Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Winter is for the Birds

One way I reflect on the past year is to go back through my journals. This used to be an arduous process because of the mass volume of them. (I don't know that we use the word "volume" to talk about typed journals though!)

As I worked my way through March, I rediscovered this poem that I loved. It spoke to me again today. Its title is Funny. The poet is Anna Kamienska. I know that I posted it on here previously during the Easter season.

What's it like to be a human 
the bird asked

I myself don't know
it's being held prisoner by your skin 
while reaching infinity 
being a captive of your scrap of time 
while touching eternity 
being hopelessly uncertain 
and helplessly hopeful
being a needle of frost 
and a handful of heat 
breathing in the air 
and choking wordlessly 
it's being on fire 
with a nest made of ashes 
eating bread 
while filling up on hunger
it's dying without love 
it's loving through death

That's funny said the bird
and flew effortlessly up into the air

For the past few weeks I have taken up a new task of helping to feed the animals - throwing out rotten apples for the deer and replacing suet for the birds. One gift of the novitiate has been extra time to watch the animals outside. The birds, too, received a gift - a Christmas gift!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Shadows of Darkness and Light

Yesterday the sun finally, finally, came out for more than a brief second. The results were glorious!

Capturing all the shadows became a fun adventure. After I looked at the second picture above, I realized that I received a card in the mail the day before bearing striking similarities.

It feels appropriate to have one sun picture and one moon picture as we celebrate the Solstice today. In fact, the title of the image on the card is "Winter Solstice." The light is returning. I had an experience of light between last night and this morning.

I was in our newly renovated sunroom last night. I noticed that there was a plastic turtle in the one pot, which I had never noticed before.

This morning I was reading a great piece from the "On Being" blog titled All Creation Waits. Gayle Boss writes about creating her own Advent traditions with her family, including making her own Advent calendar for her children. This calendar has animals behind "the doors" rather than cartoons or chocolates. She also included a story for each animal that she would read aloud.

"Pregnant with my second child, I set about making an Advent calendar. The pictures I found myself drawing behind the little cut-out doors were of creatures. Behind door number one, a turtle at the bottom of a pond. Behind door number two, a diamond-skinned snake. Then a loon, a wild goose, a bear, a doe, a crow ... As a companion to the calendar I made a little book. Each December day after Kai opened a door, I read a bit of a poem or song or natural history that linked the creature behind that door to the heart of Advent:
“Turtle is buried now in mud at the bottom of the pond. Encased in darkness, she is utterly still. She waits...”
I drew a turtle behind the door of December 1 because, days before, my son’s godmother had sent me her meditation on turtle as a symbol of the soul in its dark season."

The turtle "as a symbol of the soul in its dark season." That description brought me light as I thought about the turtle I spotted only a few hours before. I think about myself in these final days of Advent.

Val is utterly still. She waits.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

In-Between Time

Much of the monastery still lives in blue, but then one turns the corner...

I love this! We are getting very close. In fact, the O Antiphons are beginning to adorn our "cloister walk."

Today we heard a great homily from Fr. Jim about Mary and Joseph, their relationship with God and their willingness to do the unlikely. He began by referencing Simon and Garfunkel's version of Silent Night with the 7 o'clock news being read simultaneously.

We had just heard something similar, listening to headlines interspersed with today's readings. Powerful, indeed.

It seems that we are here again, living in that unavoidable liminal space where the full paradox of light and darkness plays out. We don't know what comes next, but we keep moving forward. I loved Jim's last lines of his homily. "You must go into the unknown; after all, that's how we received our Savior."

These words are yet another call to echo Simon and Garfunkel, "Hello darkness, my old friend." Yes, the meaning is different, but we must embrace the darkness. Last weekend we talked about the protection that the womb provides.

Emerging from the dark womb, we encounter light. Even better than Santa, Jesus is just around the corner.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Worthwhile Read

I can't imagine I am the only one who does a quick pre-scroll check for an article's length before deciding if it's a worthy investment of my time.

So, I will keep this short and sweet. I read a longer-than-I-usually-read article about Obama from The Atlantic between last night and this morning. Though it is long, I have no regrets. Click on this sentence to read.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

image c/o flickr.com

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Annunciation (by Denise Levertov)

‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn,
Greece, VIc

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
                              Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
                              The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
                                             God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
                              Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
                    More often
those moments
     when roads of light and storm
     open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from

in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
                                   God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
                                   only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
                              Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–

but who was God.

This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,

She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
                              raging, coerced.
Bravest of all humans,
                         consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
               courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advent poetry

I think my favorite poem to read during Advent comes (unsurprisingly) from Mary Oliver. It is called, Making the House Ready for the Lord. I think I like it so much because it blends together Mary and Martha so beautifully. See what you think.

Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
     still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
     uproar of mice -- it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
     and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances -- but it is the season
     when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
     while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
     in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
     come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know

     that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.

Let us walk in the holy presence.

a few weary sunflowers

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Great Liturgical Season, or Greatest?

One of my favorite jokes Stephen Colbert used to do on The Report came during his "Better Know a District" segment. In these interviews with congresspeople, Colbert would ask the Democrats, "President Bush: great president or greatest president?" Hilarity ensued.

Lately I have been reflecting on perspective, how one word can have myriad connotations, how one person's pleasure is another's pain, you get the drift. Hopefully, the recognition of this reality leads me to less judgment and more dialogue. It's okay that someone has a different perspective, but it is good to understand how it forms and why someone holds that particular view.

It can also lead to humility, knowing we are only human and real truth rests with God. Heck, even the word humility has approximately one million different connotations. In my Advent journal that I am keeping, I wrote a haiku about perspective.

Mary – sweet and tame?
Let me hear you say
“Yes” to God.

One reason why I love Advent so much is the gospel passages about Mary. If there ever was a good role model for openness, she is certainly it!

Let us walk in the holy presence.

another perspective on our Advent wreath

There Is Need of Only Rhythm

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside at his feet listening t...