Missa in tempore belli

1. Kyrie
Lord, have mercy on us,
if You are for us, who can be against us?
Christ, have mercy on us,
especially if our hours are numbered.
Lord, have mercy on us,
especially in days of war
Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

2. Gloria
Gloria in excelsis Deo
et in terra pax
hominibus bonae voluntatis.
Glory to God in the highest — wondrous are Your works!
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth — more war.
Glory to God in the highest — be not troubled, soldier, nightingales!
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth — bodies flail,
arms flung wide. People’s will is evil.
Thus it has been and always will.
We praise you, soldier, slender of neck, sharp of throat.
We bless you, soldier, who on bayonet raise up the foe,
We lift on high your long dying groan.
God is cruel at times, but still better than earthly thrones.
We bless you, mister General,
we glorify you, mister President,
you who have robbed us blind,
did the Lord trample down death with death for your kind?
“Yes, sir!” says the General, hand to visor.
He’s taken an oath to submit to his own dear tsar.
But his own dear tsar has flown up on a branch and cries, “Cocka-doodle-doo!”
He has a comb of gold, and a log in each eye, too.
Be glorified in the highest, God, behold not what’s going on down here.
The bullet’s a fool, the bayonet a good boy, one hit — and no more boy to fear.
With the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father.
Amen.
Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris.
Amen.

3. Credo
I believe that God is God alone,
He is Lord of his own.
He is the peace created by Him,
He is the light by whom the world is illumined,
And when battle flags fly, He is their Wind.
Out of black concrete holes the rockets fly.
The unseen world attacks the world in sight.
I believe that in Christ this God was made flesh,
and was crucified on the cross in sculpture and on canvas,
outside of time and yet within time, outside of space and yet on a hill,
between two thieves, a kind of earth-to-earth.
But if life is a sea, Christ stands at the helm
and steers the ship of the universe.
A ship with hundreds of thousands of cannons on board.
I doubt it can dock in the heavenly port.
Christ said, “I bring not peace, but the sword,
and with it, the chance to lie dead in the earth,
but when the reveille plays on the archangel’s trump,
the graves will open right up.
And the skeletons will arise and before our eyes
they’ll grow muscle and then a cover of skin,
and they’ll tread the battlefield in delirium
always, forever and ever, for weather of weathers,
for trenches of trenches, for tranches of tranches,
where once they lay side by side, feeding the lice.
And the lice grew as big as typhoidal cows on the kolhoz,
and the tanks rumbled as good as armored tractors down the rows.”

4. Sanctus
Holy, holy, holy, the Lord, God of might!
In other words — God of the heavenly hosts, or of the heavenly lights!
You went out with us to war, you seized the foe by the throat!
You filled earth and heaven with Your glory like a jug with wine.
You let the earth turn upside down.
Hosannah in the highest! We’ll see you around in the next world.

5. Benedictus
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord in a glorious
and frightening time, a time of troubles, a time of war,
blessed are those who walk row by row, each one shall be a hero,
salvos three and into the ground they go.
And once again — Hosannah in the highest! Hosannah on high!
The further into battle, the fewer heroes left behind.

6. Agnus
Lamb of God, who has freed all people from deadly snares,
Lamb of God, who has borne the immeasurable weight of our sins,
Lamb of God, who has counted and pardoned every fall,
Lamb of God, have mercy on us all.
Lamb of God, Son of the Father, Light from true Light,
Lamb of God, Savior of constellations, planets and stars in the sky,
Lamb of God, who crown your iconostasis,
Lamb of God, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, little lamb lain on the altar,
a time of war has come. Cinders rise from the earth.
Grant us peace, we are sated with eternal fire.
They say, “We’re starting a war again.”
Dona nobis pacem. Amen.

[Mr. Khersonsky wrote this poem in 2014 and re-posted it on Facebook after Russia’s 2022 invasion]

RECENT COLUMNS

Archives

The Catholic Thing Daily Email

Receive columns each morning about events in the Church and the world.

  • Join the 50k+ subscribers who receive The Catholic Thing's daily email

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

 Join the 50k+ subscribers who receive The Catholic Thing's daily email

The Catholic Thing Daily Email

Receive columns each morning about events in the Church and the world.

  • Join the 50k+ subscribers who receive The Catholic Thing's daily email

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

 Join the 50k+ subscribers who receive The Catholic Thing's daily email