Love That Well

photo by Harry Rodenberger
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
~William Shakespeare Sonnet 73
photo by Harry Rodenberger
I may think youth has it all – strength, beauty, energy-
but now I know better.
There is so much treasure in slowing down,
this leisurely leave-taking,
the finite becoming infinite
and a limitlessness loving.
Without our aging
we’d never change up
who we are
to become so much more:
enriched, vibrant,
shining passionately
until the very last.
To love well
To love strong
To love as if
nothing else matters.
photo by Harry Rodenberger

The Delicate Edge of Forever

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It is at the edge of a petal that love waits.

Crisp, worked to defeat 
laboredness–fragile 
plucked, moist, half-raised 
cold, precise, touching

From the petal’s edge a line starts 
that being of steel 
infinitely fine, infinitely 
rigid penetrates 
the Milky Way 
without contact–lifting 
from it–neither hanging 
nor pushing–

The fragility of the flower 
unbruised 
penetrates space
~William Carlos Williams from Spring and All (1923)

 

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It is common to look for love only inside the heart of things, pulsing front and center as both showpiece and show off.    We think of love reverberating from deep within, loud enough for all the world to hear and know it is so.

But as I advance on life’s road, I have found the love that matters lies quietly waiting at the periphery of our hearts, so fragile and easily torn as a petal –  clinging to the edges of our lives barely holding on through storms and trials.

This love remains ever-present , both protects and cherishes, fed by fine little veins which branch out from the center of the universe to the tender margins of infinity.

It is on that delicate edge of forever we dwell, waiting to be fed and trembling with anticipation.

 

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God Was Here: Knit to Man’s Nature

 

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“infinity walled in a womb…”
~Luci Shaw from “Made flesh,” in Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation 

“…inside her the mind
of Christ, cloaked in blood,
lodges and begins to grow.”
~Jane Kenyon from “Mosaic of the Nativity”

There is nothing more finite than the space inside the womb–it gets crowded in there quickly over a scant few months.

Yet there Infinity dwelled within the finite.

As I am no theologian, I’m not capable of discussing the intricacy of the reformational argument of finitum capax infiniti (the finite is capable of the infinite) vs finitum non capax infiniti (the finite is not capable of the infinite) which has to do with Christ’s bodily presence in the Eucharist.

As a mother, I try to understand that finite Mary carried the infinite within
“inside her the mind of Christ”…

The incarnation of God knit together with the nature of Man is far more profound than the joining of flute and drum to make joyous dancing music. We historically have trivialized the birth of Jesus to scale it to a size more comfortable for our limited comprehension with little drummer boys, kindly oxen, loyal donkey, cute angels, lots of tu-re-lus and pat-a-pans.

The reality is: nothing is the same as it was when the finite met with the infinite
– a big bang –
but this one happened in our hearts.
By coming and joining to us, God changed everything and us.

How is it, now knowing this, can anyone be glum?
How can we not dance and sing?

 

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour.”
~William Blake from Auguries of Innocence 

 

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Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance. 

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance. 

 

God Among Us: Infinite Joined With Finite

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By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
1Timothy 3:16

 

The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.
~Wayne Grudem from Systematic Theology

The virgin birth has never been a major stumbling block in my struggle with Christianity; it’s far less mind-boggling than the Power of all Creation stooping so low as to become one of us.
~Madeleine L’Engle from A Stone for a Pillow

 

Most of us enjoy mysteries.  We enjoy the suspense of trying to solve the puzzle, and consider all the options.  But somehow this mystery causes some frustration and anger.  Why is the ultimate answer not revealed, where is the ending?  Why are we not shown the full narrative arc like a series of Star Wars movies that seem to capture our imaginations?
Yet this mystery of Godliness — the infinite becoming finite —  is not for us to solve or reckon with.  It is for us to marvel over, we are 100% mind-boggled and content to wait until the day the story is complete.
~EPG

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1 True God and yet a Man?
True maid and yet a mother?
Thought wonders how thought can
Conceive one or the other.

2 A God and can He die?
A dead Man, can He live?
What can thought well reply?
What reason reason give?

3 God, truth itself does teach;
Our thoughts sink too far under
For reason’s pow’r to reach.

 

Immortal, invisible, God only wise
In light, inaccessible, hid from our eyes
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient Of Days
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise

Unresting, unhasting and silent as light
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might
Thy justice like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love

To all life Thou givest, to both great and small
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree
And wither and perish but naught changeth Thee

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight
All praise we would render, o help us to see
‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee

O Word of God incarnate, O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky:
We praise You for the radiance that from the hallowed page,
A Lantern to our footsteps, shines on from age to age.

The Church from You, our Savior, received the Gift divine,
And still that Light is lifted over all the earth to shine.
It is the sacred Vessel where gems of truth are stored;
It is the heaven drawn Picture of Christ, the living Word.

The Scripture is a banner before God’s host unfurled;
It is a shining Beacon above the darkling world.
It is the Chart and Compass that over life’s surging tide,
Mid mists and rocks and quicksands, to You, O Christ, will guide.

O make your Church, dear Savior, a lamp of purest gold,
To bear before the nations Your true light as of old.
O teach your wandering pilgrims by this their path to trace,
Till, clouds and darkness ended, they see You face to face.

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God Among Us: Space for the Uncontained God

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The Annunciation by Henry Owassa Tanner (Philadelphia Art Museum)

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary…”
Luke 1: 28-30, 38

 

Rejoice, you through whom joy shall shine forth.
Rejoice, O Star revealing the Sun.
Rejoice, O Womb of divine Incarnation.
Rejoice, you through whom creation is renewed.
Rejoice, you through whom the Creator is born a Babe.

‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
from Akathistos Hymn, translated from Greek

…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.
~Denise Levertov from “Annunciation”

______________________

The uncontained contained
the infinite made finite
the Deliverer delivered
the Eternal here and now.
_________________________

The angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow
His eyes as flame
“All hail” said he “thou lowly maiden Mary
Most highly favored lady,” Gloria, Gloria

“For known a blessed mother thou shalt be
All generations laud and honor thee
Thy Son shall be Emanuel
By seers foretold
Most highly favored maid,” Gloria, Gloria

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head
“To me be as it pleaseth God,” she said,
“My soul shall laud and magnify His holy name.”
Most highly favored lady, Gloria, Gloria
~Lyrics “Gabriel’s Message” 

 

Annunciation --James Tissot
Annunciation –James Tissot

How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How do you measure the love of a mother
Or how can you write down a baby’s first cry?

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Silent night, holy night, all is calm and all is bright
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and adore him
Seraphim round him their vigil will keep
Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Saviour
But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Silent night, holy night, all is calm and all is bright
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay
Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation
A child with his mother that first Christmas Day

Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Silent night, holy night, all is calm and all is bright
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

 

 

Crimsoned With Joy

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Life is a stream
On which we strew
Petal by petal the flower of our heart;
The end lost in dream,
They float past our view,
We only watch their glad, early start.

Freighted with hope,
Crimsoned with joy,
We scatter the leaves of our opening rose;
Their widening scope,
Their distant employ,
We never shall know. And the stream as it flows
Sweeps them away,
Each one is gone
Ever beyond into infinite ways.
We alone stay
While years hurry on,
The flower fared forth, though its fragrance still stays.
~Amy Lowell “Petals”

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