Sunday, August 7, 2022

Faith



I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,
faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.
But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.
Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.


-- David Whyte (1955- ), Anglo-Irish poet and writer

Scriptural connection: Luke 12:32-40, Proper 14C

Immanence

Morning visitors in St. Lucia

I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord:
Not borne on morning wings
Of majesty, but I have set My Feet
Amidst the delicate and bladed wheat
That springs triumphant in the furrowed sod.
There do I dwell, in weakness and in power;
Not broken or divided, saith our God!
In your strait garden plot I come to flower:
About your porch My Vine
Meek, fruitful, doth entwine;
Waits, at the threshold, Love’s appointed hour.

I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord:
Yea! on the glancing wings
Of eager birds, the softly pattering feet
Of furred and gentle beasts, I come to meet
Your hard and wayward heart. In brown bright eyes
That peep from out the brake, I stand confest.
On every nest
Where feathery Patience is content to brood
And leaves her pleasure for the high emprize
Of motherhood—
There doth My Godhead rest.

I come in the little things,
Saith the Lord:
My starry wings I do forsake,
Love’s highway of humility to take:
Meekly I fit My stature to your need.
In beggar’s part
About your gates I shall not cease to plead—
As man, to speak with man—
Till by such art I shall achieve
My Immemorial Plan,
Pass the low lintel of the human heart.

-- Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) English Anglo-Catholic writer, teacher, mystic and pacifist.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

The Transfiguration



So from the ground we felt that virtue branch
Through all our veins till we were whole, our wrists
As fresh and pure as water from a well,
Our hands made new to handle holy things,
The source of all our seeing rinsed and cleansed
Till earth and light and water entering there
Gave back to us the clear unfallen world.
We would have thrown our clothes away for lightness,
But that even they, though sour and travel stained,
Seemed, like our flesh, made of immortal substance,
And the soiled flax and wool lay light upon us
Like friendly wonders, flower and flock entwined
As in a morning field. Was it a vision?
Or did we see that day the unseeable
One glory of the everlasting world
Perpetually at work, though never seen
Since Eden locked the gate that’s everywhere
And nowhere? Was the change in us alone,
And the enormous earth still left forlorn,
An exile or a prisoner? Yet the world
We saw that day made this unreal, for all
Was in its place. The painted animals
Assembled there in gentle congregations,
Or sought apart their leafy oratories,
Or walked in peace, the wild and tame together,
As if, also for them, the day had come.
The shepherds’ hovels shone, for underneath
The soot we saw the stone clean at the heart
As on the starting-day. The refuse heaps
Were grained with that fine dust that made the world;
For he had said, ‘To the pure all things are pure.’
And when we went into the town, he with us,
The lurkers under doorways, murderers,
With rags tied round their feet for silence, came
Out of themselves to us and were with us,
And those who hide within the labyrinth
Of their own loneliness and greatness came,
And those entangled in their own devices,
The silent and the garrulous liars, all
Stepped out of their dungeons and were free.
Reality or vision, this we have seen.
If it had lasted but another moment
It might have held for ever! But the world
Rolled back into its place, and we are here,
And all that radiant kingdom lies forlorn,
As if it had never stirred; no human voice
Is heard among its meadows, but it speaks
To itself alone, alone it flowers and shines
And blossoms for itself while time runs on.

But he will come again, it’s said, though not
Unwanted and unsummoned; for all things,
Beasts of the field, and woods, and rocks, and seas,
And all mankind from end to end of the earth
Will call him with one voice. In our own time,
Some say, or at a time when time is ripe.
Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified,
Christ the discrucified, his death undone,
His agony unmade, his cross dismantled—
Glad to be so—and the tormented wood
Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree
In a green springing corner of young Eden,
And Judas damned take his long journey backward
From darkness into light and be a child
Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal
Be quite undone and never more be done.

--Edwin Muir (1887-1959), Scots poet, translator, journalist, editor, critic, and writer.

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration (which is different from Transfiguration Sunday, which is the last Sunday in Epiphany. Yeah, I know.)

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The World



I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright;
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years,
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world
And all her train were hurl’d.
The doting lover in his quaintest strain
Did there complain;
Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights,
Wit’s sour delights,
With gloves, and knots, the silly snares of pleasure,
Yet his dear treasure
All scatter’d lay, while he his eyes did pour
Upon a flow’r.

