The Sacred in the Secular
Francis Webb’s Incarnational Poetry
Keywords:incarnation, modernism, the everyday, Catholic, Ignatius, journey
Francis Webb’s poetry places the significance of Jesus firmly in the miracle of the incarnation, a moment that symbolises the presence of Christ in all creation, a presence summed up in the lines ‘The tiny not the immense / Will teach our groping eyes’. Drawing energy out of the Thomist tradition and the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, Webb demonstrates a belief in the presence of Jesus in the quotidian, proximate aspects of existence, a belief he shares with other Australian writers such as Patrick White and Les Murray. Mentored in his early years by Norman Lindsay and Douglas Stewart, Webb’s maturing sense of the presence of Christ in creation required a severing of ties with their stridently anti-religious position. Consequently, his poetry is driven by the metaphor of the journey, specifically a journey towards the revelation of Jesus, a journey to the ‘Centre’—both the centre of Australia and the spiritual centre of life. But such a journey demands the apprehension of the divine in the proximate, material aspects of existence. In this way the poetry demonstrates that revelation lies in the journey, not at its end. Jesus is to be apprehended in every moment.
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