Forty Steps Towards The One Who Fills The Cup


(This is one of Tom’s Lenten poems from 1995 and we introduce it with a reflection by Sr. Catherine O’Sullivan who used it faithfully year after year when Lent came round.)

As background to why and how it has become a treasure in my life, we got it first in ADBI for Lent 1995.  Maybe it was because I was settling into a ‘new life’ having ‘crossed over’ from Togher (southside) to The Glen (northside) in 1994 and I badly needed a guide, a map, an image for this new journey to what has turned out to be ‘the rest of my life’.  So I learned it off bit by bit, using the days and weeks of Lent for each line, four from Ash Wednesday to the following Saturday, then 6 days Mon/Sat for 6 weeks – Sunday being the rest day. The rhythm of each line has a walking beat, and the image in each line expresses the journey.

What a joy to awake to the dawn chorus and that special early morning smell and isn’t there something very final about “Kick the tent pegs loose”, don’t wake anyone as you leave, greet with a kiss the threshold gods and you’re on your way…. for sustenance on the journey you scoop up 3 draughts and pocket 2 crusts.  Then you follow your long shadow as you head westwards.  Ask your ancestors to be with you as you watch for the dangers that lurk on your way. A marching song will keep your stride going as your pace matches your pulse. And you fling regards to heaven with the sheer joy of living. (week 2 ends)

Because you are now well into your journey you need to steady the cringing soul as you shoulder the tilt of the moon.   You have a nibble of your and taking a rest in the cypress shade you soak up the smile of the earth – the lure of stability carries no fear for you…..

You are moving on, sharing a blessing with the stones and encouraged by the presence of the loved one’s name.  Let the hidden stream encourage  your sagging stride as you weary of the path you have chosen and curb the impatience that arises from your heart.

You are ready now for week 5 so you brood on the chaos within. Encouraged by the caress of the evening and the setting sun as you watch for the moon and the star you dally to choose a flower.  The end of the journey is almost here – you sense the strangeness of it so you quicken the pace for the night.. If any doubts linger you repel them as you kindle the vision that warms – the vision that has been brooding in your heart all along the road.  You set your face towards the inn, as you embrace the waiting guest … “a guest like yourself, we are all guests” ( so Tom said when I asked him why ‘guest” and not ‘host”)