Blessed is She Who Trusted

visitationvisitation st. elizabeth rockville

“Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.” (Elizabeth to Mary at the Visitation in Luke).

As we celebrate our sister in life and faith, Mary, on the feast of the Assumption, a rambling reflection:

Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.

Be with us, young woman who said yes to Mystery;
Pregnant mother who served and celebrated with another,
who knew the movement of life that was Life within you;
Spouse who loved your angel-dreaming Joseph,
who accepted his guarding of your vulnerability and his wonder at your faith;
Donkey-rider and God-bearer, birthmother and safe enclosure for the Son –
first in your womb, then in your arms;

Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.

Treasurer and holder of moments with shepherds and kings,
with prophetesses and seers, with rabbis who listened to an adolescent Jesus;
Preparer of food, maker of home, holder of moments;
Lover of living, and walker in wonder;
Jesus’ first teacher of prayer, handmaid of the Lord;

Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled. 

Woman, caregiver, daughter, parent, wife, Jew,
Spirit filled and taught and led;
Sufferer of losses; adult orphan, widow, grief-bearer;
Releaser of the young adult Son to seek his path, his way,
as God’s beloved and Kingdom proclaimer;
Empty nester;
New listener to what God says in the new time;
Curious follower of your Son;
Listener and discerner of words spoken by the Word you taught to speak;
First disciple,
Truly our sister.

Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.

Your son – the Rabbi
Your son – the healer
Your son – who speaks with authority
Your son – Abba’s Son
Your son – storyteller
Your son – Truth, Life, Way – that must be shared and spoken
Your son – passion and compassion
Your son – former of others
Your son – dangerous to the authorities
The mother – In the dark, yet trusting;
The mother – YES lived;
The mother – Heart moved by God’s work in her Son;
The mother – Seer of the threat his goodness is to power
The disciple – Known to the followers;
The disciple – Hearer and keeper of the word of God

Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.

Swords will pierce your heart, Anna foretold
Jesus will give all to share the message of Abba
Mary, you will give all standing, waiting, watching
How could this have gone so wrong?

Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’w words to her would be fulfilled.

Cradler of his lifeless body
Mother given to the disciple – to us all
Stunned by grief, uncomprehending
Letting go again
– Be it done, I am Mary, handmaid, magnify-er –
You are God.

Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.

Waiting, hidden, with his ‘crew’;
Hearing womens’ news that makes no sense,
You know it true
You’ve traveled those roads
Believed her God
Held his Son,
Given your all
Nothing is impossible with God
He will be called Jesus – one who saves – words you heard
Emmanuel – God with us

Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.

As you companioned the disciples, Mary, companion us;
Teach us your way of being with God, with life, sister-mother-friend-companion;
Root for us and guide us;

We too are blessed. The Lord’s words to us will be fulfilled.
It matters not if we understand them.
He leads, we lean.
We just say yes, and watch in wonder and delight the unfolding.
God is so good, and does good things in us, with us, for us

Today, Mary (one whose name I bear!)
We celebrate you
Your sensitivity and presence to life
Your being as listening
Your agreeing to angel invitations
Your celebrating with community
Your journey through life in all its simplicities and complexities,
celebrations and mournings,
clarities and confusions.
Your joining with your Son, with Abba, the Spirit
at Assumption moment
in ways we cannot understand and yet believe

Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.

 

 

Advertisements
Categories: General, Mary of Nazareth, Saints | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Teach Me Where I Keep Company with Fear: Psalm 51

Psalm 51 is a staple of Lent, of Fridays, of pleading for mercy and forgiveness. As Friday has just passed, I share with you this translation/poetic rendering of the psalm from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness.  I particularly have been moved over the years praying with these words, and offer it for your Lenten lingering.

The bold in the text below is mine, with some comments which follow for your rumination.

But first, here’s a suggestion for your presence with the psalm. Simply read through it once and notice the echoes in your own heart/being.  Then take some moments of silence and read through/pray through it once more, lingering wherever feels right.  Do not analyze it to death or think up a storm of words and concepts to tame or control your time with it; just let it say some of your heart to God and listen too for what God may be speaking to you.  Enjoy some conversation of your own with Our Compassionate Friend then, and close your time with the psalm with a last reading.  If you wish, then see my last notes below the text.  But pray with it first! And last!  And perhaps, only!

