Posts Tagged With: Mary Oliver

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

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)

boxofdark

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

Christmas, Praying and Snow: Mary Oliver

This week and more has been filled with poetry and verse to point to the Incarnation wonder.  Wordsmith witnesses who wander their own ways upon the earth record what they see — and we are grateful.  They walk with open eyes and listen, pray and chronicle – and we are blessed.  Today’s good verses come to us from contemporary American poet, Mary Oliver.  There are three.

The first follows a legend and takes us to a stable.  At its end we are left perhaps in the safest place to be — you’ll see. Spend some time there.

Christmas Poem

Says a country legend told every year:
25A_00002-2Go to the barn on Christmas Eve and see
what the creatures do as that long night tips over.
Down on their knees they will go, the fire
of an old memory whistling through their minds!

[So] I went. Wrapped to my eyes against the cold
I creaked back the barn door and peered in.
From town the church bells spilled their midnight music,
and the beasts listened –
yet they lay in their stalls like stone.

Oh the heretics!
Not to remember Bethlehem,
or the star as bright as a sun,
or the child born on a bed of straw!
To know only of the dissolving Now!

Still they drowsed on –
citizens of the pure, the physical world,
they loomed in the dark: powerful
of body, peaceful of mind,
SAMSUNGinnocent of history.

Brothers! I whispered. It is Christmas!
And you are no heretics, but a miracle,
immaculate still as when you thundered forth
on the morning of creation!
As for Bethlehem, that blazing star

still sailed the dark, but only looked for me.
Caught in its light, listening again to its story,
I curled against some sleepy beast, who nuzzled
my hair as though I were a child, and warmed me
the best it could all night.

 

The second wakes us just to see again what’s at our feet. It bids us know that prayer is simple too, atTENDing only.  As 2014  begins, let’s make a practice of it in our moments. Let’s not make of prayer a strategy, an achievement, a technique — but just the simplest doorway to a place, a Presence who opens us.

 

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

From: Thirst: Poems

And a third remarks on snowy days and nights, a gift to those embraced by white these January days. Enjoy the beauty, the wallking, the red hat, and shut the door.  What gates do you look to, hoping openings?

 

November

The snowSAMSUNG
began slowly,
a soft and easy
sprinkling

of flakes, then clouds of flakes
in the baskets of the wind
and the branches
of the trees –

oh, so pretty.
We walked
through the growing stillness,
as the flakes

prickled the path,
then covered it,
then deepened
as in curds and drifts,

as the wind grew stronger,
shaping its work
less delicately,
taking greater steps

over the hillsSAMSUNG
and through the trees
until, finally,
we were cold,

and far from home.
We turned
and followed our long shadows back
to the house,

stamped our feet,
went inside, and shut the door.
Through the window
we could see

how far away it was to the gates of April.
Let the fire now
put on its red hat
and sing to us.

From: Why I Wake Early 

 

What do these verses wake in you?  

What is their invitation to your heart and life?  

Be present, then, to this your moment.  And see.  And see.

Categories: Christmas, Poetry, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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