Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rumi: One Whisper of the Beloved

Lovers share a sacred decree –
to seek the Beloved.
They roll head over heels,
rushing toward the Beautiful One
like a torrent of water.

In truth, everyone is a shadow of the Beloved
Our seeking is His seeking,
Our words are His words.

At times we flow toward the Beloved
like a dancing stream.
At times we are still water
held in His pitcher.
At times we boil in a pot
turning to vapor –
that is the job of the Beloved.

He breathes into my ear
until my soul
takes on His fragrance.
He is the soul of my soul –
How can I escape?
But why would any soul in this world
want to escape from the Beloved?

He will melt your pride
making you thin as a strand of hair,
Yet do not trade, even for both worlds,
One strand of His hair.

We search for Him here and there
while looking right at Him.
Sitting by His side we ask,
"O Beloved, where is the Beloved?"

Enough with such questions! –
Let silence take you to the core of life.

All your talk is worthless
When compared to one whisper
of the Beloved.

C.S. Lewis on the Whisper of God

Lewis is an endless treasure trove.

He says that the pleasures of this world are the whisper of God.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Song of Songs 3:1-3

On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Sermon 1 on Song of Songs

Sermon 1
VI. II. But there is that other song, which, by its unique dignity and sweetness, excels all those I have mentioned and any others there might be; hence by every right do I acclaim it as the Song of Songs. It stands at a point where all the others culminate. Only the touch of the Spirit can inspire a song like this, and only personal experience can unfold its meaning. Let those who are versed in the mystery revel in it; let all others burn with desire rather to attain to this experience than merely to learn about it. For it is a melody that resound abroad by the very music of the heart, not a trilling on the lips but an inward pulsing of delight, a harmony not of voices but of wills. it is a tune you will not hear in the streets, these notes do not sound where crowds assemble; only the singer hears it and the one to whom he sings-the lover and the beloved. It is preeminently a marriage song telling of chaste souls in loving embrace, of their wills in sweet accord, of the mutual exchange of the heart's affection

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Psalm 8:3-9

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

St. Augustine on Thirst (or was it St. Gregory?)

“God thirsts to be thirsted after.”

(I've found this attributed to both St. Augustine and St. Gregory. Perhaps great minds think alike?)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Song of Songs 5:2-6

I was sleeping, but my heart kept vigil;
I heard my lover knocking:
"Open to me, my sister, my beloved,
my dove, my perfect one!
For my head is wet with dew,
my locks with the moisture of the night."

I have taken off my robe,
am I then to put it on?
I have bathed my feet,
am I then to soil them?

My lover put his hand through the opening;
my heart trembled within me,
and I grew faint when he spoke.

I rose to open to my lover,
with my hands dripping myrrh:
With my fingers dripping choice myrrh
upon the fittings of the lock.

I opened to my lover
-but my lover had departed, gone.
I sought him but I did not find him;
I called to him but he did not answer me.

George MacDonald on Love

"Nothing is inexorable but love. Love which will yield to prayer is imperfect and poor. Nor is it then the love that yields, but its alloy... For love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Where loveliness is incomplete, and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more; it strives for perfection, even that itself may be perfected--not in itself, but in the object... Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love's kind, must be destroyed. And our God is a consuming fire."

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11

I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Blessed are they

The beatitudes are endlessly comforting.

Blessed are they...

The path of life is suffering, for one and all. For the secular, suffering is seemingly meaningless, often leading to despair. For the Christian, suffering is the promise of the cross.

For Christ tells us that we are blessed through it.

Particularly blessed.
Specifically blessed.
Magnificently blessed.

Christ has a magnificent story mapped out for each of us, and he watches to see how we choose to respond to and participate in it. Will we rise to the challenge? Will we fight and resist? Will we be beaten down by a reality we would prefer to reject?

Or will we turn toward it, bare our breast to the sword, and embrace the little deaths that are the price of everlasting life?

Blessed are they...

I find comfort in the certainty that while Christ readily accepted the cross that was His to carry, He most certainly did not enjoy it. And I am not called to enjoy mine. I am called to accept it, and I am called to see the stark beauty of it. I am called to hunger and thirst and to recognize that in that hunger I can find God.

Epic stories require battle and suffering and sorrow, rarely concluding with a simple "they lived happily ever after". The beauty, the glory, the magnificence is in the love and loss.

Our God is a God of the beatitudes.

Blessed are they who suffer.