Have mercy on me, O Gracious One,
according to your steadfast love;
According to your abundant kindness
forgive me where my thoughts and deeds have hurt others.
Lead me in the paths of justice,
guide my steps on paths of peace!

Teach me, that I may know my weaknesses,
the shortcomings that bind me,
The unloving ways that separate me,
that keep me from recognizing your life in me;
For I keep company with fear, and dwell in the house of ignorance.
Yet, I was brought forth in love,
and love is my birthright.

You have placed your truth in the inner being;
therefore, teach me the wisdom of the heart.
Forgive all that binds me in fear,
that I might radiate love;
cleanse me that your light might shine in me.
Fill me with gladness; help me to transform weakness intro strength.
Look not on my past mistakes
but on the aspirations of my heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O Gracious One
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Enfold me in the arms of love, and fill me with your Holy Spirit.
Restore in me the joy of your saving grace,
and encourage me with a new spirit.

Then I will teach others your ways,
and prisoners of fear will return to You.
Deliver me from the addictions of society, most Gracious One,
O keep me from temptation
that I may tell of your justice and mercy.

O Gracious One, open my lips and my mouth shall sing forth your praise.
For you do not want sacrifice;
You delight in our friendship with You.
A sacrifice most appropriate is a humble spirit;
a repentant and contrite heart, O Merciful One, is the gift You most desire.

Let the nations turn from war, and encourage one another as good neighbours.
O Most Gracious and Compassionate Friend,
melt our hearts of stone,
break through the fears that lead us into darkness, and
Guide our steps into the ways of peace.

We are not to be those who keep company with fear.  Love is our birthright.  Still, we each have our own endlessly creative ways of getting lost, becoming separated, not consenting to living as one who is loved so very much.  We need teaching from the one who delights in our friendship.  We need rescue (isn’t Lent about being with the one who rescues us?) from our distinct patterns of fear and isolation, of consenting to being bound to an identity that is not our true one.

We are loved!  We are beloved ones!  We are cared for by One who sees much farther than we do into our hearts and who – with all the heavens, the stars, the planets, the sparrows, the lilies of the field, the wondrous creations which flow from Trinity Love – intended us to be and to know joy.

Most of us keep company with fear to some degree and in some seasons.  We have our reasons to.  That we become afraid, that we are limited, that we do not understand – this is no problem.  Inviting fear to be our close companion and the traveling partner that we attend to and allow most to shape us – this is.

Once more, we must learn to live loved – learn to live in the light of One who scatters darknesses we are not even entirely conscious of.  Our humility is simply fact – we don’t know and don’t see.   We are creatures, not Creator.  But we are oh so precious.

So, have mercy on our weakness and blindness, Lord.  Guide us truly.  Show us where we keep company with fear, and give us heart to choose more consciousness of you than of what freezes us.  Teach us to lean on your grace.  We will trust that you know what we each need to be restored.  Help us choose reconciling and freedom; and help us be gentle with ourselves as you unfold for our vision our attachments to lesser ways, our holding tight the ropes which bind us.  We will find joy as we watch you unravel our complicated patterns, our clutched protections and pretenses.  We will learn to relax in your love, and so more deeply live in it.  And perhaps we may yell with pain and joy at our releasement, like Eustace in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when his dragon skin is removed by Aslan (Christ figure in Narnia) so he may once again become a boy – an oh so much wiser, humbler, easier to be around boy.

I love Nan’s proclamation of promise to God:

Then I will teach others your ways,
and prisoners of fear will return to You.

Joy!  To be with each other, to aid, to support, as we recognize how we are imprisoned by our own choices, and learn to choose trust and living loved.  And we all return to you!  And the Saints will come marching in!  I’ll meet you praying this psalm.

Categories: Lent | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Give Your Life Away, So You Don’t Lose You

What?!  Well, that’s what I heard in the Gospel reading for Thursday.

“whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?”  (Luke 9)

You have to lose your life to save it.  If you lose your life, you don’t forfeit yourself.  Again, huh?  Won’t you have lost yourself if you lost your life?  As I consider this, two nuances on losing emerge for me.

