Posts Tagged With: poetry

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

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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

Casting Down the Compass of the Wither and the Why: Living With the Spirit, Part II

wpid-2014-08-18-20.11.23.jpg.jpegThe soul that walks where the wind of the Spirit blows
turns like a wandering weather-vane toward love.
It may lament like Job or Jeremiah,
echo the wounded hart, the mateless dove;
it may rejoice in spaciousness of meadow
that emulates the freedom of the sky.
Always it walks in waylessness, unknowing;
it has cast down forever from its hand
the compass of the whither and the why.
 

I promised Jessica Powers’ poem on Living With the Spirit in three parts over a few days.  Alas!  Robin Williams’ death sent my reflections another direction — along with many more.  And there are so MANY MANY things happening throughout the world and in and around Church these days that merit so much conversation, reflection, prayer, work, silence.  Still, my path leads me back here — to the next stanza of Powers’ poem above, and a few thoughts below.  See if any of this invites your integration with what is going on in the world or your life too.

If we walk where the wind blows, we go hither and thither, without a whither or a why.  This seems inefficient, at least!

wpid-20140818_193149.jpgI am presently reading a 2014 title by Sarah Lewis which I recommend – The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery.  I’m not far in, but two early images strike me, and enter into dialogue with this stanza as I muse.

One is the perspective of an archer, committed to her art.  There is built-in to the craft of pulling bows and launching arrows compensations that must be made for curvatures, and deliberately aiming off-target in order to actually find the target, let alone anything near center!  Huh?  How can this be?  The human body bends.  And eyes see from a perspective, and over a curving landscape.  If one wants to be near the mark, one must learn – counter intuitively – to ‘aim’ off the mark.

The second image is that of finding oneself in a place where the curvature of the earth at its horizon is obvious to the eye, and what that does to our ways of perceiving.  In Utah, over the Bonneville salt flats, Lewis notes that mountains look like they are suspended in the sky.  Their base is beyond the horizon, and so they do not ‘reach’ the ground, as the ground that is seen does not have mountain on it!  And if one then starts to walk in a line directly towards these mountains, the sense of curvature occasions the footprints in the flats to reveal that the most direct route between two points – on this earth – seems to be a curved line!  We meander naturally, with no knowledge of having done so!

So we aim “off” to find “true”, and when we walk “true” we end up walking “curved”!

So what can keep us truly true?  What do we depend on?  What can we depend on?

Jessica’s words say it simply:   “the soul…. turns like a weather-vane toward love”.

We do not understand.  We cannot understand, so very much.  Instead, this is the advice.  Celebrate that very incompleteness!  Try to be as responsive as possible to the turns that the Spirit takes and listen to and for Love, who is a Person (or – more accurately – persons), who is our intimate and friend, who is our path and our goal and companion, who also whispers how to be love too – which is our noble call.

We do not control our way.  If we follow the Spirit’s wind-breath, we will lament, be lonely, rejoice, and dance freely.  What we know most and best is that we do not know much at all.  (Ah, well Jessica Powers IS a Carmelite — friend of John of the Cross, and her words echo his of unknowing paths.)  The soul, “always it walks in waylessness, unknowing”.  This is simple fact.

When we grasp to know-Know-KNOW, we aim our arrows at the centers of targets and they fly past.  Our most authentic ‘knowing’ is a commitment not to waste time chasing knowing, but to relax into the mystery named in the last blog on this poem.  Our way-going can perhaps be best described as  a simple intention and a humble listening to wind’s (and Spirit’s) slight breaths.  It requires that we “cast down forever” from our hands “the compass of the whither and the why”.

For most of us, relinquishing our compasses and submitting to willy-nilly wandering seems nonsense.  It’s not responsible!  It’s not proactive!  It’s not adult or the best use of human potential!  It’s lazy!  It’s not self-actualizing!

OR… it is the absolute and only way to the truth that we are and the way we can go.  It is our true self, deepest identity.  And “may your inner self grow strong” (Ephesians) in just this way!