I am endlessly comforted in knowing this.

Song of Songs 5:10-16

My lover is radiant and ruddy;
he stands out among thousands.

His head is pure gold;
his locks are palm fronds,
black as the raven.

His eyes are like doves
beside running waters,
his teeth would seem bathed in milk,
and are set like jewels.

His cheeks are like beds of spice
with ripening aromatic herbs.
His lips are red blossoms;
they drip choice myrrh.

His arms are rods of gold
adorned with chrysolites.
His body is a work of ivory
covered with sapphires.

His legs are columns of marble
resting on golden bases.
His stature is like the trees on Lebanon,
imposing as the cedars.

His mouth is sweetness itself;
he is all delight.
Such is my lover, and such my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.

C.S. Lewis on Knowledge of Another Country

On yearning:

"If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only... to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, echo, or mirage."

"I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to the other country and to help others do the same."

Monday, May 26, 2008

C.S. Lewis on Glory

"At present we are on the outside... the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the pleasures we see. But all the pages of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Someday, God willing, we shall get "in"... We will put on glory... that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch. "

C.S. Lewis on Union with Beauty

"Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. "We do not want to merely "see" beauty--though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words--to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. "

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stephen King on Beauty

From Lisey's Story

"'It's beautiful here...' She looks around. And she shivers. 'It's too beautiful. If I spent too much time here--or even too much time thinking about it--I think the beauty would drive me insane.'"

Stephen King on Bravery

Ok, Ok, I admit that I just read a recent Stephen King book. Guilty, guilty pleasure. (What can I say? I'm on vacation.) It is a book of surprizing beauty.

As God would have it, it connects to many of the things I've been contemplating lately.

Here's a quote in example.

From Lisey's Story

"Isn't bravery always sort of beautiful?"

Saturday, May 24, 2008

D.H. Lawrence 2: Mary's Yes

I imagine this to be Mary's response to the coming of the Holy Spirit after the annunciation.

From The Rainbow

"She turned, and saw a great white moon looking at her over the hill. And her breast opened to it, she was cleaved like a transparent jewel to its light. She stood filled with the full moon, offering herself. Her two breasts opened to make way for it, her body opened wide like a quivering anemone, a soft, dilated invitation touched by the moon."

D.H. Lawrence on the Call

From Bei Hennef

You are the call and I am the answer,
You are the wish, and I the fulfillment,
You are the night, and I the day
What else? It is perfect enough.
It is perfectly complete,
You and I,
What more---?
Strange, how we suffer in spite of this!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Frederick Buechner on Breathtaking Truth

From Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale.

"Let the preacher tell the truth. Let him make audible the silence of the news of the world with the sound turned off so that in that silence we can hear the tragic truth of the Gospel, which is that the world where God is absent is a dark and echoing emptiness; and the comic truth of the Gospel, which is that it is into the depths of his absence that God makes himself present in such unlikely ways and to such unlikely people that old Sarah and Abraham and maybe when the time comes even Pilate and Job and Lear and Henry Ward Beecher and you and I laugh till the tears run down our cheeks. And finally let him preach this overwhelming tragedy by comedy, of darkness by light, of the ordinary by the extraordinary, as the tale that is too good not to be true because to dismiss it as untrue is to dismiss along with it that catch of the breath, that beat and lifting of the heart near to or even accompanied by tears, which I believe is the deepest intuition of truth that we have."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On Soul Ties

My priest is exploring the idea of soul ties, particularly those that create bondage. I am vaguely familiar with the charismatic view of this, which seems to simplify such connections down to some sort of spiritual strand that can be snipped, thereby spiritually freeing both individuals. This viewpoint focuses especially on ties between sexual partners which makes sense, given that "the two shall become one body."

I'd guess in most cases our spiritual connection with others is not quite so clear cut. I think about Lewis' description of holy things in Till We Have Faces, which says that they are not thin and clear like water, but thick and dark like blood.

Our God is a God of relationship. In His trinitarian form He exists as a relationship between three. As spiritual beings made in that image, we are eternal creatures which must also exist in relationship.

Some soul connections may indeed be clear and thin like water, needing only a quick spiritual snipping to enable freedom. Other connections are thick and rich, multi-stranded, multi-dimensional. More web than thread, more blood than water.

And eternal.