(1) “Losing” your life is not a losing – it is a deliberate choosing and, sometimes difficult, releasing of what seems to be mine or fair or about my prestige, achievement, putting myself forward.  Yes, it is a denying myself the limelight or the best seat or the time or treat I’d hoped for or promised myself – for another’s sake, for love, or just to wean myself from the lack of self discipline we all often fall into, and exercise other muscles.  But denying myself is not denying my self.  In fact, it is a re-finding of my true self (read Thomas Merton, or James Finley on Thomas Merton, or John of the Cross, or some of Richard Rohr).

SAMSUNG(2)  “Losing” your life may also be reframed as giving your life away.  Like Jesus, who “though he was in the form of God, did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at – rather, he emptied himself” (Phil 2).  God – in the Trinity – gives life away. Each person pours all of their life into the other: Father to Son to Spirit to Father to Spirit to Son to Spirit to Father… on and on. Like a water wheel, they pour themselves entirely out into one another, reserving nothing.  And so love is.  And so creation came to be. And then Jesus entering this world is another giving all away to come to a womb, to a stable, to live a life with and for others, to pour out all in deeds, in words, in healings, in tenderness, in praying, in feet washing, in bread breaking, on the cross, and in hope and peace giving.  And the Spirit is given entirely to us and for us to remind us of all we have been taught by Jesus’ giving  (see John’s Gospel).  Of course we will be happiest when we live in the pattern in which we are created and give our lives entirely away too, as we lay down our lives freely.  Meantime we receive over and over again God’s life and grace in us as we give. We are hardly impoverished.  Our emptying makes room for more richness of life.

To give our lives away we find our true self.  And this is a truth to hold on to.  A truth that brings life.  Because this is so, we are encouraged:

Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
For that will mean life for you…  (Deut. 30)

Importantly, if we don’t find a way to give our lives away, we run thSAMSUNGe risk of losing our very selves.  Why?  Because we’d never grow into who we are!  It would be like a fish refusing to learn to swim, or a tree somehow refusing to reach very far out with its branches, or an artist refusing to enact their art.

We are patterned to give, to pour out, to love.  We don’t have to fear the cost of doing so. The cost of not doing so is much much greater.  Joy and peace and the celebration of being who we are created to be lie in the losing, the giving, the practicing, the releasing, the reaching, the loving, and – through all this – the true living.  May Jesus’ life and, even more, his close companionship with us this Lent help us to learn and relearn this truth, and have the heart (by grace) to enact it in our moments and days.

Find your self.  Give your life.

And, as we wander through these Lenten learning days, let’s hold fast to him, for that will mean life for you and for me.

Categories: Lent | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lent 2017: Learning to Live Loved

443 phone - set one 095Tomorrow Lent begins.  And so, I’m beginning a daily – or near daily – effort to write a few (or more) words here.  Although there is no one overarching theme that will be pursued, some patterns may emerge.  Perhaps “Learn to Live Loved” – in the title above – will be a worthy mantra, if the reader needs one  to connect the musings of this journeyer through the season.

The Shack will be hitting theaters this Friday, and in one scene in the book Mack is given just this important injunction for his way: learn to live loved.  Note that he is not told to earn God’s love like a badge or high mark or grade: he is not commanded to seek God’s love like a lost penny or a treasure on an impossibly high shelf.  No, it is not something he is to chase, though it is a discipline.  It is something he is to live.  And, I believe, learning so to live is a central discipline for the disciple.  As such, it takes work.  It does for me!

Learn to live loved – knowing you are loved, believing you are loved, setting your heart by the fact that you are loved, consulting constantly the fact that you are loved, be secure in the truth that you are loved.  Live from there.  What won’t be necessary?  Tons!  What does it reorder?  Tons!  And what about all the others who are loved?  Oh yeah.  And the ethics there?  Uh-huh.  But start at the beginning.

You are loved.livelovedwords

As Lent begins, I’m reminded of the fact that the Anglo-Saxon root of the word Lent connects with lengthening.  May our awareness be lengthened, as daylight expands in this hemisphere.  May the light of this love draw forth new tendrils of growth in us, not to achieve some abstract holiness, but because we will love to grow in the directions God calls forth in us. And whatever our Lenten plans may be, let us recall that – at heart – we hope to receive ever more deeply that which God would offer us – this amazing love – and learn to better live loved.

