PSALMS: The Fair Beauty Of The Lord (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

January 29, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms When the mind becomes more capable of abstraction and analysis this old unity breaks up.  And no sooner is it possible to distinguish the rite from the vision of God than there is a danger of the rite becoming a substitute for, and a rival to, God himself.  Once it can be thought of separately, it will; and it may then take on a rebellious, cancerous life of its own.  There is a stage in a child’s life at which it cannot separate the religious from the merely festal character of Christmas or Easter.  I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began, “Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.”  This seems to me, [...]

PSALMS: The Fair Beauty Of The Lord (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

January 22, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms “Now let us stint all this and speak of mirth.”  So far – I couldn’t help it – this book has been what the old woman in Scott described as “a cauld clatter o’ morality.”  At last we can turn to better things.  If we think “mirth” an unsuitable word for them, that may show how badly we need something which the psalms can give us perhaps better than any other book in the world. David, we know, danced before the Ark.  He danced with such abandon that one of his wives (presumably a more modern, though not a better, type than he) thought he was making a fool of himself.  David didn’t care whether he was making a fool of himself or not.  He was rejoicing in the Lord.  This helps to [...]

PSALMS: Death In The Psalms (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

January 15, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms In many passages this is quite clear, even in our translation, to every attentive reader.  The clearest of all is the cry in Psalm 89:46: “O remember how short my time is: why hast thou made all men for nought?”  We all come to nothing in the end.  Therefore “every man living is altogether vanity,” (Psalm 39:6).  Wise and foolish have the same fate, (Psalm 49:10).  Once dead, a man worships God no more; “Shall the dust give thanks unto thee?” (Psalm 30:10); “for in death no man remembereth thee,” (Psalm 6:5).  Death is “the land” where, not only worldly things, but all things, “are forgotten, (Psalm 88:12).  When a man dies “all his thoughts perish,” (Psalm 146:3).  Every man [...]

PSALMS: Death In The Psalms (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

January 8, 2019

From Reflections on the Psalms According to my policy of taking first what is most unattractive, I should now proceed to the self-righteousness in many of the psalms.  But we cannot deal with that properly until some other matters have been noticed.  I turn first to a very different subject. Our ancestors seem to have read the psalms and the rest of the Old Testament under the impression that the authors wrote with a pretty full understanding of Christian theology; the main difference being that the Incarnation, which for us is something recorded, was for them something predicted.  In particular, they seldom doubted that the old authors were, like ourselves, concerned with a life beyond death, that they feared damnation and hoped for [...]

POETRY: Death by John Donne

December 20, 2018

Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow Die not poor death, nor yet can’st thou kill me; From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow; And soonest our best men to thee do go, Rest of their bones and soul’s delivery; Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell; And poison and charms can make us sleep as well, And better than they stroke; why swell’st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally And death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt [...]

POETRY: After The Last Words by Scott Cairns

October 24, 2018

By now I’m dead. Make what you will of that. But granted you are alive, you will need to be making something more as well. Prayers have been made, for instance, but (trust me) the dead are oblivious to such sessions. Settle instead for food, nice meals (thick soup); invite your friends. Make lively conversation among steaming bowls, lifting heavy spoons. If there is bread (there really should be bread), tear it coarsely and hand each guest his share for intinction in the soup. Something to say? Say it now. Let the napkins fall and stay. Kiss each guest when time comes for leaving. They may be embarrassed, caught without wit or custom. (See them shifting from foot to foot at the open door?) Could be you will repeat your farewells a time [...]

POETRY: Dash It by Annie Dillard

August 29, 2018

How wonderfully it was all arranged that each Of us had not too long to live. This is one Of the main snags—the shortness of the day. The whole wood was whispering, “Dash it, dash it….” What joy—to walk along that path! The snow Was so fragrant in the sun! What a fish! Whenever I think of death, the same stupid Question arises: “What’s to be done?” As for myself, I can only speak of what Made me marvel when I saw it for the first time. I remember my own youth when I was in love. I remember a puddle rippling, the insects aroused. I remember our own springtime when my lady told me: You have taken my best. And then I remember How many evenings I have waited, how much I have been through for this one evening on [...]