The role of priest with his parishioners is one of these complex connections. Your priest baptizes you, confirms you, marries you, and absolves you of sin. He opens the gates for God's revelation to flow in through His holy word. If you are lucky, he annoints you as you are dying, and gives you food for the journey. He does all these things while acting in persona Christi; he -is- Christ for you in this time and place.

Most soul-connecting of all, the priest becomes Christ to present His body and blood in consummation of His covenant with you.

If he is also your friend, bonds of shared experience, struggle, intellectual exploration, laughter, tears, and all the rest are added.

I once had a vision of God binding my arms together in front of me by winding a thin gold cord around and around from elbows to wrists. The strands that weave us together with our priests are like that; golden and abundant, shining and decorative, connecting but not enslaving.

Do soul ties exist? I would argue that they do indeed, in many shapes and sizes. We are relational, and relationships are connections. We are both physical and spiritual, both of time and outside of time. Our spiritual connections will endure beyond this sojourn within time. The challenge in most cases is not to sever them, but to ensure that these ties are properly ordered, balanced, and healthy.

PS: As if to confirm my thoughts, the following quote just came through my email:

"Behind every saint stands another saint. -- Friedrich von Hügel"

C.S. Lewis on the Particularity of the Desired

"You have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw—but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported . . . All the things that have deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it—tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest—if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself—you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say 'Here at last is the thing I was made for.' We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want . . . which we shall still desire on our deathbeds . . . Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand. "

Longing for Narnia

Great article on why we respond to the Narnia stories. Click here to read the blog entry.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Psalm 42

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

St. Therese of Lisieux on the Promised Country

From The Story of a Soul

"Let me suppose that I had been born in a land of thick fogs, and had never seen the beauties of nature, or a single ray of sunshine, although I had heard of these wonders from my early youth, and knew that the country wherein I dwelt was not my real home—there was another land, unto which I should always look forward. ... From the time of my childhood I felt that one day I should be set free from this land of darkness. I believed it, not only because I had been told so by others, but my heart’s most secret and deepest longings assured me that there was in store for me another and more beautiful country—an abiding dwelling place. I was like Christopher Columbus, whose genius anticipated the discovery of the New World. And suddenly the mists about me have penetrated my very soul and have enveloped me so completely that I cannot even picture to myself this promised country … all has faded away."

C.S. Lewis on the Desire for a Far Off Country

From "The Weight of Glory"

"In speaking of this desire for our own faroff country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. "

Sex, Sushi, and Salvation

Two quotes from a book review of Sex, Sushi, and Salvation:

"Since humans are made in the image of God, we have three basic passions–intimacy, community, and eternity. We burn for them, save for them, pay for them, and pray for them. But only the God who fulfills these desires within Himself can perfectly fulfill them in us. "

"Why do we want community–whether at a sushi bar or a ’50s malt shop? Because we burn for belonging. (Just look at a middle school cafeteria when everyone’s finding a seat.) God gave us the desire for community so He alone could satisfy it."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

2 Corinthians 11

2 For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts may be corrupted from a sincere (and pure) commitment to Christ.

Psalm 143

4 My spirit is faint within me; my heart is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of old; I ponder all your deeds; the works of your hands I recall.
6 I stretch out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Song of Songs 8

1 Oh, that you were my brother, nursed at my mother's breasts! If I met you out of doors, I would kiss you and none would taunt me.
2 I would lead you, bring you into the home of my mother. There you would teach me to give you spiced wine to drink and pomegranate juice.
3 His left hand is under my head and his right arm embraces me.
4 I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and hinds of the field, Do not arouse, do not stir up love, before its own time.

Isaiah 26

9 My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you;

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sirach 24

14 Like a palm tree in En-gedi, like a rosebush in Jericho, Like a fair olive tree in the field, like a plane tree growing beside the water.
15 Like cinnamon, or fragrant balm, or precious myrrh, I give forth perfume; Like galbanum and onycha and sweet spices, like the odor of incense in the holy place.
16 I spread out my branches like a terebinth, my branches so bright and so graceful.
17 I bud forth delights like the vine, my blossoms become fruit fair and rich.
18 Come to me, all you that yearn for me, and be filled with my fruits;
19 You will remember me as sweeter than honey, better to have than the honeycomb.
20 He who eats of me will hunger still, he who drinks of me will thirst for more

Sirach 51

13 When I was young and innocent, I sought wisdom.
14 She came to me in her beauty, and until the end I will cultivate her.
15 As the blossoms yielded to ripening grapes, the heart's joy, My feet kept to the level path because from earliest youth I was familiar with her.
16 In the short time I paid heed, I met with great instruction.
17 Since in this way I have profited, I will give my teacher grateful praise.
18 I became resolutely devoted to her-- the good I persistently strove for.
19 I burned with desire for her, never turning back. I became preoccupied with her, never weary of extolling her. My hand opened her gate and I came to know her secrets.
20 For her I purified my hands; in cleanness I attained to her. At first acquaintance with her, I gained understanding such that I will never forsake her.
21 My whole being was stirred as I learned about her; therefore I have made her my prize possession.

