called sacred, all of which is to be claimed. Why? Because of God’s reclaiming creation in the birth and life of God’s Son, Jesus. Through the Incarnation, where God assumed our humanity in Jesus, our humanity is not something to be escaped from or denied. Our humanity is to be claimed, reverenced, and enjoyed. Traherne wrote, “You never enjoy the world aright, till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars.” Our humanity gives us access to participate in the life of God. “Your enjoyment of the world is never right, till every morning you awake in heaven: see yourself in your Father’s palace; and look upon the skies, the earth, and the air as celestial joys… as if you were among the angels.”
Blessed Thomas Traherne, whom we remember today.
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