We praise thee, O God, for thy glory displayed in all the creatures of the earth, In the snow, in the rain, in the wind, in the storm; in all of thy creatures, both the hunters and the hunted… They affirm thee in living; all things affirm thee in living; the bird in the air, both the hawk and the finch; the beast on the earth, both the wolf and the lamb;… Therefore man, whom thou hast made to be conscious of thee, must consciously praise thee, in thought and in word and in deed. Even with the hand to the broom, the back bent in laying the fire, the knee bent in cleaning the hearth… The back bent under toil, the knee bent under sin, the hands to the face under fear, the head bent under grief, Even in us the voices of the seasons, the snuffle of winter, the song of spring, the drone of summer, the voices of beasts and of birds, praise thee. ~T.S. Eliot fromMurder in the Cathedral
In the midst of all the snuffling viruses of winter, the back breaking daily work and labor:
this amazing glory happens this morning
the sky is afire with Him
I am reminded yet again all things affirm thee in living and so shall I.
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.
In science we have been reading only the notes to a poem: in Christianity we find the poem itself. ~C.S. Lewis from Miracles
Science fails when we need a miracle:
~love us always no matter what,
~give us reason to keep on living when we want to give up,
~grasp the hand of the dying who aren’t ready,
~provide hope to the weak and courage to the fearful,
~become sacrifice for all we’ve done wrong,
~redeem us through everlasting forgiveness and grace.
Science is merely the footnote
to a Word and Truth more vast:
a fermata allowing us just a long enough rest to admire Creation,
dwelling for a moment of silence
inside His ultimate symphonic Work.
Let this day’s air praise the Lord— Rinsed with gold, endless, walking the fields, Blue and bearing the clouds like censers, Holding the sun like a single note Running through all things, a basso profundo Rousing the birds to an endless chorus.
In joy. For it is he who underlies The rock from its liquid foundation, The sharp contraries of the giddy atom, The unimaginable curve of space, Time pulling like a patient string, And gravity, fiercest of natural loves.
At his laughter, splendor riddles the night, Galaxies swarm from a secret hive, Mountains split and crawl for aeons To huddle again, and planets melt In the last tantrum of a dying star.
Sit straight, let the air ride down your backbone, Let your lungs unfold like a field of roses, Your eyes hang the sun and moon between them, Your hands weigh the sky in even balance, Your tongue, swiftest of members, release a word Spoken at conception to the sanctum of genes, And each breath rise sinuous with praise.
Now, shout from the stomach, hoarse with music, Give gladness and joy back to the Lord, Who, sly as a milkweed, takes root in your heart. ~from Robert Siegel’s poetry in Flourish Magazine 2010
Judging from the long lines at grocery store check-out aisles, this is the week of the stomach and feasting. Feeling over-full after a sumptuous meal on Thursday does nothing to satisfy the ravenous hunger we feel all the rest of the year.
It is, in fact, the heart that must be filled continuously, not the stomach three times a day. Our stomach may shout and growl, but it is the heart that yearns and mourns for Love lost, Love regained, Love pondered and treasured up.
May He take root in our hearts this week and always as our stomach is silenced by the feast only He can serve.
The world does not need words. It articulates itself in sunlight, leaves, and shadows. The stones on the path are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted. The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being.
The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds, painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it. The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always– greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon. ~Dana Giola from “Words”
The words the world needs is the Word itself;
because He breathed breath into us
and said that it was good.
Whatever we have to say about His Creation
pales compared to His it is good
But we try
over and over again
to use words of wonder and praise
to express our awe and gratitude and amazement
while painted golden by His breath of Light.
People are more themselves when joy is the fundamental thing in them,
and grief the superficial.
Melancholy should be an innocent interlude,
a tender and fugitive frame of mind;
praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.
Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday;
joy is the uproarious labor by which all things live. ~G.K. Chesterton from Orthodoxy
How can I convince myself
sadness dwells lightly like a murky mist
over the surface of my soul some days
but cannot penetrate deep within.
It hovers but does not saturate.
It distracts but does not define.
If I just wait long enough,
again the sun will rise uproarious and outrageous,
drying up my melancholy
and pulse within me unceasingly
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