Psalm 84

2 How lovely your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

3 My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God.

St. Augustine on Restless Hearts

From The Confessions of St. Augustine

"You awaken us to delight in your praise; for you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Psalm 130

6 My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

C.S. Lewis: Made for Another World

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." --C.S. Lewis

Aldous Huxley on Desire as Potential Obstacle

"Uncontrolled, the hunger and thirst after God may become an obstacle, cutting off the soul from what it desires. If a man would travel far along the mystic road, he must learn to desire God intensely but in stillness, passively and yet with all his heart and mind and strength."

--Aldous Huxley

Chesterton on Brothel Doors

“Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God”. G.K. Chesterton

Old Poetry Surfaces

I'll be adding some poetry written in the 1980s to the blog over the next few weeks and applying approximate dates. They therefore won't show up as new entries. To check them out, go to the Poetry label, or look in the archive for previous years.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chesterton on Valleys

One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.-- G. K. Chesterton

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tolstoy Defines Boredom

Boredom: the desire for desires.--Leo Tolstoy

C.S. Lewis on Longing

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust in them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers.” C.S. Lewis

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Samuel Smiles on Anticipation

An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing.--Samuel Smiles

Nelson Mandela on the Journey

"There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires."--Nelson Mandela

Friday, May 9, 2008

Kahlil Gibran on Vision and Desire

I prefer to be a dreamer among the humblest, with visions to be realized, than lord among those without dreams and desires.--Kahlil Gibran

William Blake on Desire

Those who restrain their desires, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.--William Blake

Thursday, May 8, 2008

St. Augustine Commentary on 1John

From the Tractates on the first letter of John by Saint Augustine:

“The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied. Suppose you are going to fill some holder or container, and you know you will be given a large amount. Then you set about stretching your sack or wineskin or whatever it is. Why? Because you know the quantity you will have to put in it and your eyes tell you there is not enough room. By stretching it, therefore, you increase the capacity of the sack, and this is how God deals with us. Simply by making us wait he increases our desire, which in turn enlarges the capacity of our soul, making it able to receive what is to be given to us.”

May 30 Note: I just saw this quote cited as being from St. Augustine as well. Guess I'd better do more digging!

Augustine to Proba on Prayer and Desire

From a letter to Proba by Saint Augustine, bishop (Ep. 130, 8. 15. 17—9, 18: CSEL 44, 56–57. 59–60)
Office of Readings for Sunday in the Twentyninth Week of the Year.

So that we might obtain this life of happiness, he who is true life itself taught us to pray, not in many words as though speaking longer could gain us a hearing. After all, we pray to one who, as the Lord himself tells us, knows what we need before we ask for it.

Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it) but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers.

The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed. No eye has seen it; it has no color. No ear
has heard it; it has no sound. It has not entered man’s heart; man’s heart must enter into it.
In this faith, hope and love we pray always with unwearied desire. However, at set times and seasons we also pray to God in words, so that by these signs we may instruct ourselves and
mark the progress we have made in our desire, and spur ourselves on to deepen it. The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruit. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without
ceasing, he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him who alone is able to give it.

CS Lewis on Desire

From "The Weight of Glory"

...Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Lack of Holy Desire

I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire.

-- A. W. Tozer

St. Anselm Proslogion, Chapter 1

Encouraging the Mind to Contemplate God

Come on now little man, get away from your worldly occupations for a while, escape from your tumultuous thoughts. Lay aside your burdensome cares and put off your laborious exertions. Give yourself over to God for a little while, and rest for a while in Him. Enter into the cell of your mind, shut out everything except God and whatever helps you to seek Him once the door is shut. Speak now, my heart, and say to God, "I seek your face; your face, Lord, I seek."

