You must be alone
before you can leave it,
or it will crush you
like a black, heavy rock.
You must drive into
the hollow of its face,
under the ledges
it projects against you.
Feel its cold granite
pressed to your grain.
it will allow your turning
to rest your back
within its curve.
you will be free to leave it,
walking lightly once again
on yielding earth.
When you return, it will be freely,
on a pilgrimage,
to touch the name you carved once
with the anguish of your heart.
Music: Seeking Serenity – Nicholas Gunn
Today, in Mercy, we join Mary and the disciples as they deal with Christ’s death. No doubt, the range of emotions among them was as great as it would be among any group or family losing someone they dearly loved.
They had entered, with heart-wrenching drama, into a period of bereavement over the loss of Jesus. Doubt, hope, loss, fear, sadness and remembered joy vied for each of their hearts. They comforted one another and tried to understand each other’s handling of their terrible shared bereavement.
They did just what we all do as families, friends and communities when our beloved dies.
But ultimately, our particular bereavement belongs to us alone, woven from the many experiences we have had with the person who has died. These are personal and indescribable, as is the character of our pain and loss.
Do not be afraid of your bereavement. It is a gift of love.
Holy Saturday, like bereavement, is a time of infrangible silence. No matter how many “whys” we throw heavenward, no answer comes. It is a time to test what Love has meant to us and, even as it seems to leave us, how it will live in us.
As we pray today with the bereaved Mother and disciples, let us fold all our bereavements into their love. We already know the joyful end to the story, so let us pray today with honesty but also with unconquerable hope that we will live and love again.
Separately, I will send two poems today that I hope may help with your prayer.
Music: Farewell – Michael Hoppé
Calvary was a glass box where God,
confined, no longer touched the world.
It was a white plain, without sound,
not the groaning, blood-soaked hill
the scriptures leave us.
Calvary hewed itself inside me once
with the chisel of a long sorrow
that fell, persistent, merciless
like cold, steel rain.
It was a place bereft of feeling.
Only the anticipation and
the memory of pain are feelings.
Pain itself is a huge abyss,
bled by the silence that mimics death,
but is not as kind as death.
Calvary is the place where
all strength is given
to the drawing of a breath
to linger in it unfulfilled.
God, now I go quietly inside
where you are dying in a glass box, still.
I am changing now to glass
to pass through and companion you.
I watch the rain, itself like glass,
crashing to an unknown life
beneath the earth. Where love roots
absolute, unbreakable, I cling to you
in a transparent act of will.
Music: Handel: Messiah – Part 2
Evidently, this was needed. Because people need
to be screamed at with proof.
But Jesus knew his friends. Before they were,
he knew them; and they knew
that he would never leave them
desolate here. So he let his exhausted eyes close
at first glimpse of the village.
And immediately he seemed
to be standing in their midst.
Here was Martha, the dead boy’s sister.
He knew he would always find her
at his right hand, and beside her
Mary. They were all here.
Yet opening his eyes it was not so.
He was standing apart,
even the two women
slowly backing away,
as if from concern for their good name.
Then he began to hear voices
muttering under their breath
quite distinctly; or thinking,
Lord, if you had been here
our friend might not have died.
(At that, he seemed to reach out
to touch someone’s face
with infinite gentleness,
and silently wept.) He asked them the way
to the grave. And he followed
behind them, preparing
to do what is not done
to that green silent place
where life and death are one.
Merely to walk down this road
had started to feel like a test,
or a poorly prepared-for performance
with actors unsure of their lines,
or which play they were supposed to be in;
a feverish outrage rising inside him
at the glib ease with which words like “living”
and “being dead” rolled off their tongues.
And awe flooded his body
when he hoarsely cried,
“Move the stone!”
“By now he must stink,”
somebody helpfully shouted.
(And it was true, the body
had been lying in the tomb
four days.) But he was far away,
too far away inside himself
to hear it, beginning
to fill with that gesture
which rose through him:
no hand this heavy
had ever been raised, no human hand
had ever reached this height
shining an instant in air, then
all at once clenching into itself
at the thought all the dead might return
from that tomb where
the enormous cocoon
of the corpse was beginning to stir.
In the end, though, nobody stood
there at its entrance
but the young man
who had freed his right arm
and was pulling at his face,
at small strips of grave wrappings.
Peter looked across at Jesus
with an expression that seemed to say
You did it, or What have you done? And all
saw how their vague and inaccurate
life made room for him once more.
~ by Franz Wright from a fragment by Rainer Maria Rilke ~
Music: Franz Schubert – The Raising of Lazarus ( For more info on music, click here )
Here are two of my poems to go with tomorrow’s reflection. I hope they are useful for your prayer. Also, this interesting excerpt I found online.
The Hebrew word for mother is emm, the Aramaic word is immah, and the Arabic word is umm. The liturgical word amen, which at its core means “confirmation, support”, is derived from the words for “mother”. ( From Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog – Click here to go to blog)
If You Are Mother
If You are Mother, God
don’t let us hurt ourselves;
keep freedom in us
not as willfulness,
so that we grow,
even if we must grow down
like a dark, hidden root.
if life dies in us,
You change. We are not
you left somewhere
in lonely hope one Spring.
You are the ground, and the
growth, and the growth’s nourishment.
When we green, it is You
The Hands of God
The hands of God love me
when I cannot see God’s face.
Like salve, they warmly run
over in and out of me,
pausing where my hurt is knotted,
barbed to their approach…
mother’s hands, lover’s, friend’s,
my own hands held in God’s hands,
I come to God’s hands
like broken earth
stretches for redeeming rain.
