Posts tagged ‘lenten reflection’
Today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Kathleen O’Toole.
The Magdalen, a Garden and This
She who is known by myth and association
as sinful, penitent, voluptuous perhaps…
but faithful to the last and then beyond.
A disciple for sure, confused often with Mary,
sister of Lazarus, or the woman caught
in adultery, or she who angered the men
by anointing Jesus with expensive oils.
She was the one from whom he cast out seven
demons—she’s named in that account.
Strip all else away and we know only
that she was grateful, that she found her way
to the cross, and that she returned
to the tomb, to the garden nearby, and there,
weeping at her loss, was recognized,
became known in the tender invocation
of her name. Mary: breathed by one
whom she mistook for the gardener, he
who in an instant brought her back to herself—
gave her in two syllables a life beloved,
gave me the only sure thing I’ll believe
of heaven, that if it be, it will consist
in this: the one unmistakable
rendering of your name.
Source: “The Magdalen, a Garden and This” by Kathleen O’Toole from America
Magazine Vol. 186 No. 11 (4/1/2002).
The Apostle Peter, the fisherman, plays an important role in the drama of Good Friday. Today’s poem from Education for Justice is entitled “Simon Peter” by John Porch.
There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Yes, four which I do not understand.
The way of an eagle in the air,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the heart of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid
—Prov. 30:18, 19
Contagious as a yawn, denial poured
over me like a soft fall fog, a girl
on a carnation strewn parade float, waving
at everyone and no one, boring and bored
There actually was a robed commotion parading.
I turned and turned away and turned. A swirl
of wind pulled back my hood, a fire of coal
brightened my face, and those around me whispered:
You’re one of them, aren’t you? You smell like fish.
And wine, someone else joked. That’s brutal. That’s cold,
I said, and then they knew me by my speech.
They let me stay and we told jokes like fishermen
and houseboys. We gossiped till the cock crowed,
his head a small volcano raised to mock stone.
Who could believe a woman’s word, perfumed
in death? I did. I ran and was outrun
before I reached the empty tomb. I stepped
inside an empty shining shell of a room,
sans pearl. I walked back home alone and wept
again. At dinner. His face shone like the sun.
I went out into the night. I was a sailor
and my father’s nets were calling. It was high tide,
I brought the others. Nothing, the emptiness
of business, the hypnotic waves of failure.
But a voice from shore, a familiar fire, and the nets
were full. I wouldn’t be outswum, denied
this time. The coal-fire before me, the netted fish
behind. I’m carried where I will not wish.
Source: “Simon Peter” by John Poch from America Magazine, Vol. 188 No. 7
Today on Holy Thursday we remember, not only the Last Supper, but also Jesus agonizing vigil in Gethsemane. So today’s poem from Education for Justice is by Mary Oliver.
The grass never sleeps.
Or the rose.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.
Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.
The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it even sleeps.
Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe
the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move,
the lake far away, where once he walked as on a
lay still and waited, wild awake.
Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not
keep that vigil, how they must have wept,
so utterly human, knowing this too
must be a part of the story.
Source: “Gethsemane” from Thirst, by Mary Oliver. Boston: Beacon Press,
Today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Denise Levertov.
O Taste and See
The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see
the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,
grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform
into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being
hungry, and plucking
Source: “O Taste and See” from O Taste and See by Denise Levertov. New
York: New Directions, 1964.
Today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Thomas Merton.
When wind and winter turn our vineyard
To a bitter Calvary,
What hands come out and crucify us
Like the innocent vine?
How long will starlight weep as sharp as thorns
In the night of our desolate life?
How long will moonlight fear to free the naked prisoner?
Or is there no deliverer?
A mob of winds, on Holy Thursday, come like murderers
And batter the walls of our locked and terrified souls.
Our doors are down, and our defense is done.
Good Friday’s rains, in Roman order,
March, with sharpest lances, up our vineyard hill.
More dreadful than St. Peter’s cry
When he was being swallowed in the sea,
Cries out our anguish: “O! We are abandoned!”
When in our life we see the ruined vine
Cut open by the cruel spring,
Ploughed by the furious season!
As if we had forgotten how the whips of winter
And the cross of April
Would all be lost in one bright miracle.
For look! The vine on Calvary is bright with branches!
See how the leaves laugh in the light,
And how the whole hill smiles with flowers:
And know how all our numbered veins must run
With life, like the sweet vine, when it is full of sun.
March 25th, nine months before Christmas – the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, is celebrated this day in Lent. So today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is
Annunciation by Denise Levertov.
This year, because we are in the midst of Holy Week, the feast has been transferred to April 8th. But I don’t mind celebrating twice!
‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’ From the Agathistos Hymn,
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book;
always the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:
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.
Source: “Annunciation” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov.
New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997.
Today is Palm Sunday, and our Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Denise Levertov.
Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis
Maybe He looked indeed
much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
in those small heads that seem in fact
portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
a soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth
in a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
that He taste also the humiliation of dread,
cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
like any mortal hero out of his depth,
like anyone who has taken a step too far
and wants herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how,
in the midnight Garden,
or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
to simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
not the hideous betrayals humans commit
nor the faithless weakness of friends, and surely
not the anticipation of death (not then, in agony’s grip)
was Incarnation’s heaviest weight,
but this sickened desire to renege,
to step back from what He, Who was God,
had promised Himself, and had entered
time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
up from those depths where purpose
drifted for mortal moments.
Source: “Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by
Denise Levertov. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997
Today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Rainier Maria Rilke.
I can tell a storm by the way the trees
are whipping, compared to when quiet,
against my trembling windows, and
I hear from afar things whispering
I couldn’t bear hearing without a friend
or love without a sister close by.
There moves the storm, the transforming one,
and runs through the woods and through the age,
changing it all to look ageless and young:
the landscape appears like the verse of a psalm,
so earnest, eternal, and strong.
How small is what we contend with and fight;
how great what contends with us;
if only we mirrored the moves of the things
and acquiesced to the force of the storm,
we, too, could be ageless and strong.
For what we can conquer is only the small,
and winning itself turns us into dwarfs;
but the everlasting and truly important
will never be conquered by us.
It is the angel who made himself known
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
for whenever he saw his opponents propose
to test their iron-clad muscle strength,
he touched them like strings of an instrument
and played their low-sounding chords.
Whoever submits to this angel,
whoever refuses to fight the fight,
comes out walking straight and great and upright,
and the hand once rigid and hard
shapes around as a gently curved guard.
No longer is winning a tempting bait.
One’s progress is to be conquered, instead,
by the ever mightier one.
Source: “The Observer” from Pictures of God; Rilke’s Religious Poetry,
translated by Annemarie Kidder. Livonia, MI: First Page Publications, 2005.
Today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Denise Levertov.
As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.
Source: “The Avowal” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov.
New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997.
Today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Mary Oliver.
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird –
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
And these body-clothes,
A mouth with which to give shouts of joy
To the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
Telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
Source: “Messenger” from Thirst, by Mary Oliver. Boston: Beacon Press,