Come on then, my Lord God, teach my heart where and how to seek you, where and how to find you. Lord, if you are not here, where shall I find you? If, however, you are everywhere, why do I not see you here? But certainly you dwell in inaccessible light. And where is that inaccessible light? Or how do I reach it? Or who will lead me to it and into it, so that I can see you in it? And then by what signs, under what face shall I seek you? I have never seen you, my Lord God, or known your face. What shall I do, Highest Lord, what shall this exile do, banished far from you as he is? What should your servant do, desperate as he is for your love yet cast away from your face? He longs to see you, and yet your face is too far away from him. He wants to come to you, and yet your dwelling place is unreachable. He yearns to discover you, and he does not know where you are. He craves to seek you, and does not know how to recognize you. Lord, you are my Lord and my God, and I have never seen you. You have made me and nurtured me, given me every good thing I have ever received, and I still do not know you. I was created for the purpose of seeing you, and I still have not done the thing I was made to do.

Oh, how miserable man's lot is when he has lost what he was made for! Oh how hard and dire was that downfall! Alas, what did he lose and what did he find? What was taken away and what remains? He has lost beatitude for which he was made, and he has found misery for which he was not made. That without which he cannot be happy has been taken away, and that remains which in itself can only make him miserable. Back then man ate the bread of angels for which he now hungers, and now he eats the bread of griefs which he did not even know back then. Alas for the common grief of man, the universal lamentation of Adam's sons! He belched in his satiety, while we sigh in our want. He was rich, we are beggars. He happily possessed and miserably abandoned, we unhappily lack and miserably desire, yet alas, we remain empty. Why, since it would have been easy for him, did he not keep what we so disastrously lack? Why did he deprive us of light, and cover us with darkness instead? Why did he take life away from us and inflict death instead? From what have we poor wretches been expelled, and toward what are we being driven? From what have we been cast down, in what buried? From our fatherland into exile, from the vision of God into blindness. From the happiness of immortality into the bitterness and horror of death. What a miserable transformation! From so much good into so much evil! A heavy injury, a heavy, heavy grief.

I have come to you as a poor man to a rich one, as a poor rich to a merciful giver. May I not return empty and rejected! And if "I sigh before I eat" (Job 3:4), once I have sighed give me something to eat. Lord, turned in (incurvatus) as I am I can only look down, so raise me up so that I can look up. "My iniquities heaped on my head" cover me over and weigh me down "like a heavy load" (Ps. 37:5). Dig me out and set me free before "the pit" created by them "shuts its jaws over me" (Ps. 67:16).Let me see your light, even if I see it from afar or from the depths. Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to this seeker. For I cannot seek you unless you teach me how, nor can I find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in desiring you, and desire you in seeking you. Let me find you in loving you and love you in finding you.

I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created in me this your image, so that I can remember you, think about you and love you. But it is so worn away by sins, so smudged over by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do unless you renew and reform it. I do not even try, Lord, to rise up to your heights, because my intellect does not measure up to that task; but I do want to understand in some small measure your truth, which my heart believes in and loved. Nor do I seek to understand so that I can believe, but rather I believe so that I can understand. For I believe this too, that "unless I believe I shall not understand" (Isa. 7:9).

Poetry: Scent of a Shepherd

Scent of a Shepherd

From the nightmare I wake
in pain and motion.

The world passes by upside down
an undulating sea of blue sky.

My contorted body screams
unused to the position
and broken bones.

My hair swings low
swaying with every step
blocking the sight of his sandaled feet.

His stride is long and even
shoulders miraculously broad;
my weight unequal to the cross.

My arms hang loose as I wonder;
should I hang on?

Does it hurt?

Do his stretching arms
remind him of the wood?

Does he thirst?

Wrapped as a collar round his muscled neck
borne like a yoke neither easy nor light.

Bitter streams of tears flow over my brow.
I should be in the dust before him
wiping his feet with my grief-soaked hair.

Instead, he carries me.

From the precipice he rescues me.
As I lunge for the edge
he draws me back.

To stop my fighting
he breaks my legs.

Despite my cries he lifts me
drapes me
carries me.

I breathe the scent of him
of sheep and wood
of blood and wine
of bread and man
of sun and moon and stars
of eternity
of home.

His cadence soothes.
The sweat of his exertion sweet
as opium; intoxicating.

My sobs relent.

I turn my ear to his chest
full of his scent
and listen to the drumbeat of dawn’s creation
the thrumming of the universe;
God’s heart beating against my cheek.

And I rest.

May 2008