Posts Tagged With: Beloved

Seek Out All Our Fears: Psalm 10


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.


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
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
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 Uses of Sorrow, Darkness, Temptation: Mary Oliver and Lent D5*

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

               (Mary Oliver, from Thirst, Beacon Press, Boston, 2006)


On a Sunday when the Gospel sends us to find Jesus in the desert, Oliver’s poem seems apt.  Coming across it reminded me of the line from Isaiah that reads “I will give you treasures out of the darkness”.  It takes years indeed, it seems to me, to discover the gifts in darkness, sorrow, temptation.

I like very much the view of a few who have reflected that part of the experience of Jesus’ temptation in the desert was discovering what being God’s Beloved (as he was named at the Baptism) was not.  It was not to always be fed and full.  It was not to have power and control.  It was not to be rescued.  For us as well.  We are Beloved – but we are sometimes/often empty and yearning.  We are Beloved – but our experience and fact is often of being poor in power to control events or people or even ourselves.  We are Beloved – but that does not mean we are rescued from every harm.  But we are God’s Beloved Ones, right along with Jesus, and these things do not make that Belovedness somehow less.

Who are we to measure love so meagerly, or not to unwrap the gifts we are given in deserts and darkness?

It’s in the desert that we are “allured” by God (Hosea 2) and where distractions are less and we might hear and respond.

It is in the darkness that we may discover where light (Light) comes from; where we may find ourselves too in solidarity with other dark-traveling journeyers, and offer and receive the support of pilgrim companions. There we are not over others, or under them – but we find ourselves side by side in need of way-walkers we link arms with and hope as we go step by step.  We may find, surprisingly, new strength from walking this way, and learn to differently see and value and love and relate.

It is in the temptations perhaps that we learn the art of listening for the homing signals that say ‘this is off target, this is on’, ‘beware’, ‘this is plastic, this is gold’.  It may be there we discover (again from Isaiah) that the Teacher is behind us saying “This is the way, walk in it, when you would go to the left and to the right”: and we know he’s right because we know what was the wrong way.

A friend today posted a line she heard at Mass on temptation:  “Our temptation is often that of forgetfulness… forgetfulness of how much God loves each of us. When we try to remember that amazing truth, we will be home again in the arms of Christ.”   I love it.  My only edit is with the last line: “we will know again that we are home in the arms of Christ”.  We’re already there, but as noted, we forget.  Our darkness, deserts and temptations make it hard to see.

But let’s practice what we believe – literally.  Practice by focusing on what we know to be true – such love – whether or not we have sand in all the wrong places, we can’t see well, or we’re off kilter with confusing messages or off-center longings or attachments.  If we just live and love from here, knowing we are in the arms of God in Christ…  whatever our circumstances…  we will find ourselves “coming out of the desert, leaning on [her] lover” (Song of Songs).  We will learn the uses of sorrow, darkness, desert, temptation – and perhaps be more clear on who and whose we are in our everyday.

Blessings on you as you receive whatever gift this day and Lenten season brings.

                                                                                                                             * Lent D5 – Day 5


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

Vigil of Presence: Holy Thursday Reflections

Soon I will go, as so many will, to a celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.  It is good to be pray and listen and be tutored in the context of community – especially on this night of meal and footwashing, and more.  But there is something about the time when the community continues its prayer after the Mass this night that has always been particularly sacred to me.

In this silent vigil, when all the hymns have been sung:  We are together, and we are separate.  We are individual, and we are community.  We are sad, and we are happy.  We are pleading, and we are thanking.  We are fearful, and we are at peace.  We are vulnerable, and we are sheltered.  We are praying, and we are crying.  We are alone, and we are together.  Whatever makes up the ‘now’ for each member of the ‘we’ that stays in silent prayer after the liturgy, there is a comaraderie in this vigil.

