Can You Drink the Cup?

by | Oct 15, 2015 | Catholic Writing, Spirituality

“A poem,” Robert Frost wrote, “begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.”

In our preaching course, professor Bob VerEecke, SJ encourages us future-priests to break from the boring ease of staid prose.  His assignment for this Sunday challenged us to preach an original poem about the Gospel.  Mine read like a dry-bones outline to an essay; less lump-in-throat, more lump-in-pillow.

The writer Jean Cocteau notes that a poet doesn’t invent — he listens.  Fortunately, our class has a few keen listeners in it.  Brother Scott Surrency, O.F.M. Cap., wrote a poem, “Can you drink the cup?” which stings and soothes in equal measure.  Finer than any essay, it echoes Jesus’ simple (j/k, not simple) question about Christian discipleship:

Can you drink the cup?
Drink, not survey or analyze,
ponder or scrutinize –
from a distance.
But drink – imbibe, ingest,
take into you so that it becomes a piece of your inmost self.
And not with cautious sips
that barely moisten your lips,
but with audacious drafts
that spill down your chin and onto your chest.
(Forget decorum – reserve would give offense.)

Can you drink the cup?
The cup of rejection and opposition,
betrayal and regret.
Like vinegar and gall,
pungent and tart,
making you wince and recoil.
But not only that – for the cup is deceptively deep –
there are hopes and joys in there, too,
like thrilling champagne with bubbles
that tickle your nose on New Year’s Eve,
and fleeting moments of almost – almost – sheer ecstasy
that last as long as an eye-blink, or a champagne bubble,
but mysteriously satisfy and sustain.

Can you drink the cup?
Yes, you — with your insecurities,
visible and invisible.
You with the doubts that nibble around the edges
and the ones that devour in one great big gulp.
You with your impetuous starts and youth-like bursts of love and devotion.
You with your giving up too soon – or too late – and being tyrannically hard on yourself.
You with your Yes, but’s and I’m sorry’s – again.
Yes, you – but with my grace.

Can you drink the cup?

Can I drink the cup?


Scott Surrency, O.F.M. Cap. (2015)

Published with permission of the author.

Title Image, “Pray” by Manoj Damodaran, is available on Flickr.