The quote under my senior picture in my high school yearbook read “A bird does not sing because she has the answer, but because she has a song”.  So, we are invited to sing… and with our distinct voice… as we wander.  This will call us, challenge us, draw us to healing, send us over edges, help us be with and lead others.

bagger vanceThis week I re-watched the 2000 film “The Legend of Bagger Vance”, which connects for me here as well.  (Hey – the Spirit uses all kinds of things, yes??)  You’ll remember the film’s setting at a golf tournament, and Bagger  Vance (Will Smith) appears as caddy (as well as a wisdom figure? divine messenger?): he helps a WWI vet (Matt Damon) to face himself, his past, his life and to choose to go forward with all he has.  The game of golf is the field of formation, and Smith’s character continually invites Damon’s to let the field tell him what to do, and to find his authentic swing in response to the field, as it brings forth an investment of who he truly is, and he is to give it all in that moment, in that one swing.  Words to us too?

The only authentic way – I’d dare to say that Powers’ instructs us to in this poem, and a way that echoes her Carmelite saint patrons – is to listen to love by living with the Spirit.  Live each moment, let the Spirit turn your soul, your weather-vane, toward that love – whatever joy or grief or dance it leads you to or through – with no compass, but with all your you.

May we each and all find our true ways of living this – in peace, and for good.

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

Keep the Vigil of Mystery – It Matters: Pondering with Jessica Powers

“To live with the Spirit of God is to be a listener.
It is to keep the vigil of mystery,
earthless and still.
One leans to catch the stirring of the Spirit,
strange as the wind’s will.”

I am attracted, these days, to this poem by the gifted Carmelite Jessica Powers (1905-1988).   Her way with words I’ve long loved, and I’ll offer you this work in three parts over the next few days, with a few lines of wanderings/wonderings for your reflection and mine.

To live listening, to keep the vigil of mystery – these are wise invitations to the seeker. I wonder – can you and I learn to truly WAIT?  WAIT = Why Am I Talking?  Does my talking serve listening?   The freedom of the other?   The truth of a human experience or challenge?   The beyondness of an encounter with LIFE, GOD, LOVE, A HUMAN PERSON, or SELF?  Are my words echoes that come out of silence,  or noise that protects me from the rawness of experience?

Could it be that we live speaking instead of listening because we feel somehow safer or in more control when we guide the dialogues we have with others, with life’s complexities, with our own confusions or cluelessness?  What would it take to lay down the burden of managing mystery and to instead hold vigil in the darkness?

At times this may indeed feel raw, vulnerable,  intimate – and remind us once again of what we do not understand.  Without a GPS to tell us exactly where we are, a Google or Bing access to explain the unknown, and an app to help us navigate with ease… will we be okay?

At this time of year,  I liken it to the reaction we might have as we step onto an empty beach or look up at night – away from city lights – at vast darkness or uncountable stars.   Does sheer space in those contexts scare us,  make us feel small?   Do we feel inconsequential before multi-billion grains of sands or a night sky-view that hints at a cosmos we cannot begin to see or imagine from where we stand?  And in our more daily moments?   Do large joys or sorrows overwhelm us?  Does not-knowing disturb us, and send us into calculating or strategic plans that remake the real contours of complexities into manageable microbits?

SAMSUNGspitzer-saggitarius-glorius-blue-space-800

Powers’ words invite us to listen to the Spirit – to recognize all moments as opportunities to stand small and naked and clueless before mystery – and to learn trust.  Those moments at the beach or beneath the night sky bring me peace, in the midst of wonder – and likely bring that to many of us.  Our intuitive selves know that these experiences are safe and whole-ing.  They can quiet us, even help us to relax by evening us out, reminding us of the large, of the gift we have in living in it without grasping, and refresh us with joy in our being part – a precious part – of something very VERY large. (Think universe, cosmos, creation, and the Creator bigger-than-this-infinity LARGE!)

This awareness can become a lifestyle – and one more relaxing and whole than endeavoring to protect ourselves from life’s big  questions or managing mystery.  We can find joy in being little, known, poor, unknowing.  But this indeed is not an easy journey for we who express our discomfort with this reality, our alienation from this truest identity, in manifold ways.  We circle.  We project.  We protect.  We narrate.  We analyze.  We fear pain.  We have known hurt.  But being bigger than we are and trying to microwave meaning and skip over transcendence with reality-for-dummies strategies simply does not work.  We can be taught, and allow ourselves to be drawn out and allured into deserts and spaces where we can learn trust and heal from our own first person singular ways of doing frenzy.  We can allow ourselves to rage or weep, laugh or dance, and ask for whatever we need for the next steps into living mystery and listening to life and living with the Spirit.  And we can support each other on this journey as true community and pilgrims in process.

