Category Archives: Lent

The Lenten Writings: floating on my back

The Avowal

by Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them,

as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them,

so would I learn to attain freefall, and float

into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace, knowing no effort earns

that all-surrounding grace.

Source:   “The Avowal” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997.

I remember…

Trying to learn to do the back float.

Arch your back, they said. Look up at the sky. Don’t look down. Don’t tuck your chin. That was hard. Invariably, I would try to see where I was, tilting my head down. And I would sink.

I do that in my journey too. I stop floating. I want to see if I am making progress. Where is everyone else?

And I sink.

Recovery is hard work. The road back into my story has lots of twists and turns. If it were a river, there would definitely be whitewater and a waterfall.

I want to pause, to look around the bend ahead.

And I sink.

Today’s Lenten poem is about just that.

Just float.

Advertisements

The Lenten Writings: strong in the wind.

The Observer
by Rainer Maria Rilke

 

I can tell a storm by the way the trees are whipping, compared to when quiet, against my trembling windows, and
I hear from afar things whispering
I couldn’t bear hearing without a friend or love without a sister close by.

There moves the storm, the transforming one,
and runs through the woods and through the age, changing it all to look ageless and young:
the landscape appears like the verse of a psalm, so earnest, eternal, and strong.

How small is what we contend with and fight;
how great what contends with us;
if only we mirrored the moves of the things and acquiesced to the force of the storm, we, too, could be ageless and strong.

For what we can conquer is only the small, and winning itself turns us into dwarfs;
but the everlasting and truly important will never be conquered by us.
It is the angel who made himself known
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
for whenever he saw his opponents propose to test their iron-clad muscle strength,
he touched them like strings of an instrument and played their low-sounding chords.

Whoever submits to this angel, whoever refuses to fight the fight,
comes out walking straight and great and upright, and the hand once rigid and hard
shapes around as a gently curved guard.
No longer is winning a tempting bait.
One’s progress is to be conquered, instead, by the ever mightier one.

Source: “The Observer” from Pictures of God; Rilke’s Religious Poetry, translated by Annemarie Kidder.   Livonia, MI: First Page Publications, 2005. I am standing. I am feeling the movement of the wind of the spirit of God. I am standing. I am listening for the voice underneath. I am standing. I am speaking voiced truth.I am standing. I am keeping my eyes open, and asking for courage to see.I am standing.

The Lenten Writings: footprints

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,

Life is but an empty dream! —

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each tomorrow

Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our heats, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead

Act,- act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead.

Footprints, that perhaps another,

Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

a forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,

with a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.

The story beneath, the relentless pull to life. The hint that perhaps there a footprints of another.

These are the echoes that whisper in the dark corridors of my journey. And the voice speaks to my core lie and says “you are not alone.”

And that is enough. O to be accompanied.

Source: “A Psalm of Life” from The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1893.

The Lenten Writings: remember

God of peace,

God of justice,

God of freedom,

We give you thanks for your cadences of peace, justice, and freedom,

Cadences that have surged through the lives

Of Martin,

And Ralph

And Rosa,

And John,

And Fred,

And Hosea,

And Jesse,

And Andy,

And all that nameless mass of risk-takers who have been

Obedient to your promises

And susceptible to your dreams.

Deliver us from amnesia

Concerning their courage in the face of violence,

Their peace-making against hate,

And their hunger for you in a devouring economy

Deliver us from amnesia:

Turn our memory into hope,

Turn our gratitude into energy,

Turn our well-being into impatience.

That these same cadences of your will may pulse even among us.

Amen

Source: “Deliver us from amnesia”, from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Walter Brueggemann, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2003.

The Lenten Writings: a hidden poem

(from the healing of the man born blind: John 9:1-41)

First a path made of clay,

then a path made of grass,

then a path of forget-me-nots

that runs straight to the sea.

My heart of shells.

My heart of flesh and blood.