POETRY: The Misery Cord by Les Murray

June 20, 2018

In Memory of F. S. Murray  Misericord. The Misery Cord. It was lettered on a wall. I know that cord, how it’s tough to break however hard you haul. My cousin sharefarmed, and so got half: half dignity, half hope, half income, for his full work. To get a place of his own took his whole lifetime. Some pluck the misery chord from habit or for luck, however they feel, some to deceive, and some for the tune— but sometimes it’s real. Milking bails, flannel shirts, fried breakfasts, these were our element, and doubling on horses, and shouting Score! at a dog yelping on a hot scent— but an ambulance racing on our back road is bad news for us all: the house of community is about to lose a plank from its wall. Grief is nothing you can do, [...]

POETRY: A Dog Was Crying Tonight In Wicklow Also by Seamus Heaney

June 16, 2018

In memory of Donatus Nwoga When human beings found out about death They sent the dog to Chukwu with a message: They wanted to be let back to the house of life. They didn’t want to end up lost forever Like burnt wood disappearing into smoke Or ashes that get blown away to nothing. Instead they saw their souls in a flock at twilight Cawing and headed back to the same old roosts And the same bright airs and wing-stretchings each morning. Death would be like a night spent in the wood: At first light they’d be back in the house of life. (The dog was meant to tell all this to Chukwu.) But death and human beings took second place When he trotted off the path and started barking At another dog in broad daylight just barking Back at him from [...]

POETRY: Seeing Things by Seamus Heaney

June 9, 2018

I Inishbofin on a Sunday morning. Sunlight, turfsmoke, seagulls, boatslip, diesel. One by one we were being handed down Into a boat that slipped and shilly-shallied Scaresomely every time. We sat tight On short cross-benches, in nervous twos and threes, Obedient, newly close, nobody speaking Except the boatmen, as the gunwales sank And seemed they might ship water any minute. The sea was very calm but even so, When the engine kicked and our ferryman Swayed for balance, reaching for the tiller, I panicked at the shiftiness and heft Of the craft itself. What guaranteed us— That quick response and buoyancy and swim— Kept me in agony. All the time As we went sailing evenly across The deep, still, seeable-down-into water, It was as if I [...]

POETRY: The Sleep by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

November 28, 2017

Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2) Of all the thoughts of God that are Borne inward unto souls afar, Along the Psalmist’s music deep, Now tell me if that any is, For gift or grace, surpassing this: “He giveth his beloved—sleep?” What would we give to our beloved? The hero’s heart to be unmoved, The poet’s star-tuned harp to sweep, The patriot’s voice to teach and rouse, The monarch’s crown to light the brows? He giveth his beloved—sleep. What do we give to our [...]

POETRY: Thirst by Mary Oliver

November 22, 2017

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly [...]

POETRY: Ground Swell by Mark Jarman

October 18, 2017

Is nothing real but when I was fifteen, Going on sixteen, like a corny song? I see myself so clearly then, and painfully— Knees bleeding through my usher’s uniform Behind the candy counter in the theater After a morning’s surfing; paddling frantically To top the brisk outsiders coming to wreck me, Trundle me clumsily along the beach floor’s Gravel and sand; my knees aching with salt. Is that all I have to write about? You write about the life that’s vividest. And if that is your own, that is your subject. And if the years before and after sixteen Are colorless as salt and taste like sand— Return to those remembered chilly mornings, The light spreading like a great skin on the water, And the blue water scalloped with [...]

POETRY: In Memory Of Jane Fraser by Geoffrey Hill

October 11, 2017

When snow like sheep lay in the fold And winds went begging at each door, And the far hills were blue with cold, And a cold shroud lay on the moor, She kept the siege. And every day We watched her brooking over death Like a strong bird above its prey. The room filled with the kettle’s breath. Damp curtains glued against the pane Sealed time away. Her body froze As if to freeze us all, and chain Creation to a stunned repose. She died before the world could stir. In March the ice unloosed the brook And water ruffled the sun’s hair. Dead cones upon the alder [...]