Categories: Lent | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Wake Up? Do I Have To?

image

Our new rescue pup, MayBelle, is a delight and a handful. Although she’s supposedly 4 years old, she is in many ways experiencing puppyhood with us. Like a puppy, she goes from wild to zonked out. The pic here caught her sincere question: “Do I really have to wake up now?”

I wonder if that’s a question for all of us, along our way.  Do I really have to wake up now?  Can’t I sleep through this?  Sometimes in our lives, for many reasons, we may deliberately elect to keep sleeping.  Perhaps more often, we may have habits which anesthesize us:  mindless activity, lots of TV or video, looping and repetitive thought patterns, addictions of various types, aggression in word or deed, even relationships where we’ve given over our freedom and simply echo another.

Every major world religion speaks of waking up (in some form) as entry to spiritual practice and fullness, integrity of vision and action.  Most of us who name ourselves disciples don’t wake up just once.  We are going along – really committed to our journey, to deepening faith, to living what we profess – and discover, often to our chagrin, that we have stumbled upon yet another way we resist or zone out or shirk freedom or live less than we truly desire. Whether it is due to fear, pain, lukewarmness, laziness, pride, regret,or listening to voices that lie to us about who we truly are…. We are nodding off – again.

The waking up we are invited to requires our persistence, certainly, but more – a huge helping of grace accepted and leaned upon. And a looking and listening in the right direction.

If we truly want to stay awake (hmmm…didn’t Jesus advise that?), the best way is to take a shortcut.  Look to Jesus. Remember the Creator of all is in relationship with us personally.  Listen to the Spirit, Companion-Dweller, wondrously living and forming us and praying for and with us from within.  And lean on this Trinity to be our alarm clock.  Stop doing it on our own steam.  Let God be our ongoing wake up call, just by confiding always,  leaning heavily, asking for the love and help always available to all of us.

St.  Therese of Lisieux referred to Jesus as her elevator who lifted her, as she was unable. She – like many saints – rejoiced in being small.  It showed God’s tender faithfulness in reaching into their littleness. (“For God has looked with favor on his lowly servant” – Luke, Magnificat.) If we acknowledge our attachment to sleepiness, our fears, our paralysis, our littleness, God will meet us there.  In fact God already does, we just forget and need to be re-minded (metanoia – no worries, also God’s work in us). 

Do I really have to wake up now?  Absolutely not.  But if we do ask this grace to wake and stay awake – and let God’s great love (grace) help us in the middle of our patterns and experiences and thoughts that keep us captive sleepers – our perspective, words, values, decisions may change. We will find the courage directly from the source of our life and love, letting go of our inabilities and leaning in to God’s great sufficiency. Then, a prayer typed up for me by a young student decades ago will not only make sense, but have the wings to carry us.

Lord, I am at the end of all my resources. Child, you are just at the beginning of mine!

What joy and comfort! Believing and KNOWING this to be true, we can be in each moment awake, happily humble, with abundance to share.

These words will not only make sense, but circle us with truth we can live in and from:

The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw – and knew I saw – all things in God and God in all things.
– Mechtild of Magdeburg

image

And yes, MayBelle loves living “awake” too!

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wonder At What Tender Flesh Receives

image

Amazement should mark our every inhalation – amazement that we live,  that love and thought and breath find home in our flesh!  Amazement too that there is a distinct “I” who is the self who is invited to amazement – an “I” who is simultaneously on the journey, and who is observer, tactician, poet/philosopher, and chronicler of the way traveled.

The God-Creator of all the universe inhabits our very being.  How is it possible that someOne larger than is imaginable is integrally woven into our most intimate being’s fiber?  We should just explode, in our vulnerability!  And yet, it seems, it is vulnerability and weakness and empty openness that most draws God’s artful presence and play which shapes and shatters and sends us.

Fragile flesh is holy, the Incarnation tells us so.  I came across this translation of a piece from St. Irenaus, which prompted my musing.  I hope the poetry hints for you at some of the truth which should send all of us into wonder, and tutor our thinking, and foster wisdom.