With time, and Grace’s enduring work in and with us, we may find that Living Loved and finding our refuge and home and mission from there may prove to be our truest experience of Mystery, as we – and all – are wrapped within the Trinity’s love.  And our vigils with these truths will guide us to reengage in living with integrity,  and provide us a way to reboot when we stray back to lesser living and efforts to manipulate or be our own source, wisdom, control.  They may also help us as individuals, and as a human race, to make better decisions towards peace and stewardship and solidarity and creativity.  And is that not a need for our very survival at this point?

So,  let’s listen to the Spirit today some… do our part to be faithful to the journey.  It matters if we do.  It matters that we do.

“By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, 
in quiet and in trust your strength lies.”

(Isaiah 30:15)

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

Joseph of Nazareth – Friend, Witness, Patron – Be With Us, Tend Our Journeys Too

Happy Feast of St. Joseph, one of my patrons! In Mary’s vulnerability, he encircled her. His sheltering created a boundary where Mary’s availability to God and the life within her could flourish. Mary is theotokos, God-bearer; but it is Joseph who surrounded his beloved with strength and tenderness, bearing the one who bore the one larger than the universe itself.*

Joseph, your faithfulness to God held you firmholy-family
as you guided and protected Mary
and the child within her womb,
as you assisted at a stable birth,
as you greeted star followers and sheep tenders.

You held an infant son to your chest
and, with his mother, taught him –
as he toddled and explored
the human confines of home and hearth –
to speak and to pray.

You shaped wood, family, and Jesus –holy-family-statue
with love and attention.

You bore the one who bore God,
sheltering and encompassing her
from the beginning,
treasuring her as she treasured in her heart –
and you in yours –
what crazy wondrous things
your God (and ours)
was amazingly moving forward
through your growing son.

SAMSUNGTeach us your trust
your daily fidelity,
your openness to witness wonder
in the everyday.
And be companion-friend to us, to all.

Provide your circling tending presence,
place your hand upon our shoulders,
as we make our vulnerable way along too,
seeking to be available to God
and give Christ birth today,
at Spirit’s prompting.

Put in a word for us
to the boy and man you shaped,
and teach us your love for him
and your willingness to have him be all he is,
whether or not you or we understand.

We greet you and thank you on our way!
And we thank God for you!
St. Joseph, pray for us.


*This description of Mary owed to another friend, Clare of Assisi, in one of her letters to Agnes of Prague.

Categories: Poetry, Saints | 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

Of Bees, Honeyed Feet and Incarnation: Mechthild of Magdeburg

Of all that God has shown meTarrito
I can speak just the smallest word,
Not more than a honey bee
Takes on her foot
From an overspilling jar.

– Mechthild of Magdeburg

— so beautiful, yes?  take it in!  it seems to me these days that any words that we can say about what is essential are really quite small —

We are poor and little, weak and clueless.  Love and truth, life and death, sickness and health, growth and decline, sadness and joy, conflict and peace, violence and tenderness – even what is happening in our own minds and hearts; so little about these things comes into sharp focus for us.  We have no answers, small understanding, and come to wisdom slowly.  Can we smile at this?

Of course, we are wondrous.  I haven’t forgotten.  But we (and certainly I) don’t dwell with the wondrous enough.  We are distracted by what we do not know, ways we have not done or been something we intuit is extremely important (though our words fail here too), or who we have not yet, or may not ever, become.  We seek answers.  We remember suffering and ask questions.  We seek identity and home.

We do not know.  We experience longing, and sometimes deep pain.  We are not — something — our hearts tell us.  (Thank God that “God is greater than our hearts”!  1 John 3:20).  Yet perhaps our smallness and the way we experience life within our very limitation is wonder too.  (I know – it doesn’t feel wondrous sometimes! But don’t the words sound as if there’s something to them?  Hmm…)

Mechthild’s bee reminds us of who we are.  It’s beautiful really.  This small honey bee’s foot finds sweet stickiness in an overflowing abundance.  We buzz about a world of overflowing honey jars.  We might stop here.  Our view, she seems to say, is so small – our capacity infinitesimal.  But listen to Mechthild’s premise and find new hope in knowing that you and I are amazing.

