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Becoming Human

In 1999 I produced my poetry book Becoming Human which explored the movements of the Christian Eucharist in a new democratic South Africa, and in the context where I served as an Anglican priest. Over the next weeks and months I shall be sharing some of my readings of the poems from Becoming Human. Viv Stacey had written the very helpful summary for the back cover of the book. I thought that I would keep a column for notes and echoes that might appear in the poems, and for the sketches that appear in the book.



What is this enchanting music? This shaft of light

softening and gilding our shuddering world.

You play the mountains like an organist of light

mixing your moods and tones

so that rocks and clouds interweave

and solids and vapour take human form.

Your beauty transfixes me –

Are you of one mind only?

Do other watchers see you too?

For in this dream world

I am pleasure filled

with incessant ripples of you.

How easily peace speaks itself here,

already the chains like gossamer disappear

and I sense the breath of other souls,

their roads not dissimilar.

I could brother and sister you

into this ring that seeds the earth

but see, the light wheels in a second

becoming headlamps in a frenzy,

selfish for a road that is theirs.

Will these Easter bells ring crisp on the air

a carillon that sings under the skin?

You would have me look up, look high,

to follow the line of each object

to its inner and outer resonance

through coils of expansive glory

ringing with the pleasure of you

to know you at every point of the universe

to feel the tenderness that is within

and far beyond

for all that is earth, human and weak

cries glory in the softness of rain and sky.          

Bob Commin   


The Eucharist

Jesus took bread and gave thanks

The Eucharist is the great thanksgiving, for in it is the offering of the whole of life to God, through art, music, ritual, tradition, culture, material possessions and the offering of self, for consecration, for blessing and transformation, ‘that heaven and earth might be filled with the glory of God’.

The past is made present through the collective memory of the community, through reflection and the narrative of Scripture. The present is represented in the bread and wine of the community and the messianic future is assured through the resurrected One who breaks into the present from the future. Jesus is the new being. The Eucharist is, therefore, the still point in time when the past, present and the future become one and God is present through the power of the Creative Spirit in a movement that recreates and redirects humankind.

The Eucharist begins with the Gloria. It is the great act of Praise by the community of the Church. It emerges from the Early Church. It is a Song of Praise to the Trinitarian Being of God.

This is what the poet Rainer Maria Rilke says about Praise.

The Poet Speaks of Praising

Oh speak, poet, what do you?  
–I praise.

But the monstrosities and the murderous days,

how do you endure them, how do you take them?                                            –I praise.

But the anonymous, the nameless grays,

how, poet, do you still invoke them?  
–I praise.

What right have you, in all displays,

in very mask, to be genuine?

–I praise.

And that the stillness and the turbulent sprays

know you like star and storm?

–because I praise.

December, 1921

(from Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties, ed. and trans. by John J. L. Mood, Norton, 1975)

As part of the movement of the Eucharist there is the sermon. People often raise their eye-brows at sermons. They often sigh and think well here we go, and wait patiently for the end. I wanted this poetry sermon to come as a surprise. So it comes as a Rap – a very popular form of poetry amongst young people.

When I performed it at a College morning service I had to pause for the ovations. I am sure that they were less concerned with the message and more engaged by the form in which it was presented, and the thought of my daring to do it.

Sermon Wrap

Sermon Rrap

Cool cat, on your mat

Gotta lotta speak

Gotta lotta squeak

On the line, off the block

With the gun, you gottta run, you gotta run

You can do this, so go, show, go

This race is about grace,

So face Lucifer in high-tech boots

The tough guy who smokes cheroots

Runs for fun, spikes your type

Thugs, drugs, is all his hype.

So face the truth,

See yourself

See yourself

You’re no creep, even is sleep

You begat, you belong

To the family tree

You and me and the Holy Three

So breathe deep,

Breathe deep

Raise your feet

You’re a fitness freak.

Greats will tire in the race

Use your praying space

The super energy store

For life evermore

Be the angel to the poor

Raise your chin

Raise your face

You’re a cool person

Full of grace

Lucifer can’t keep pace

He’s a disgrace!

You have a place!

Sketch by Jane Dean

Sermon Wrap is based on the text of Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us

Sketch by Jane Dean

sketch by Jane Dean

Cover by Jane Dean, design by Richard Commin


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