My heart – a bruised star torn from your sky –

This is the one I bring to you, my God,

As a humble offering.

Your name is Truth,

Your Word is love.

My Jesus, teach me the small truths like:

“I love you, mother!”

“I understand you, my son.”

“I pray for you all.”

When the small flower

Sends her small truth

Into the world

I don’t think of the fallen cardinal

Covered with a newspaper

Or the fists that knocked my hair down

As if into a tomb,

Or the hatred like a radioactive cloud

Invading my past.

When all these truths disappear,

I lift my eyes to the cross

From which forgiveness comes.

And

I learn to forgive,

I learn to help the blind

How to see again love.

I was moving through the dust of years

When on the Sunday of the Blind

I looked for my soul and could not see it.

I began to pray

And You cleaned all the mud

With which I have covered my body

And gave me back

My eyes

My prayer is hidden in this humble poem,

A tiny ladder toward You,

My Lord.

Source: by Liliana Ursu. Source: Matthew 4:8-11, by David Craig, A Praying the Gospels through Poetry: Lent to Easter, Peggy Rosenthal, St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2001.

The Lenten Writings: just you

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

(By Teresa of Avila)

The Lenten Writings: Compassion

Compassionate God,

your generous presence

is always attuned to hurting ones. Your listening ear is bent

toward the cries of the wounded

Your heart of love

fills with tears for the suffering.

Turn my inward eye to see that I am not alone.

I am a part of all of life.

Each one’s joy and sorrow is my joy and sorrow,

and mine is theirs. May I draw strength

from this inner communion. May it daily recommit me

to be a compassionate presence for all who struggle with life’s pain.

Source: “The Heart of Compassion” from Your Sorrow is My Sorrow, by Joyce Rupp. New York: The Crossroads Publishing Co., 1999.

The Lenten Writings: I am not an island

Lying, thinking

Last night

How to find my soul a home

Where water is not thirsty

And bread loaf is not stone

I came up with one thing

And I don’t believe I’m wrong

That nobody, But nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires

With money they can’t use

Their wives run round like banshees

Their children sing the blues

They’ve got expensive doctors

To cure their hearts of stone.

But nobody

No, nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely

I’ll tell you what I know

Storm clouds are gathering

The wind is gonna blow

The race of man is suffering

And I can hear the moan,

‘Cause nobody,

But nobody

Can make it out here alone

Alone, all alone

Nobody, but nobody

Can make it out here alone.

Source: “Alone” from Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, by Maya Angelou. New York: Random House, Inc., 1975.

The Lenten Writings: Kindness

Kindness

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept

     him alive.

Before you know kindness as

     the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as

     the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that

     makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day

     to gaze at bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

It is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you

everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

The Lenten Writings: the Mystery

Days pass when I forget the mystery.

Problems insoluble and problems offering

their own ignored solutions

jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber

along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing

their colored clothes; caps and bells.

And then

once more the quiet mystery

is present to me, the throng’s clamor

recedes: the mystery

that there is anything, anything at all,

let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything,

rather than void: and that, 0 Lord,

Creator, Hallowed one, You still, hour by hour sustain it.

Source: “Primary Wonder” by Denise Levertov, from SANDS OF THE WELL, copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996 by Denise Levertov

The mystery.

So hard to find amidst the cacophony of noise. She pictures it here in metaphor, like courtiers, brightly colored clothes swirling in dance.

And it is through that crowd, in a quiet place beyond, that the mystery is found.

There are many things swirling for me right now. The voices clamor for my attention. Each one distinct, each need important.

Problems also line up for solutions, jostling for a better place. Perhaps some, as she points out, are insoluble. Others, if given a voice, present their own solutions.

They too can distract from the mystery.

Yet even those voices, strident in their need, recede as I come near to the Mystery.

The mystery, wisely, is not named. How could it be?

And yet, it is there, as my very being is sustained for another breath.

And all the noise recedes.

And it is enough.