The darksome statesman hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight-fog mov’d there so slow,
He did not stay, nor go;
Condemning thoughts (like sad eclipses) scowl
Upon his soul,
And clouds of crying witnesses without
Pursued him with one shout.
Yet digg’d the mole, and lest his ways be found,
Work’d under ground,
Where he did clutch his prey; but one did see
That policy;
Churches and altars fed him; perjuries
Were gnats and flies;
It rain’d about him blood and tears, but he
Drank them as free.

The fearful miser on a heap of rust
Sate pining all his life there, did scarce trust
His own hands with the dust,
Yet would not place one piece above, but lives
In fear of thieves;
Thousands there were as frantic as himself,
And hugg’d each one his pelf;
The downright epicure plac’d heav’n in sense,
And scorn’d pretence,
While others, slipp’d into a wide excess,
Said little less;
The weaker sort slight, trivial wares enslave,
Who think them brave;
And poor despised Truth sate counting by
Their victory.

Yet some, who all this while did weep and sing,
And sing, and weep, soar’d up into the ring;
But most would use no wing.
O fools (said I) thus to prefer dark night
Before true light,
To live in grots and caves, and hate the day
Because it shews the way,
The way, which from this dead and dark abode
Leads up to God,
A way where you might tread the sun, and be
More bright than he.
But as I did their madness so discuss
One whisper’d thus,
“This ring the Bridegroom did for none provide,
But for his bride.”




--Henry Vaughan (1621-1695), Welsh metaphysical poet and physician

Scriptural reference: Luke 12:32-40, Proper 14C

Monday, August 1, 2022

Ulysses



It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


--Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), preeminent poet of the Victorian era. My friend Pam's favorite poem, and today she officially retires from teaching after 35 years of inspiring young minds.


Image-- A Roman mosaic of Ulysses (Odysseus).

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Iceland

Last night I dreamed of icy cliffs
Standing on the precipice
I leaned to see just where the edge would take me
The wind came up, I closed my eyes
I heard a shout and to my surprise
A hand reached out and pulled me back to safety

What's a hand, what's a dream
Who can say what it means
When everything that you know
Can disappear
Don't look back, the spirits cry
Just be glad to be alive
Everything that you love is right here
Everything that you love:

Life feels smaller than this stone
Worn smooth inside my palm
I keep it like a charm inside my pocket
I keep thinking I'll flame out
Leave no one with a doubt
That I was meant to fire like a rocket

What's a stone, what's a flame
There's always someone else to blame
When everything that you know disappears
Don't look back the spirits cry
Just be glad to be alive
Everything that you need is right here
Everything that you need:

When I'm left here on the shore
The ancient basalt moor
Will beckon me to sleep among its heather
Who's not tempted to fold in
So that sleep may come again
Where the fire and the ice hide their treasure

Everything that you love
Everything that you need

--Mary Chapin Carpenter (1958- ), American singer-songwriter and poet, from her album The Age of Miracles (2010) She explains this song here.





Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Stone of Witness

 



Joshua said to all the people, 
“See, this stone shall be a witness against us; 
for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us…
 "- Joshua 24:27a

 



This pale stone from St. Columba’s Bay
had lain beneath pilgrim feet for a thousand years before
singing its way to my notice; its delicate web of
fine green tracings draws the eye into the stone, its heft
surprising for a marble-cool thumbprint. Glossy
and silky to the touch, it bears witness

to the caress of tides and the melancholy
wandering of saints. What prayers has it heard
from all who have passed this way—what prayers
can I whisper to it as it slides between my fingers?

Two billion years it tumbled
to the ebb and flow of windswept tide.
From its holy home it now resides
in my pocket most days, a traveler and thus a stranger,
honed by the caress of the sea.

 

And now I recognize the toddler wisdom
in filling one’s pockets
with treasures from the ground: they witness
to the loving embrace of this Earth
carrying us tenderly around the Sun, grounding us
in wonder and awe, bearing testimony
to the holiness arching up beneath our feet.



-- Leslie Barnes Scoopmire, first published at Episcopal Journal's Speaking to the Soul on July 28, 2022.