Sunday, April 22, 2018

the challenge of contemplation...

The air is fresh and clean in the Berkshires this morning. Crisp. The sun has returned from a season of hiding and the very earth seems to be stretching herself awake. A purple crocus presented himself to the world yesterday while I was collecting winter debris. And soon daffodils will dance throughout our yard. Even a "peeper" frog was heard singing a love song out in the wetlands last night. Spring is starting to settle in to these ancient hills. 

Sitting in the silence, Sabbath candles lit, I let my questions swirl inside me. They ebb and flow without apparent rhyme or reason. As they come and go, the juniper incense carries me back to Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. The rusted cross with the Russian theotokos of Vladimir in the center reminds me to ponder these things in my heart. My "Living Together/Vivre Ensemble" candle connects me to my sisters and brothers in L'Arche Ottawa. There is a prayer cloth that comes from Turkey, a Rothko print from London's Tate Modern, a painting of Christ breaking bread hails from Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac and one of Harry's abstract masterpieces in blue. They all speak to me of being surrounded by love - and yet the closing verse of Psalm 42 is insistent:

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

This is the challenge of contemplation, yes? Holding love and doubt, clarity and uncertainty, light and darkness, grace and judgment, joy and fear together? Last night when I sat down to pray, there were no words, only huge, hot tears. Some were tears of sorrow, others were tears of gratitude. They flowed until they were done. And then I sensed within another Psalm: Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46: 10) Another poem by Jennifer Wallace comes to me:

We Know How It Works
We know how it works. The world is no longer mysterious. - Richard Siken

Could it be as the poet said?

flp the switch, the light goes on.
Take the wolves away, the elk eat all the willows.

Yes, the world can be explained.

Someone swallowed the pills.
someone slept with someone who was not his wife.
One person drew a picture of a bridge, 100 people
climbed the girders with their hammers.

But, when Oppen writes,

knowledge is
loneliness turning and turning,

we know what he means               and we don't know.

How do the cranes find their way home?
Where does a song go after it enters an ear?

The Indian Ocean warms, sand blows in  Africa
and the Caribbean stops breathing.
We know it's a matter of one degree
but why don't we stop our burning?

The foghorn reminds us. . . that, even after the perilous crossing,

The self is no mystery. The mystery is
that there is something for us to stand on.

Who understands? Who stands under?
the invisible weight of all that.

We know the number of the gene
but not the day the strand will break.
(Jennifer Wallace, Almost Entirely, p. 33)

And all of it is real. The questions and the certainty, the tears of different origins, the Psalm of lament and the Song of assurance.  Spring is arriving. Thanks be to God.

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