Blind Noel

Our region saw the first snowflakes of the year this weekend. Small heavy wet flakes as it was just cold enough in the sky above to see snow crystallize.  The snow fall spins my mind to a short Christmas poem by R.S. Thomas that I’d read earlier in the week.  The poem is titled, Blind Noel.

Christmas; the themes are exhausted.

Yet there is always room
on the heart for another
snowflake to reveal a pattern.
Love knocks with such frosted fingers.

I look out. In the shadow

of so vast a God I shiver, unable
to detect the child for the whiteness.

Isn’t it both distressing and hopeful that love has to knock with such frosted fingers?

When this knocking comes, and it always comes, will I be able to hear it? Will I have the courage to open its door, the courage to extend, even slightly, into the unknown vastness of God?

I long for love but am scared to open the door to those frosted fingers. Perhaps they are my own, longing to be let into my heart. Longing to have God reveal to me who I am and who he has created me to be; to find and have revealed to me what of Himself God has planted in me. And I thank God for His Blind Noel that will undoubtedly come.

 

The Dawn of the Tiny King

By Il Fratello

What should I do with all this Christmas news
that dawns like fire-light on ice
that makes a change and says to change–
will I allow the pitiful child, born in a cattle pen
to steal upon the near-hardened strings of my callous heart?
let my eyes see what I at first don’t see
strain my deafened ears to listen once again
for small tender, deep down things?

or casually sleep the night, assuming it to be
like any other night. and say upon accounting
I never saw or heard or knew he came?

low, low, low, low down things
manure and straw, dirt floor and the cold draft
of winter ice-wind through barn boards
who will keep warm the infant savior of the world?
I even I, who most needs saving, can give my cloak
stand watch outside the door,
lean against the drafty wall and block the cold
get mary water, run for joseph’s gentle requests

in the balance of the night I will choose
to scoff or to love
to turn away or to help
to pass by or to stop
and let my heart be struck-smitten-cracked
open by the incarnation of Love

what wild song the angels sing
dancing on the breezes of the midnight star-sky
that calls to us a sweeter sound like
love-struck joy, like earth heaving
mountain ache of now rightly-set things.
They sing salvation come to us in darkest hour
a tiny King, his dawn is fire-light.

Mother&Child

Advent

By Il Fratello
Fly down the hill
That separates me 
From you
On horseback or wing 
I am listed to be saved
These stones 
I’ve built up 
Around me 
Matter little 
To a love 
like yours
 
Regret 
That old advisor 
Must go violently 
(With joy)
To a dungeon
I once kept for righteous men
 
And I 
(Undoubtedly)
Will step out 
From this gray keep
Of centuries sin
Barefoot 
Unburdened 
To the victory green 
To meet my judge 
My jury and my lover 

Annunciation by John Donne

Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which can not sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which can not die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He’ll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;
Whom thou conceiv’st, conceived; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother,
Thou hast light in dark, and shutt’st in little room
Immensity cloister’d in thy dear womb.

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Hurry to this Work

By Rachel Srubas

When the time comes for one of the divine offices to begin, as soon as the signal is heard, everyone must set aside whatever they may have in hand and hurry as fast as possible to the oratory. . . The essential point is that nothing should be accounted more important that the work of God. — Chapter 43, Saint Benedict’s Rule

A singular, demanding note,
the bell of disciplined devotion,
intervenes in the day. Didn’t I already pray?
What more is there to say, so soon?

You. Your name,
the ancient phrases of the faithful
fill my mouth. My mind,
the most defiant part of me,
lingers over what I set aside
to hurry to this work.
To aspire to ceaseless prayer requires me
to live as though you were my highest priority.
I say you are, yet I resist, internally preoccupied
while singing psalms so seemingly sincerely.

Help me. I’m a master of little but self-division:
my body is present, apparently, prayerful;
my attention, anywhere but here.
Find me and remind me whose I am,
what my deepest joy is,
why I need much practice
as well as your forgiveness.

