Liturgy translation prophecy


Discernment and wobbly knees

There are liminal spaces
cramped and soggy
like old tomato sandwiches
you wouldn't give to next door's dog.
There are spaces where I crouch
and have to keep my head down.
And spaces
where God can dance,
weak at the knees with love.


Dull winter blew open my soul.
I heard the eucalypt speak in native tongue
and felt her unconscious persuasion.
I saw her arms raised in joyful surrender
without need for instruction on how to grow tall,
how to flower or consummate love.

I observed she gathered her own, roots entwined,
each tree bent and whispering to the cluster,
welcoming the newcomer — a conifer,
rigid and trimmed, lonely as a city.
I saw the eucalypt commune with her desert-heart,
and plead for space as an unruly convict or

a desperate refugee; loud and green,
sure as the wind to speak from the grave.

Christ on the margins

He upturns the table
They upturn the soapbox
He reads the raw underside
They read the soapie side
He speaks of love and vulnerability
They speak of law and certainty
He is crucified
__They are crassified.


Dominus vobiscum
__The Lord be with you
Et cum spiritu tuo
__And with your spirit

Two blessings
one resurrected
one still in the tomb

We are not pre-Vatican

We think whole
body and soul
in whom God dwells

We anoint you saying
__And also with you

We are not parrots in a pew trembling
__And with your spirit

unless we mean
that the body is dead
in the body of Christ 

Marlene MarburgMarlene Marburg is a spiritual director and PhD research student with the Melbourne College of Divinity. Her area of interest is the relationship between poetry and spiritual direction. 

Topic tags: Marlene Marburg, new australian poems



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Existing comments

"Prophecy" says it all!
Save us from the restorationists!

john frawley | 01 November 2011  

Thank you Marlene, for your insight. We are not parrots in a pew, and this Christian refuses to use the "new" words.Yes, it is hard to be a dissident right there at the Lord's table, but I have to keep reminding myself that the Holy Spirit was there at Vatican II, and that the real dissidents are the scribes and pharisees who are trying to dismantle Vatican II.

Peter Downie | 01 November 2011  

Marlene is a gifted illustrator. In a few words she paints fantastic images.
And when I gaze at those images more closely
I can hear them telling me something.

Uncle Pat | 01 November 2011  

Thank You Marlene! If these stones could speak!!

Frances | 01 November 2011  

Thanks Marlene Marburg. your selected poems interesting.

The last one specifically reminded me of the pain i witnessed last Sunday among fellow parishioners notably the old while we went through the new English mass translation holding laminated copies of the changes to guide us through.

One thing that i noticed was that the old wording is so internalized among parishioners that even while holding the new translations, a good number of them still responded the old way.

My personal opinion here is that this reaction to the mass changes talks volume on the effectiveness of the way in which catechism is taught vis a vis understanding liturgy.
It goes beyond the simplicity of mere words in a missal book.

Hillan Nzioka | 01 November 2011  

It would be interesting to read responses post Vatican II. I suspect there was, as there is today, much angst experienced in our community mingled with the enthusiastic embrace of others as the new words became our mass.

Catherine | 01 November 2011  

Thanks Marlene, you announce the living truth with such clarity and courageous leadership.

Rachel | 01 November 2011  

'Crassified' is a great word. Congratulations on making that one up.

Penelope | 01 November 2011  

Dear Uncle Pat,
I look forward to your comments but wonder each time, whose uncle are you?

Paul | 01 November 2011  

Poetry is such a wonderful vehicle to come to the crux of ideas in such an open ended way.
The Lord be with you also! Comforting to know there are others out there!

Helen Richardson | 01 November 2011  

Dear Marlene
This was one with which I too thought I would struggle.
Until I reflected on how I habitually greet my dearest fellow pilgrims (by word or sign).


God in me greets God in you.
Across every distance of culture, temperament and circumstance spirit speaks to spirit.
I do wonder sometimes if God may be smiling gently at the barriers we seem to want to erect...
Just a thought...

Another is that only half of my fellow pilgrims are really struggling at 7am mass.The rest are Italian speaking and for them there have been no changes in their own language, to which the English now corresponds more closely...

margaret | 01 November 2011  

Prophecy... brilliant. Great work Marlene. Thankyou!

Michael Elphick | 02 November 2011  

I am body and spirit combined. That's what makes me human. Jesus came for humanity, not the disembodied. The imposing of dodgy theology in our liturgy is very upsetting to me.Can we have our bodies back?

Mary-Anne Johnson | 02 November 2011  

Dear Paul,
I write the following only because you asked whose uncle am I.
I am uncle to twenty nieces and 8 nephews, the children of my four brothers and three sisters.
When I write I have them in mind as my imaginary readers.
Therefore I try to be clear, concise and charitable in what I write, as I hope I am on those rare occasions when we do meet. All of them live interstate, ie outside NSW.
If you have perceived an avuncular tone in what I write my modus scribendi will have been exposed.

Uncle Pat | 02 November 2011  


The phrase 'and with your spirit' is addressed to the priest alone in recognition of his acting in the person of Christ for the sake of the mass.

The Italians, Spaniards, French, and Germans had no trouble translating 'et cum spiritu tuo' from the Latin, hence they have not required a revision. Are they guilty of dodgy theology?

Zac Alstin | 02 November 2011  

Thank you Marlene for each of these poems, you are obviously attune to clumsy attempts at theology, let alone language.
With the whole transliteration of the prayers of the Mass, there may have been room to enhance some of the 1972 wording but to throw out the english and use dictionary definitions of words without awareness of language context is ludicrous. We laugh heartily at some of the stumbles of tourists following the same
process. I refuse to offer blessing to the disembodied priest and ignore the person God created. Other languages have different context and do not intend such offence. We all know not to wish friends a gay celebration or to believe that an atomic explosion is merely a burst of small particles.
Language does matter and I for one refuse to pray what I do not believe.

Michelle Sydney | 02 November 2011  

Zac And Paul uses it of the community (eg Philippians 4:23) as well as to an individual (2 Timothy 4:22). So, according to your reasoning, Paul acknowledges that the priestly community of the baptised acts in the person of Christ (good!) and not only the ordained person. To limit the expression to only the clergy is dodgy theology and smells of clericalism. An Australian bishop has written giving at least three possible interpretations of the phrase, including, if I remember correctly, it referring to the priest's guardian angel. If the Romans get things wrong should we follow suit?

Steve | 03 November 2011  

Sorry Marlene. I just can't identify with "Prophecy". I'm making an effort to acquire the new verbal habits needed for the Mass responses. This does not make me a parrot!

Dennis | 04 November 2011  


The issue you raise with regard to Paul may be an entirely valid one, but it is not relevant to the comments here lamenting the change from 'and also with you' to 'and with your spirit' in the context of the mass.

ie. Mary-Anne implied that it was dodgy theology because it put the spirit ahead of the whole person. But you are saying it is dodgy theology because it is not used more broadly.

There may be *no* reason not to use it more generally outside the mass as Paul does in his letters. I simply do not know.

But it is self-evident that the role of the priest in the mass is vastly different from the role of the laity. St John Chrysostom wrote:

"By this cry, you are reminded that he who stands at the altar does nothing, and that the gifts that repose there are not the merits of a man; but that the grace of the Holy Spirit is present and, descending on all, accomplishes this mysterious sacrifice. We indeed see a man, but it is God who acts through him. Nothing human takes place at this holy altar."

Zac Alstin | 04 November 2011  

Zac It is dodgy theology. Anyway, what does it mean? You seem to narrow it down to a "role". Considering there were no "priests" in the New Testament Church it's very hard to take your argument seriously. I do not believe the role of the priest is vastly different. We, all the baptised, are the priestly body of Christ. What, exactly, is meant by "spirit" in this context.? Does the presider have a "spirit" that the rest of the baptised do not have? Paul would surely say "No"! Does the phrase refer to the Holy Spirit? Or the presider's own spirit? Does it refer to his guardian angel? Does it refer to the "spirit" of leadership?

Steve | 04 November 2011  

The comments made to date happily show that reasonable debate is alive and well. For my part, I don't profess to understand many of the theological arguments around the issue. I just know how I feel in the presence of God, and that is good. But the change reminds me of the pre-Vatican 2 times when the God I was taught about was a God of fear and punishment. I have since experienced a God of love who cares for and about me and has bestowed great blessings on me, even through the hard lessons of life. These recent changes feel and smell like they come from the God of fear. I will not deny the loving God I now know, so reject the authoritarian imposition.

David | 04 November 2011  

Steve, are you a Catholic?
I don't mind whether you are or not, of course, but Catholicism is almost unique in trusting the 'living tradition' and the teaching of the church over our individual attempts at interpreting scripture.

The church does and teaches many things that were not done or taught in the early church. The question is whether we give the church the benefit of the doubt and study its teachings, or give preeminence to our own interpretation of either scripture or church history.

Eg. If there were no priests in the early church, should we therefore not have priests today? You can form your own opinion on this for sure, but I don't see any point in being a Catholic and not doing our utmost to first understand why the church *does* have priests, and has had them for so long.

Zac Alstin | 05 November 2011  

Steve: "I do not believe the role of the priest is vastly different." Vatican II taught that the priesthood of the ordained and the priesthood of the baptized are both a sharing in the one priesthood of Christ, but that the ordained priesthood differs from the baptismal priesthood both in degree and essence.

Jeffrey Pinyan | 07 November 2011  

Marlene ,I am sure your beautiful poetry is more likely to lead a new soul to Christ than all the new laminated translations .Which I am led to believe cost $ 40 each to produce & distribute .Does your stomach turn as does mine?.What would such funds do for the marginalised ? I doubt if the likes of Pell would even care as he enjoys his private luxury apartment included in the recently opened $32 million "Domus Australia "facility in Rome .Supposedly built also for the comfort of the unfortunate Australian catholics who can afford to & need a pilgrimage to that city to deepen their faith .Regards John

John Kersh | 08 November 2011  

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