Lined with light the twigs are stubby arrows. A gilded trunk writhes Upward from the roots, from the pit of the black tentacles.
In the book of spring a bare-limbed torso is the first illustration.
Light teaches the tree to beget leaves, to embroider itself all over with green reality, until summer becomes its steady portrait and birds bring their lifetime to the boughs.
Then even the corpse light copies from below may shimmer, dreaming it feels the cheeks of blossom. ~May Swenson “April Light”
In April we wait for the corpse light~ a mysterious illumination which comes alive on a bright Sabbath Easter morning, taking bare stubs of people, hardly alive, begetting them green, bursting them into blossom, their cheeks pink with life, in promise of faithful fruitfulness.
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief No everlasting hills I see; My life is in the fallen leaf: O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a frozen thing, No bud nor greenness can I see: Yet rise it shall–the sap of Spring; O Jesus, rise in me. ~Christina Rossetti from “A Better Resurrection”
I remember panicking as a small child when my mother would help me put on or take off a sweater with a particularly tight turtleneck opening, as my head would get “stuck” momentarily until she could free me. It caused an intense feeling of being unable to breathe or see – literally shrouded. I was trapped and held captive by something as innocuous as a piece of clothing.
That same feeling still overwhelms me at times when I’m frozen in a winter of my flaws and deficiencies, bruised and fallen in my struggles to be freed.
My only hope for salvage is a new life quickening within me. There is no freedom without spring sap flowing, His life blood rising in what is left of my dried husk.
And rise it shall — the confining shroud of discouragement discarded and cast aside.
Now that it is spring once again, I can breathe free, quickened.
This World is not Conclusion. A Species stands beyond – Invisible, as Music – But positive, as Sound – It beckons, and it baffles – Philosophy, don’t know – And through a Riddle, at the last – Sagacity, must go – To guess it, puzzles scholars – To gain it, Men have borne Contempt of Generations And Crucifixion, shown – Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies – Blushes, if any see – Plucks at a twig of Evidence – And asks a Vane, the way – Much Gesture, from the Pulpit – Strong Hallelujahs roll – Narcotics cannot still the Tooth That nibbles at the soul – ~Emily Dickinson
Doubt can feel like the bare branches of winter – plenty of bleak bark, and nothing that feels alive or real or even meaningful.
Yet spring ushers in such profound intervention that doubt is ushered out with little ceremony. What was mere potential is now bud and bloom. What was mere twig is now glorious.
What word informs the world, and moves the worm along in his blind tunnel?
What secret purple wisdom tells the iris edges to unfold in frills? What juiced and emerald thrill
urges the sap until the bud resolves its tight riddle? What irresistible command
unfurls this cloud above this greening hill, or one more wave — its spreading foam and foil —
across the flats of sand? What minor thrust of energy issues up from humus in a froth
of ferns? Delicate as a laser, it filigrees the snow, the stars. Listen close — What silver sound
thaws winter into spring? Speaks clamor into singing? Gives love for loneliness? It is this
un-terrestrial pulse, deep as heaven, that folds you in its tingling embrace, gongs in your echo heart. ~Luci Shaw “What Secret Purple Wisdom” from The Green Earth: Poems of Creation ~
The road that took Him from wooden manger to wooden cross is one we walk in joy and terror through His Word.
He is given to us; He gives Himself to bring joy to our miserable and dark existence;
He dies for us; He rises to give us eternal hope of salvation; He calls us by name and we recognize Him.
This mystery is too much for too many unwilling to accept that such sacrifice is possible. His sacrifice and many parts of His body continue to be oppressed and persecuted every day. We are blind-hearted to the possibility that this Spirit that cannot be measured, touched, weighed or tracked can stir and overwhelm darkness. We prefer the safety of remaining tight in the bud, hid in the little room of our hearts rather than risk the joy and terror of full blossom and fruitfulness.
Lord, give us grace in our blindness, having given us Yourself. Prepare us for embracing your mystery.
Prepare us for joy. Prepare us to bloom.
What is the crying at Jordan? Who hears, O God, the prophecy? Dark is the season, dark our hearts and shut to mystery.
Who then shall stir in this darkness prepare for joy in the winter night? Mortal in darkness we lie down, blind-hearted, seeing no light.
Lord, give us grace to awake us, to see the branch that begins to bloom; in great humility is hid all heaven in a little room.
Now comes the day of salvation, in joy and terror the Word is born! God gives himself into our lives; Oh, let salvation dawn! ~Carol Christopher Drake
He who has come to men dwells where we cannot tell nor sight reveal him, until the hour has struck when the small heart does break with hunger for him;
those who do merit least, those whom no tongue does praise the first to know him, and on the face of the earth the poorest village street blossoming for him. ~Jane Tyson Clement from No One Can Stem the Tide
In the somber dark
of this blustery near-solstice morning,
when there seems no hope for sun or warmth,
I hunger for comfort, knowing
there is solace only He can bring.
He calls me forth from where I have hidden,
buried face down in the troubles of the world,
hiding amid my quilt and pillows,
fearing the news of the day.
Only God can glue together
what evil shatters.
He just asks us to hand Him
the pieces of our broken hearts.
If I grab hold His offered hand,
I’m lifted –
my emptiness filling–
back into the light,
reaching for a new day
One dark night, fired with love’s urgent longings —ah, the sheer grace!— I went out unseen, my house being now all stilled. In darkness, and secure, by the secret ladder, disguised, —ah, the sheer grace!— in darkness and concealment, my house being now all stilled. On that glad night, in secret, for no one saw me, nor did I look at anything, with no other light or guide than the one that burned in my heart. – St. John of the Cross (1542-1592)
Sure on this shining night Of star made shadows round, Kindness must watch for me This side the ground. The late year lies down the north. All is healed, all is health. High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole. Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone Of shadows on the stars. ~James Agee
The children have gone to bed. We are so tired we could fold ourselves neatly behind our eyes and sleep mid-word, sleep standing warm among the creatures in the barn, lean together and sleep, forgetting each other completely in the velvet, the forgiveness of that sleep.
Then the one small cry: one strike of the match-head of sound: one child’s voice: and the hundred names of love are lit as we rise and walk down the hall.
One hundred nights we wake like this, wake out of our nowhere to kneel by small beds in darkness. One hundred flowers open in our hands, a name for love written in each one. ~Annie Lighthart “The Hundred Names of Love”
Each of many nights of a child wakening,
each of many moments of rocking them in the dark,
lulling them back to that soft velvet of sleep,
I feel my budding love
unfurling in fragrance
of blossomed fullness,
unfurling until there is no inner spiral left,
and each petal, one by one, drops away,