The tender flesh itself
   will be found one day
   — quite surprisingly —
   to be capable of receiving,
and, yes,
   capable of embracing
the searing energies of God.
   Go figure. Fear not.
For even at its beginning
   the humble clay received
God’s art, whereby
   one part became the eye,
another the ear, and yet
   another the impetuous hand.
Therefore, the flesh
   is not to be excluded
from the wisdom and the power
   that now and ever animates
all things.  His life-giving
   agency is made perfect,
we are told, in weakness —
   made perfect in the flesh.

– St. Irenaus (c.125 – c.210),
adapted and translated by Scott Cairn in Love’s Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life

Categories: General, Poetry | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Seek Out All Our Fears: Psalm 10

image

Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying have long been a gift I find treasures in for reflection. Her phrasings have given me words to whisper, and pleas to cry out. They have soothed and challenged me, and taught me of the Beloved who loves us so. I have decided to include here the text of one of Nan’s psalms periodically for your slow reading and praying.   If you need an endorsement to consider these for prayer, note this recommendation from Madeleine L’Engle, another word artist, woman of faith, and sister of the journey:

“The very liveliness of the Psalms causes us to want to say them in our own language… Nan Merrill has done this marvelously, and I’m grateful for this labor of integration and love.”  

Both women have moved from this life to the next, where they see more clearly than we the truth we say and seek as we pray. I hope you too are moved as you read, and that Nan and Madeleine join our fumbling hearts and words with strength.

image

Psalm 10

Why do You seem so far from me,  O Silent One?
Where do You hide when fears beset me?
I boast and strike out
against those weaker than myself,
even knowing I shall be caught in
a snare of my own making.

When I feel insecure,
I look for pleasure,
greed grips my heart and I
banish You from my life.
In my pride, I seek You not,
I come to believe, “I am the Creator
of the world.”

I even prosper at times:
Your love seems too great for me,
out of my reach;
as for my fears, I pretend they
do not exist.
I think in my heart, “I do not need
You;
adversity will come only to others.”

My eyes watch carefully for another’s weakness,
I wait in secret like a spider
in its web;
I wait that I might seize those who
are weaker than myself,
draw others into my web,
then I might use them to
feel powerful.

Like me, the fearful are crushed,
we fall by our own doubts.
Then we think in our hearts,
“I do not deserve Love:
my Beloved has forgotten me,
I am alone with my fears forever.”

Awaken, O Love! Oh You who created me,
return to my side;
forget me not in my weakness.
Why do I turn my back to You,
and say in my heart, “You will
not take notice of me?”
You do see me. Yes, You know of
my anguish and fears,
that You may take me once again
unto Yourself;
When I commit myself into your hands, you are ever my strength and comforter.

Break then the webs I have woven,
Seek out all my fears
until You find not one.
You are my Beloved for ever and ever; all that is broken within me
will be made whole.

O my Beloved, you hear my deepest
desires;
You will strengthen my heart,
You will answer my prayer;
that I might live with integrity
And become a loving presence in the world!

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Light Gains Ground! (Ravens, Advent, & Mary Oliver)

TrainingCamp_GotGame_1440x900I’m a crazy happy Baltimore Ravens fan, and LOVE to see those games when the team turns a corner and starts to climb back into the competition. Things start to click, energy builds, anxiety lessens and hope rises. Players celebrate and you can feel the joy across the Ravens nation – on and off the field.

Well, we just turned a corner with Solstice, and light is gaining ground again in this part of the world. Every day hence, the sun will be a bit longer with us and days will extend. Though there will be snow and cold and darkness yet, the momentum has moved and light is beginning to win. Go Sun Nation!

It’s late Advent, and I come across this Mary Oliver poem (below) that celebrates the Sun. No accidents, I think. Post-Solstice is here with gradually lessening darkness and gradually increasing light; and so it seems fitting to share it.

SAMSUNGBesides, the Christ event that we will celebrate two nights hence is a HUGE Solstice moment that says that LIGHT, the SON, HOPE, JOY, PEACE, POSSIBILITY, GRACE saves all of us who stumble around in the dark. And nothing is ever the same since that stabled night that brought a stability beyond what any woman, man or child could have hoped. Since this moment, the whole game is changed. We are a people – a nation – of the Son. Things click, anxiety can lessen, celebration can commence, and all of life morphs into a pattern of death and resurrection begun in a Love that becomes poor and enters darkness that we might become rich and live in light.