Of all that God has shown me…  We are ones who wake into life learning that we are constantly addressed and “shown things” by the Creator of all that is!  This is the One who somehow is and was before all things (duh… grasp that one with your brain!), who brought all into being and intends our freedom and ability to learn and love.  We wake up already deeply in a relationship that is our truest home; a relationship we did not initiate, could not earn, and are invited to remain in always and forever.  Does that not make us amazing? We fascinate the Creator of the smallest quarks and the largest galaxies, who delights in showing us things and being with us!  Augustine spoke of humans as having capax dei… a capacity for God.  We are made that way – hard wired.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to really believe that we have the capacity to delight God by simply receiving what God would show us, what God would give.

And God shows us much, each day, each moment.

If we cultivate (through REPEATED practice!) that Advent wakefulness December reminded us of as a way of living, we might find a million’s million grams of ‘honey’ in which our feet are stuck, and through which God speaks to us.  Will we learn to listen to the Creator’s love-talk?

As I write, these “small” things surround me, and I believe “show” me something:  music’s beauty, the skill and passion of the harpist, the oft-forgotten wonder of my ears and the way they take in sound like fingers take in texture or my palate takes in flavor, the wonder of how hands and thumbs and muscles and holding work (as my left thumb and wrist speak to me in ache from a fall), the way vegetables actually feel good as you eat them, the warmth of heart brought by a quick gaze at a sleeping crazy-beloved dog, the essence of connection and longing for presence found in family members’ smiles and eyes on pictures on the wall, the flickering self-giving light of a candle, the hand stitched gift that says ‘I know and love you’, the diversity of place and people I’ve visited in playful koala and moose images, the delight in coffee’s smell and taste, the wonder of recorded words in books and the people whose stories and gifts gave them birth.  These are just a few of the wonders within 6 feet of where I sit.  Even within that range I cannot adequately capture all of what God shows me! Take a few moments.  What’s around you?  If you listen, is God showing you some small thing through the honey on your foot in this moment?  We stand sticky in wonders and mystery all the time!

I have wondered why I/why we then spend so much energy anxious or upset about what we cannot understand or do not know.  Why are we surprised when we are just bee-size?  Why does it pain us so not to find answers, wrap up what we consider essential questions, or to simply walk our days in unknowing, with a bit of ongoing stumbling more characteristic than steady gait when we walk around the larger questions? I do not mean we are not explorers of lands and seas, of space, of body and spirit, of all that our curiosity draws us to learn of, or that human or creation’s need draws us to discover.  I do not argue with our unfolding knowledge, with study, with the sketches we make of what is important that become science texts or symphonies, masterpieces or family traditions.

SAMSUNGBut we are those who often experience life as ones who see “tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity”.*  We can only speak just the smallest word, Mechthild tells us, of what we are shown, even of what we experience.  Is that awful?  We seem to think so.  Difficult, yes, of course; especially when we speak of loss or death or isolation or violence or other hard things.  But our analyzing endlessly or “parking in the circle” of difficult or the excruciatingly painful will not create an okay-ness if we put in enough time or effort!  Instead, we run the risk of forgetting to notice the other honey – the amazing and wondrous. And we will forget the merits of our littleness.

You and I must learn to live and thrive in a place of acceptance and celebration of the limits and wonders of being human.

Okay.  What do we know?  Not much.  What can we hold onto in awareness? Only the smallest fraction, like Mechthild’s bee’s honeyed foot. What if the Incarnation speaks to how to be with this?  It does!  Do we not believe Jesus shows us how to live human life as it can be lived?

At Christmas, we remember that we are not only people addressed by God everyday and over history, shown all kinds of wonders.  Mechthild is correct that we are only able to say the smallest word about life, but God’s Word came to us – containing every word and hope.  And the Creator of All chose to enter the very reality of unknowing and foggy perceiving we resist – this soil and sod that is the stuff of being human. And by so joining it, graced it fully.  Into the middle of the not knowing, this fog of understanding where clarity is an exception in our experience: THIS is the very reality that God chose to enter.  The One who is somehow Three, who existed before the cosmos and creation, chose to fully enter the flesh-ly story of a people and a world in one corner of one planet in one womb as one child with one human lifetime.  No wonder we speak of the Word leaping down from the heavens! What a leap!  God entering such limits!  Unbelievable!