Even in the deep night,
where God will not speak,
those loving hands are words
which I answer in the darkness.
Because You Were Kind
it was the utter simplicity
of your self – gift
that clothed it so
and made it a door
for the Holy One
to walk through.
Had you noticed
God’s sacred footfalls
under your tender words;
do you await
the gracious return
of the Giver
to replace, a hundredfold,
the loving gift you gave to me?
where my vulnerability
is so finely echoed
I will allow it
(Written after my mother’s death)
winter framed sunlight
in the cold windows.
I watched you spread small greens
across a wooden table,
fingering their thready roots
like harp strings.
A song fell from that,
like quiet, nurturing rain.
Unable to sing,
I let the song seep quietly into me,
bathing my uprooted soul
in the warm silence between us.
There, in that comfort,
the small cutting at my core
Finally, I spoke
and laid the whole parched root
upon the table of your mercy. And
you, ever-tender gardener, lifted it
and blew the dust away, and
spitting gently in your hand,
massaged the feeble life it hid
before you stood it carefully in soil.
You said, “Life is like this sometimes.
Be gentle with it. It will bloom again.”
When I saw you gathered like a sigh
in your cornflower velvet chair,
quilted against a passing winter flu,
I hurt to see you,
weak like half-drawn tea,
we did not yet sail
the catastrophic sea.
What I did know as I had not before
is that, dear friend, you do grow old,
and the day on which I will not find you,
warm and easy near the window’s cold
fell into my heart like sudden, heavy rain
that drowned my voice so unexpectedly,
I dove beneath the wave
to find myself again.
When you are gone from me,
I’ll gather somewhere in a sigh,
near fragile things of earth,
near leaves that turn to lace before they fall,
or snow, whose symmetry is yielding,
even as it lay,
and I will love you
as completely as I did today.
Near fragile things of earth, I’ll love you
as silently and as completely
as I did today.
Music: Joe Bongiorno: Walk with Me
You have been present to me, God
like light to flame,
like heat to flame
like fluid movement
and energy of shape to flame.
The wax of my life
is consumed in such Presence.
Shall I simply be content
that it burn,
or shall I seek the Transparency
to which it disappears?
All the ages that have loved You
sometimes rush into me
like the white falls of a river,
and Your engagement of the earth
from all antiquity
is caught in a great gasp
by the walls of my soul.
In every creature that has ever been
or ever will be, You and I
have been loving each other.
All that treasure swells
in me for a moment
before it thins again into the Chronos
where I seek You in its shadows.
For a second, split in light
I may have held your still
eternal soul within my own.
Music: Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Today, in Mercy, Genesis gives us a picture of our “Original Innocence“. It is a beautiful story, the earth freshly sprung from nothingness, our Ancient Ancestor cradled to life in the palm of God’s hand.
See God gazing at this work of his fingers, bending over it in love. See God draw up his own eternal breath and gently whisper it into this yet lifeless image of God’s own Divinity.
Adam bursts forth, the dazzling image of God Who, liking what He has made, draws a second, even more lovely creature from its side.
All was given to these two glorious creatures – all but the right to consume the knowledge of good and evil. It almost seems that God feared their innocence could not sustain such knowledge. And it ensues that God is right (of course!)
The elegantly profound poet Ranier Maria Rilke captures the drama with this poem:
I read it here in your very Word…
I read it here in your very Word,
From the story of the gestures
With which your hands cupped themselves
Around our becoming, warm and wise.
You said, live loudly and die softly,
And over and over again you said: be.
But before the first death came Murder.
At this, a rift tore
through your ripened spheres,
And a crying-out,
And tore away the voices
That had just begun to gather
To speak you
To carry you,
Over the chasm of everything–
And what they’ve since then stammered
Of your ancient name.
I’ll leave you with this poem, and with your own prayerful thoughts on the divine image of your soul, its original innocence, and the reclamation of that innocence in the gift of Jesus Christ.
Music: For the Music of Creation ~ Shirley Elena Murray & Daniel Nelson
For the music of creation,
for the song your Spirit sings,
for your sound’s divine expression,
burst of joy in living things:
God, our God, the world’s composer,
hear us, echoes of your voice —
music is your art, your glory,
let the human heart rejoice!
Psalms and symphonies exalt you,
drum and trumpet, string and reed,
simple melodies acclaim you,
tunes that rise from deepest need,
hymns of longing and belonging,
carols from a cheerful throat,
lilt of lullaby and lovesong
catching heaven in a note.
All the voices of the ages
in transcendent chorus meet,
worship lifting up the senses,
hands that praise, and dancing feet;
over discord and division
music speaks your joy and peace,
harmony of earth and heaven,
song of God that cannot cease.
You choose to own me
despite and within everything,
in a place
at the core of my life,
both removed and essential.
At that wordless
I bless You, singular
and bow before Love as
it laps at the edges of my soul,
as it breaks
in pure revelation
exceeds any act of will;
that grace is a desirous God
who possesses me there.
Still ourselves, we are more one
than separate now,
Heart over heart, heart within Heart,
like a word’s meaning
caressed within its sound.
I drink from that union
like the verdant earth drinks
from its deep reserve of water.
It is Your color that flushes the shape
of every blossom sprung from me.
But that water, once tasted
precludes satiety by any other water.
There is no return for me now
to a season not fed by you.
What I have given you, then
is the whole seed of my life.
Love it in that way.
Music: Magnum Mysterium ~ Voces 8