They know so much more now about the heart we are told but the world still seems to come one at a time one day one year one season and here it is spring once more with its birds nesting in the holes in the walls its morning finding the first time its light pretending not to move always beginning as it goes ~W.S.Merwin “To This May”
Each morning is a fresh try at life,
a new chance to get things right
even if all our yesterdays are broken.
So I drink in the golden dawn,
take a deep breath of cool air
and dive in head first
into light and blossoms,
hoping I too just might
stay afloat today.
THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs— Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. ~Gerard Manley Hopkins “God’s Grandeur”
Unless the eye catch fire, Then God will not be seen. Unless the ear catch fire Then God will not be heard. Unless the tongue catch fire Then God will not be named. Unless the heart catch fire, Then God will not be loved. Unless the mind catch fire, Then God will not be known.
~William Blake from “Pentecost”
Today, when we feel we are without hope,
when the bent world reels in blood and violence,
when faith feels frail,
when love seems distant,
we wait, stilled,
for the moment we are lit afire ~
when the Living God is
seen, heard, named, loved, known
forever burning in our hearts deep down,
brooded over by His bright wings
we are His dearest, freshest
in this moment
I am the rest between two notes, which are somehow always in discord because Death’s note wants to climb over— but in the dark interval, reconciled, they stay there trembling. And the song goes on, beautiful.” ~Rainer Maria Rilkefrom “My Life is Not This Steeply Sloping Hour”
At the end of this past Sunday’s Easter worship, while playing a complicated version of the Doxology on the piano in our church, I hit some wrong notes. Usually I can recover from such mistakes but I lost my way in the music on the page, struggling to recover in time to finish with the undaunted congregation, my fingers trembling to find the right keys.
Waking yesterday, I felt my usual Monday morning uneasiness but even more so: I’m the spot in the middle between discordant notes. There is on one side of me the pressure of catching up from what was left undone through the weekend and on the other side the anticipated demands of the coming week.
Before I even arrive at work, I find myself uneasy in dead center, immobilized by the unknown ahead and the known messiness I’ve left behind.
This moment of rest in the present, between the trembling past and uncertain future, is a precious moment of reconciliation, my Sabbath extended. I must allow myself an instant of silence and reflection and forgiveness before I surge ahead into the week, knowing that on my continuing journey I’ll inevitably hit wrong notes.
But it can be beautiful nevertheless.
Even the least harmonious notes find reconciliation within the next chord. I move from the rest of my Sabbath back into the rhythm of my life, renewed and forgiven.
The air was soft, the ground still cold. In the dull pasture where I strolled Was something I could not believe. Dead grass appeared to slide and heave, Though still too frozen-flat to stir, And rocks to twitch and all to blur. What was this rippling of the land? Was matter getting out of hand And making free with natural law, I stopped and blinked, and then I saw A fact as eerie as a dream. There was a subtle flood of steam Moving upon the face of things. It came from standing pools and springs And what of snow was still around; It came of winter’s giving ground So that the freeze was coming out, As when a set mind, blessed by doubt, Relaxes into mother-wit. Flowers, I said, will come of it. ~Richard Wilbur “April 5, 1974”
As the ground softens with spring,
so do I.
Somehow the solid winter freeze was comforting
as nothing appeared to change, stayed static,
so neither did I,
remaining stolid and fixed.
But now, with light and warmth,
the fixed is flexing,
steaming in its labor,
and so must I,
All creatures are doing their best to help God in His birth of Himself.
Enough talk for the night. He is laboring in me;
I need to be silent for a while,
worlds are forming in my heart. ~Meister Eckhart from “Expands His Being”
The first day of spring is a traditional celebration of the rebirth of nature’s seasonal rhythms, and God’s inner renewal of our hearts.
I know some new spring mornings are pitch black with blustering winds and rain, looking and feeling like the bleakest of October mornings about to plunge into the death spiral of deep autumn and winter all over again.
No self-respecting God would birth Himself into something like this: a dawn as dark as night.
But this God would.
He labors in our darkest of hearts for good reason. We are unformed and unready to meet Him in the light, clinging as we do to our dark ways and thoughts. Though we are called to celebrate the renewal of springtime, it is just so much talk until we accept the change of being transformed ourselves.
We are silenced as He prepares us, as He prepares Himself for birth within us. The labor pains are His, not ours; we become awed witnesses to His first and last breath when He makes all things, including us, new again.
The world is reborn — even where dark reigned before, even where it is bleakest, especially inside our broken hearts now healing.
Though a tremor of the winter Did shivering through them run; Yet they lifted up their foreheads To greet the vernal sun.
And the sunbeams gave them welcome. As did the morning air And scattered o’er their simple robes Rich tints of beauty rare.
Soon a host of lovely flowers From vales and woodland burst; But in all that fair procession The crocuses were first. ~Frances Ellen Watkins Harper from “The Crocuses”
To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale. A man really ought to say, “The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago” in the same spirit in which he says, “I saw a crocus yesterday.” Because we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is that the corner has been turned. There is, of course, this difference that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not. We can… It remains with us to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer.
~C.S. Lewis from “The Grand Miracle”
As if pulled by invisible threads from heaven, the crocus shoots have come through frozen ground to herald spring. There is nothing apparent that would lure them up into the light — it is still cold, the days still dark, it is still deep winter on the calendar.
Yet they emerge, blind to all that depressing reality, to show their cheerful faces, as if all is grace and more joy is to come. The corner is turned as we trudge slowly down the slope of winter into spring.
These were first, but won’t be last. We know what comes behind the crocus.