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“Between the essence and the descent
Falls the shadow.”
—T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

“. . . All things proceed to a joyful consummation.”
—T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

The candles lit, the altar boys
Assume their seats. The smoke ascends.
The incense, in procession, tries
To lift our prayers. Its climbing lends
Assistance to the paltry praise
With which offenders make amends.

The crucifer with graceful poise
Hoists up the cross. The choir blends
With organ’s breath. All voices rise.
The thurifer in reverence bends
To God who, from on high, surveys
The fallen hearts of those he tends.

The people kneel and raise the voice
Of common prayer. The priest extends
The bread and wine of sacrifice.
We elevate our hearts, and sense
Impending Pentecostal days,
Expectant with exuberance.

—Cynthia Erlandson