So, celebrate with pleasure the warmth of this Son as you read Mary’s poem below. And by all means come empty handed, without distraction, and do the kind of praying that is most fitting for the Christian — stand in the warmth and receive the Love poured out and over and through you. God is a giving, a With, Love.  We are a receiving, an accompanied one, beloved children. It is as we live entirely receiving that we welcome the One who enters our world and each of our lives and hearts fully. Let go of what fills you, and come empty — you too may find joy in such poverty.

We’ve got game! The corner is turned. Welcome Light! Welcome Jesus to our world!

Light that enlightens us all, dwell with us this season. Open us to Your Presence in new and wondrous ways. Help us touch Your humility and poverty, Your vulnerability in flesh and newborn cries and snuggling. Help us hold You – and the truth of Light’s forever gained ground – tightly, yet lightly. Guide us. Transform us. Grant us a Christmas grace of Your choosing. Amen!

IMG022

The Sun

Have you ever seen
anything
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone –
and how it slides again

out of the blackness
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on it heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance –
and have you ever felt for anything

such wild love –
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
empty-handed –
or have you too
turned from this world –

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

from New and Selected Poems, Volume One, by Mary Oliver, 1992

Categories: Advent, Christmas, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Words and Wonder-ings to Hearten the Creative – Who Is, and Serves, Art

For those who would serve the work of creativity – who must, in order to be true to their life’s (or this moment’s) call – there is a wonder in this serving and seeking.

art-heartsWhether one’s work is with words or mixed media, paint or clay, glass or stone, metal or cloth, threads or tonalities, human movement or drafting, musical instruments or voices, drafting boards or firing ovens, food stuffs or growing things, human interaction/dynamics, the knowledge or wisdom of the ages and ways to educate, or the soul’s own journey – the process of seeing and creating and collaborating is rife with amazement and not-too-few tears.  Carnage is done in shaving off what once seemed precious and necessary to an end product, in seeking what is at heart and truest.  Materials and words and worlds fall at the feet around the tables where we create, as we chase and name the fleeting glimpses we see sideways and fabricate textures with our media that approximate our visions.

If each of us is “God’s work of art” (says Paul’s epistle), I wonder what truth we express in flesh and sinew.

Is it love, most of all?  Are our different textures of temperament and giftedness reflections of the color and variety of goodness?   What were the remnants cut away in our creation, to get at the truth that resulted in each of us?  Our core is important to the Artist, and is a delight to be treasured in this large Creation’s art show.  There we are, displayed next to the Milky Way and the intricacy of a butterfly’s wing.

God’s art in human form is functional too and participates in creating more beauty and spreads the circle ever outward.  We are makers too, splashing life and color with our work and selves like spin art at a carnival which ecstatic children whirl and splatter paint everywhere.  Thus we continue the efforts begun by God and stamped in the hard drive of our hearts, not entirely knowing what we are about, but recognizing when the art we serve approximates in its process or product more closely some element of who we most are, and what is most true about life-love-work-suffering-joy-the human-the divine-the journey.  We often do not know what we set out to name or visually represent, but we know the creating itself is a good and serves.

Our beings and our efforts then are art-in-process.  And we have need of a muse, a companion, an inSpiration to carry us.  Our art-ing often comes forth from the vulnerable and most sensitive centers where we see and feel and breathe and fear and dance and seek, and we need still points and words and ways that tell us that this ‘hunt’ is ‘worthy of all tears’.

And so I share these well hewn words from Carmelite poet Jessica Powers to hearten those involved in this journey which gives joy and also costs the journeyer.   May we know ourselves accompanied, and find our seeking draws us home.

Since the luminous great wings of wonder stirred
over me in the twilight I have known
the Holy Spirit is the Poet’s Bird.

Since in a wilderness I wandered near
a shining stag, this wisdom is my own:
the Holy Spirit is the Hunter’s Deer.

And in the dark in all enchanted lands
I know the Spirit is that Burning Bush
toward which the artist gropes with outstretched hands.

Upon the waters once and then again
I saw the Spirit in a silver rush
rise like the Quarry of the Fisherman.