Excerpted from Oblation: Meditations of St. Benedict’s Rule, published by Paraclete Press.

empty_church

Anima Christi

Excerpt from Eyes Have I That See: Selected Poems by Fr. John Julian
(Available at Paraclete Press or Priory Gifts)

Soul of Christ, O, consecrate me;PaintedCross
Flesh of Christ, emancipate me;
Blood of Christ, intoxicate me;
Water from Christ’s side, repair me;
Sufferings of Christ, prepare me;
O good Jesu, deign to spare me;
In thy wounded bosom bear me;
From thy presence never send me;
From the Enemy defend me.
When I come to die, protect me,
And to join thee, Lord, direct me.
With thy blessed saints upraise me,
That forever I may praise thee. Amen.

City of Glass

By Melodious Monk

I met a new friend this week, Welsh poet R. S. Thomas. While recently feeling a little lost and tired of looking for God with seemingly no answer back, I went to a shelf of poetry books in hopes that someone else’s words might open my eyes a bit differently.

Perhaps it was Paul Powis’ colorful illustration on the front cover of the R. S. Thomas collection that caught my attention, but every poem of R. S. Thomas that I read I find compelling, thought-provoking, and profoundly mysterious.

One such poem is titled, “the empty church. “ I spend a significant amount of time in an empty church here at the Community of Jesus– either cleaning, doing maintenance work, or praying alone–so, in quickly glancing through the index, this poem’s title leaped out at me as one to read.

The Empty Church

They laid this stone trap
for him, enticing him with candles,
as though he would come like some huge moth
out of the darkness to beat there.
Ah, he had burned himself
before in the human flame
and escaped, leaving the reason
torn. He will not come any more
to our lure. Why, then, do I kneel still
striking my prayers on a stone
heart? Is it in hope one
of them will ignite yet and throw
on its illumined walls the shadow
of someone greater than I can understand?

In the short time I’ve spent with this Anglican priest’s poetry, I have found a strong sense of the knowledge of God’s presence when, and perhaps especially when, He is not tangible to us. I often ask God why this road through life has so many components that often feel pointless or at cross-purposes with one another. I think Thomas might say that our inability to understand God in our lives is not something to be afraid of. At the end of his poem Emerging, Thomas reminds us that God has destined us for good.

There are questions we are the solution
to, others whose echoes we must expand
to contain. Circular as our way is,
it leads not back to that snake-haunted
garden, but onward to the tall city
of glass that is the laboratory of the spirit.

Poetry by R. S. Thomas. Artwork by Paul Powis

Purple Shade by Paul Powis

Little Friend – a poem for today

little friend if you truly knew me
would you look up so expectantly
so hopefully, if you knew
my limited strength, my weaknesses
my need, would you sleep so calmly
in my lap, conformed to the circle of my arms

you run ahead of me
in so many ways, you want to
let me know what is fun
you want me to let go of the day
and join you in this moment

and when you stray off in silly passions
you bear my imperfect correction
with avid repentance

my little friend you teach me all
of what you know, free of learning
free of arduous study and heavy doctrine
with your eyes and your wagging tail
your tongue-licks of minute assurances
you speak the truth knit in your bones
and so we go together, my friend,
into this good day.
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Always Reserved

By Melodious Monk

In the Reservation Chapel
Jesus Waits
He waits for our yes
He waits for us to ask
He hopes we stay.

In the Reservation Chapel
Light comes and light goes
like a mirror of our souls
and Jesus waits
through the darkest night.

In the Reservation Chapel
Morning Sun is never late
it always comes
and Jesus waits
for our hearts to do the same.

The Community of Jesus

 

Born Again

 

By Melodious Monk

“But the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You  must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell from where it comes or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Thus says Jesus to Nicodemus when he asks how is it possible to be born again. There’s much mystery and depth of meaning to this 3rd chapter of John. This spring, I found a new connection with this scripture in a place I did not expect–Emily Dickinson’s poem, April.  She reminds us that Mother Nature is continually teaching us more and more of the beautifully vast depths of the mystery of the spirit, and I’m reminded that we must always be listening for this “wind” of the spirit-as we never know when or how it may come!

April    

An altered look about the hills
A Tyrian light the village fills
A wider sunrise in the morn
A deeper twilight on the lawn
A print of a vermillion foot
A purple finger on the slope
A flippant fly upon the pane
A spider at his trade again
An added strut in Chanticleer
A flower expected everywhere
An axe shrill singing in the woods
Fern odors on untraveled roads
All this and more I cannot tell
A furtive look you know as well
And Nicodemus’ Mystery
Receives its annual reply!

Emily Dickinson