Or is it?  Doesn’t such entering in tell us something about who God has always been, well before that holy night we sing about on Christmas Eve?  We miss the fact that Incarnation says something about power. Power is not control.  It is not insight.  It is not understanding and identifying and categorizing and figuring all out. Real power – true power – is love.  It is Love which leaps and enters and is WITH.  (It’s Trinity too – for that’s the leaping love of the Three which makes them One in ongoing self-giving.)  The One Who Loves Us All is this very Love, in kind and content. This is the most amazing power you and I can ever encounter.  In a way, it’s a no-brainer.  The Christmas Story in Luke is all about persons who don’t have all (or much) in their control.  The scene looks out of whack;  a babe in an animal’s feed trough, a woman who said yes to an angel when ‘how’ was never answered, a man who welcomed a pregnant bride into his life and heart with little sensical explanation.  Control and understanding are not the point, no matter that we might want to make it so sometimes.  Relationship and being with and delight and being who we are in this love — every day and moment — that’s the point.

God leaps in love.  God is a leap in love.  This is what we mean when some say “God is mission”.  God must go out in love.  And so must we. It’s who God is, not what God does.  It’s who we are, not what we do.

The most powerful achievements in our lives have little do with understanding all the turns and wherefores in our own or others’ journeys, or even affecting them.  Our power lies in awareness and acceptance of the love story we are created a part of, and a Love embracing us and sending us leaping out to love.  As Pope Francis has often repeated this season, that reaching out should particularly be to the poor.  God came to us, poor small honeybees so loved by God and able to give God delight.  And our poverty is what God can fill.  We who would join the Incarnation mystery by bringing Christ to birth in our world and lives must also go where love goes… it leaps to those with greatest emptiness and need.  We are those who have received.  We are those who must also leap.

So, let’s worry less about getting answers to all life’s questions.  Let’s live in the relationship where God shows us many things.  Let us embrace our capax dei, the gift that is our capacity for God, hard-wired in by the Creator.  Let’s value one another – especially those in need or pain – with the same leaping love God models for us in Jesus’ coming.  Let us give up trying to understand the Incarnation, and live its mystery by embodying an embrace of humanness that the Creator chose to show us in Christ.  Let us glance at the babe, and learn from the young family how to survive and thrive in unknowing, in following, in faithfulness.

SAMSUNGI am better able to walk in this mystery as I listen to the smallest words of others about this journey we are all on.  Mechthild, Madeleine, Maura, Jessica — these poets help me listen and learn.  They hearten me, as they learn and share what God has shown them.  I hope they invite you to attention to what God shows you too this day.  Whatever that may be, it is good.  Trust that, with me.  Don’t worry that you don’t get the whole honey-pot…. or a few of them.  Enjoy, with God, the bit of honey on your foot this day.  And I will too, with you!  BbbbuuuuuuZZZZZzzzzzzzzz!

* The source of this image is Annie Dillard in The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (see ABOUT THE BLOG). There she describes the experience of being human very much like the experience of walking in the fog. We see “tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity”.

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

Presence to the Mystery in the Manger: Sister Maura Eichner, SSND

Another day, another way to be with the Mystery in the manger, and some words and wisdom offered (which will continue through Epiphany, Jan. 5th, 2014).

The call to presence these days invites us to open our own eyes and heart to this Child and his family, to the visitors and travelers, to song and embrace, to all this season in holy night and early days, in incarnation flesh, and vulnerability holds.  It asks us to hearken to this Word, this Proclamation, this Love, definitively present and spoken directly to our world, to creation, and to each of us each and all of us.

sister maura eichnerStill, these gifts from others may help us travel the distance into our own silence to encounter.  So, shhhh… let us… See. Listen. Treasure. Ponder. Hold and be held. And then be still. And perhaps be moved to worship. To song. To poetry. To service. To sharing. I’ll meet you there.  Rejoicing!

Today, find two poem selections from Sister Maura Eichner, SSND (School Sister of Notre Dame). I was fortunate enough to have Sister Maura as an undergrad professor, after having dined on her poetry in adolescence and early young adulthood.

SAMSUNG

Atonal Carol for the
Present Moment

Son of God
you took life
from a gentle girl
the Jewish wife

of Joseph. You
also wholly took
our laughter, grief,
ironies and jokes.

Take us, too,
again, again,
on this lonely planet
world of men.

Orbit our veins,
look out our eyes,
be a now
surprise! surprise!

Like that human girl
who cradled you,
Son of Man,
we need you.

 

Love Travels Far

Love travels far
To be home.
Carols echo –
“Come, O come. . . .”

God is where
He chose to be –
Living in you,
Living in me.

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

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