He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute. ~Augustine
It turns the mind inside out~ created inside His creation, cradled within an earthly embrace by way of heaven, bathed while cleansing the bather filled from emptying breast to become food for the hungry.
In the beginning the Word breathed and articulated life with such eloquence, knowing its utterance must come from human lips and tongue and throat
whether as infant’s cry, toddler’s chuckle, child’s whisper, adult’s prayer of praise, the aged’s last sigh.
We, who are ineloquent aside from the Word, are speechless, listening.
In a dry wind like this, snow and ice can pass directly into the air as a gas without having first melted to water. This process is called sublimation; tonight the snow in the yard and the ice in the creek sublime. A breeze buffets my palm held a foot from the wall. A wind like this does my breathing for me: it engenders something quick and kicking in my lungs. Pliny believed the mares of the Portuguese used to raise their tails to the wind, ‘and turn them full against it, and so conceive that genital air instead of natural seed; in such sort, as they become great withal, and quicken in their time, and bring forth foals as swift as the wind…’.
A single cell quivers at a windy embrace; it swells and splits, it bubbles into a raspberry; a dark clot starts to throb. Soon something perfect is born. Something wholly new rides the wind, something fleet and fleeting I’m likely to miss. ~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Whenever we have a blowing northeaster, I assumed that our snow simply blew southwest and we were left with nothing but a skiff of white here. But I was wrong. The snow and ice are sublimated, disappearing into the air as vapor.
I wish I could be so transformed, blown into something wholly new and free, not tethered and earth-bound.
Our Creator God does just that: we are so very sublime through the power of His breath.
Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.
John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” And he goes on toward the end to say, “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
We must see this, believe this, and live by it… ~Martin Luther King Jr. from a sermon in A Knock At Midnight
Dr. King’s words and wisdom in his sermons spoken nearly sixty years ago still inform us of our shortcomings. We flounder in flaws and brokenness despite our shared global neighborhood, persisting in a resistance to serve one another in brotherhood.
We still stand apart from one another; even as the bell tolls, we suffer the divisiveness from a lack of humility, grace and love.
Perhaps today, for a day, for a week, for a year, we can unite in our shared tears: shed for continued strife and disagreement, shed for injustice that results in senseless killings, shed for our inability to hold up one another as brothers and sisters holy in God’s eyes.
We weep together as the light dawns on this day, knowing as Dr. King knew, a new day will come when the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces and all colors — a brotherhood and sisterhood created exactly as He intends.
Vast whisp-whisp of wingbeats awakens me and I look up at a minute-long string of black geese’ following low past the moon the white course of the snow-covered river and by the way thank You for keeping Your face hidden, I can hardly bear the beauty of this world ~Franz Wright from “Cloudless Snowfall”
A psalm of geese labours overland
cajoling each other near half…
The din grew immense. No need to look up.
All you had to do was sit in the sound
and put it down as best you could…
It’s not a lonesome sound but a panic,
a calling out to the others to see if they’re there;
it’s not the lung-full thrust of the prong of arrival in late October; not the slow togetherness
of the shape they take on the empty land on the days before Christmas:
this is different, this is a broken family, the young go the wrong way,
then at daybreak, rise up and follow their elders again filled with dread, at the returning sound of the journey ahead. ~Dermot Healy from A Fool’s Errand
We are here to witness the creation and abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house. ~Annie Dillard from The Meaning of Life edited by David Friend
I am overwhelmed by the amount of “noticing” I need to do in the course of my work. Each patient, and there are so many, deserves my full attention for the few minutes we are together. I start my clinical evaluation the minute I walk in the exam room and begin taking in all the complex verbal and non-verbal clues offered by another human being.
How are they calling out to me as they keep their faces hidden?
What someone tells me about what they are feeling may not always match what I notice: the trembling hands, the pale skin color, the deep sigh, the scars of self injury. I am their audience and a witness to their struggle; even more, I must understand it in order to best assist them. My brain must rise to the occasion of taking in another person, offering them the gift of being noticed and being there for them, just them.
This work I do is distinctly a form of praise: the patient is the universe for a few moments and I’m grateful to be watching and listening. When my patient calls out to me, may they never feel they are playing to an empty house. May I always look for the beauty in their hidden faces.
O child, Creator of all! How humbly you lie in the manger. You who rule powerfully in heaven!
There the heaven of heavens cannot contain you; here, however, you are held in the narrowest manger.
There, in the beginning of the world, you decorated the earth with green grasses that produced seed, with fruit-bearing trees that produced fruit, you ornamented the heavens with the sun, the moon, and the stars, the sky with winged birds, the waters with fish, you filled the land with reptiles, draft animals, and beasts; here, however, in the end of the world, you are wrapped in swaddling clothes!
O majesty! O lowness!
O sublimity! O humility!
O immense, eternal, and Ancient of Days!
O small, temporal infant whose life is not yet one day upon the earth!
There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice. John Calvin
We are blinded to the Glory given to us in a narrow manger if we allow ourselves to perceive it as something routine and commonplace. There is nothing commonplace about the gifts of Creation or the gift of His Son as Savior.
I can’t remember the last time I celebrated even a blade of grass, given how focused I am in mowing it into conformity and submission. Or the fruit of the trees, the birds of the air, the fish of the seas, the beasts of burden who work for us. Too often I’m not up early enough to witness the pink sunrise or I’m too busy to take time to watch the sun paint the sky red as it sets.
I miss opportunities to rejoice innumerable times a day. It takes only a moment of recognition and appreciation to feel joy, and for that moment time stands still. Life stretches a little longer when I stop to acknowledge the intention of creation and sending the Son of God to earth as an endless reservoir of rejoicing.
If a blade of grass, if a palette of color, if all this is made for joy, then the coming of Jesus into the world means I was made for joy as well.