Yet this I know: no arrows of desire
can wound Him, nor a bright intrepid spear;
He is not seen by any torch of fire,

nor can they find Him who go wandering far;
His habitat is wonderfully near
in each soul’s thicket ‘neath its deepest star.

Let those who seek come home through the vain years
to where the Spirit waits a shining captive.
This is the hunt most worthy of all tears.
Bearing their nets celestial, let them come
and take their Quarry on the fields of rapture
that lie beyond the last gold pendulum.

– Jessica Powers

Categories: Art in Life and Work, Carmelite, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Not Live Our Whole Life as a Dance?

SAMSUNGJOY!  SMILES!  DANCING!  Advent (and LIFE!) practices!

This year I have been reading a number of ancillary works on Therese of Lisieux, my ‘confirmation saint’ and one of my (thank God, many!) familiar companions within the communion of saints.  As I finished one of these texts today, I came across an excerpt of a song that I wanted to share with you all, as Advent’s O Antiphons draw us daily closer to the celebration of the mystery of the Incarnation.

Joy, rooted in utter confidence in God’s mercy and love, was for Therese a way of expressing her love of God.  She invited the novices she mentored to PRACTICE SMILING.  This joy of which Therese spoke was not for her – or for her novices, or us – the absence of suffering or the presence of comfort and consolation. It is a way of making concrete our gratitude for God’s tenderness with us and for us, and God’s entering into everyday companionship with us.  It is a way of making concrete – literally – with our faces – our trust (or desire to trust) the Abba that the Babe of Bethlehem will tell us about and connect us with in wondrous ways.  It is a “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” sung in the very everydayness of each of our lives – from laundry and dishes to errands and bill paying, from creative work to doldrum must-dos, from loving and caring to weeping and mourning.

In a time when we hear of Laughter Yoga meetings and the great value of humor and lightheartedness for our health, it strikes me that this young Carmelite friend tutors us to live this in a very grounded way.

thereseLife brings moments of happiness and of suffering — seasons sometimes of both.  Our weaknesses and sufferings Therese sees as opportunities to both let God lift and carry us (Jesus’ arms as the elevator, as she puts it), and as ways to give our lacks of courage or downright failures or very difficult pains to God who can meet and transform and use these.  Her confidence in God’s love – felt or not – is a reciprocity to this extravagant love she has received.  And she insists that that confidence should appear in our manner of speaking, walking, talking – and appear on our faces!  Smiling and communicating a positive presence are possible for us to choose — and they make a difference in others’ days as well as enhancing our own.  Truth is more that whatever this moment’s emotion, pain, joy, work, delight, grief bring.  Truth is that we are “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians).  Will we choose to inform our way of being with this truth, and so communicate Good News?  Evangelize, if you will.

What better way to prepare a way, these last days of Advent, for our hearts to welcome the Child of Christmas with true eyes that see hope and wonder?  God enters our vulnerable flesh, our everydayness, our seasons and moments.  Can we live in the reflection of that joy, that gift?  Can we inform our faces?  Our lives?  Our tones of voice?  Our interactions and chores?  Our work?

Can we just smile?  How about practicing that this week — all of us?  Perhaps we might find we can do more than smile…. we can make of life a dance!  Or better, we can wake up and say yes to dancing, as our Dance Partner stands by with hands and arms outstretched, inviting our entering in.

Check out this prayer/song, from the text on Therese of Lisieux.  May we celebrate being here and now – alive as we are in this moment, with whatever music is playing!

“Teach us, Lord, to put on anew every day
Our human condition
Like a ball gown, that makes us love about you
All its small details like indispensable jewelry.

Make us live our lives –

Not like a game of checkers, where everything is calculated,

Not like a sports match, where everything is difficult,

Not like a theory that breaks our head –

But like a feast without end
Where the encounter with you is being renewed
Like a ball,
Like a dance,
In the arms of your grace,
To the universal music of love.” *

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, pray for us!  May we open our hearts to learn this lesson, this way.  

* [1] Song sung by Madeleine Delbre (1904-1964):  Nous autres, gens des rues.  Quoted in Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity: The Transformative Relationship of St. Therese of Lisieux and her novice, Sister Marie of the Trinity,  by Pierre Descouvement, trans. By Alexandra Plettenberg-Serban

Categories: Advent, Carmelite, Saints | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments