April is National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate poetry and its ability to impact how we understand the world. Started by the Academy of American Poets, this national celebration aims to draw attention of the art of poetry and commemorate the past and present poetry that’s influenced our culture.
It’s probably safe to say that for most Catholics, the Bible contains some of the most influential poetry ever written. The Bible includes five books of poetry known as the “poetical books”: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. These books are labeled as poetry because of their poetic elements such as stanzas and image-evoking language.
Here at Cross Catholic, we love returning to the poetical books. In fact, one of our morning Bible study groups recently finished reading the entire Bible in just under a year! Our goal was to read it all in one year’s time, and we were able to finish even sooner thanks to the dedication of our Bible study leader and our faithful participants. We listened to the words read aloud on an audio recording as we followed along in our Bibles, and some of the most beautiful passages to hear aloud were from the poetical books.
In the spirit of National Poetry Month—and our desire to celebrate the power of God’s word expressed so vibrantly in the Bible—below are several of our favorite passages from the poetical books.
Verses from God’s response to Job
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.