Years back I would take this time to be with the last discourse of the Johannine Gospel – John 14-17.  I would listen for what particularly seemed to be a word for me to hear as I read through it slowly.  At times I have replayed the passion narrative imaginatively from the meal through the garden and the arrest.  I have tried to be with the Beloved One, as I’d listen for the way the Beloved One wanted to be with me.  Whatever the ‘content’ of the time – it inevitably moves just to silence and a vigil of presence.  And I will inevitably notice the other pray-ers and vigil-keepers, wondering about their journeys and how this Holy Week finds them; and I will pray for them.

In the Eucharist we will have celebrated, we will have remembered that somehow Jesus has decided to put all of who he is in the hands of the disciples who soon abandon him, betray him, deny him, or just run in fear leaving him in isolation.  (The Tenebrae service I attended last night highlights this in the dousing of the 12 candles and the darkening of the worship space, in representation of the leaving of the disciples.)  In utter contrast, Jesus decides to always be with them.  He does not abandon them — he abandons himself, surrenders himself, to them (and to us) with no condition or expectation of “I will only give you all of me if…”   There is never an “if” to God’s unending self-emptying in love, which Jesus shows us.

The Johannine Gospel (ch. 13) tells us this night that if we do not allow Jesus to serve us and wash us, we cannot be with him.  From Peter’s questioning of Jesus’ foot-washing servant love we learn that our job is to allow God’s humility and vulnerability to touch our own weakness and dustiness and need.  Such intimacy!

And the Jesus that moves from table to garden knows that there is something unspeakable coming, and he cannot avoid it.  He is terrified, and his “soul is sorrowful unto death”.  He weeps and prays.  In our own terrors and tears, we have a companion, this seems to say.  He knows.  He knows.  He wants the thing to play out differently, and his prayer leads him in circles, while those he would have in vigil with him fall asleep.  I would be hesistant to believe that he feels peace at his prayer of God’s will being done.  The accounts seem to imply he still suffers as this time of painful prayer ends, but the next moment comes, as next moments will.  And in it he must live and act and speak or be silent.  In his prayer there is the acceptance of “this is coming, I know… I don’t want it… it is… you must be here in it Abba”.  I can imagine, again, Jesus prayer of strong demand echoing the Susan Boyle “You Have to Be There” song with which I have been entranced this Lent.

You have to be there, you have to.  My life I have placed in thy keep.

 And without you I am drifting on a dark and stormy sea.

 You have to be there, you have to. Without you I’d drown in the deep.

 Too far, too far from land, the waters drag me down.

 I reach for your hand.

Jesus’ living of these last hours and days is as holy and precious as we can humanly name.  He demands God to be there:  he tells God his utter need and shares his pain.  He reaches for Abba’s hand.  He puts himself in ours.  He humbly, vulnerably loves and washes.  He prays and waits, harrowed and hollowed by sobs, and he acts and walks ahead.

Most of us have life moments in our experience when time changes.  Perhaps it’s at a birth, or at a death, of one we love.  Perhaps it’s in a moment of great transition, a natural disaster, an amazing star shower, an achievement of a loved one.  Time slows and seems to move in miniscule ticks, as if the seconds are as long as hours.

As we are vigil keepers from tonight through the holy days of the Triduum, may we be tutored in this sacred time.  May we find healing where we are broken, wisdom where we are lost, hope where there is despair.  But – if I have just one wish for us all – it would be that we allow the Spirit to rouse our hearts and open our ears and eyes to a new encounter with the Beloved One of God.  May we see and touch and know this Jesus who journeyed and lived the milli-seconds of these days of the week we commemorate, and the realities of all of human living and dying.   He longs to live with us now, to fill our open hands, to heal our hearts and histories, to embrace the emptiness within us that longs for meaning and love and God.  He will teach us how to live and, ultimately, how to die.  And tell us all of what it means to hope, to be true, to be who we are created bo be, with courage and love.  And amaze us with resurrection, now and in another then.

So tonight, during the vigil of silence however we may be with it, may we support each other there, knowing God’s presence and leaning on one another’s.

A blessed Holy Thursday, one and all.

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

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