POETRY: A Loss Of Something Ever Felt I— by Emily Dickinson

September 20, 2017

A loss of something ever felt I— The first that I could recollect Bereft I was—of what I knew not Too young that any should suspect A Mourner walked among the children I notwithstanding went about As one bemoaning a Dominion Itself the only Prince cast out— Elder, Today, a session wiser And fainter, too, as Wiseness is— I find myself still softly searching For my Delinquent Palaces— And a Suspicion, like a Finger Touches my Forehead now and then That I am looking oppositely For the site of the Kingdom of [...]

POETRY: Do People Moulder Equally by Emily Dickinson

September 16, 2017

For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.  Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28) Do People moulder equally, They bury, in the Grave? I do believe a Species As positively live As I, who testify it Deny that I—am dead— And fill my Lungs, for Witness— From Tanks—above my Head— I say to you, said Jesus— That there be standing here— A Sort, that shall not taste of Death— If Jesus was sincere— I need no further Argue— That statement of the Lord Is not a controvertible— He told me, Death was [...]

POETRY: A Clock Stopped by Emily Dickinson

August 9, 2017

A Clock stopped— Not the Mantel’s— Geneva’s farthest skill Can’t put the puppet bowing— That just now dangled still— An awe came on the Trinket! the Figures hunched, with pain— Then quivered out of Decimals— Into Degreeless Noon— It will not stir for Doctors— This Pendulum of snow— This Shopman importunes it— While cool—concernless No— Nods from the Gilded pointers— Nods from the Seconds slim— Decades of Arrogance between The Dial life— And [...]

POETRY: Cognitabo Pro Peccato Meo by William Habington

July 18, 2017

O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.  For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee. My heart [...]

POETRY: Nothing Is Too Small Not To Be Wondered About, by Mary Oliver

May 20, 2017

The cricket doesn’t wonder if there’s a heaven or, if there is, if there’s room for him. It’s fall. Romance is over. Still, he sings. If he can, he enters a house through the tiniest crack under the door. Then the house grows colder. He sings slower and slower. Then, nothing. This must mean something, I don’t know what. But certainly it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been an excellent cricket all his [...]

POETRY: About Angels And About Trees by Mary Oliver

May 3, 2017

Where do angels fly in the firmament, and how many can dance on the head of a pin? Well, I don’t care about that pin dance, what I know is that they rest, sometimes, in the tops of the trees and you can see them, or almost see them, or, anyway, think: what a wonderful idea. I have lost as you and others have possibly lost a beloved one, and wonder, where are they now? The trees, anyway, are miraculous, full of angels (ideas); even empty they are a good place to look, to put the heart at rest—all those leaves breathing the air, so peaceful and diligent, and certainly ready to be the resting place of strange, winged creatures that we, in this world, have [...]

STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 12 — Jesus Dies On The Cross, by Joan Chittister

April 13, 2017

From: The Way of the Cross The Experience What is worse than the actual event of death is the awareness of the degree of loss that comes with it.  Simply announcing that someone has had “a peaceful death” does nothing to damp the pain of it.  When the death is a violent one, the deprivation – the sense of having been able to do nothing to have stopped the pain – burrows down into the center of the soul dark and endless. Violent death, natural or not, haunts us at night and plagues us during the day.  It stops time at the moment before the loss.  It suspends us in an orbit of pain.  Now what? What can possibly fix the lives that are left to mourn the dead who die out of time and at the hands of the uncaring, the [...]

JESUS: The Dying Of Jesus, by Hubert van Zeller

April 12, 2017

The Roman soldiers watched our Lord die but gave him little attention; they were rolling dice at the time.  Zacharias, five hundred years earlier, had prophesied that they shall look on him whom they pierced.  Mary, John, and the holy women “looked on” the dead Christ but they had not pierced him.  Nor had Nicodemus and Joseph.  The crowds had gone, and the priests and Roman officials who were responsible for the piercing had not been present anyway.  So apart from the unimpressed guards, who would not have stayed on longer than they had to, to whom is the prophesy most applicable?  To ourselves.  We are not in the position of casual bystanders or military torturers: we know that here is the Second Person of the Holy [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: The River by Paul Myers

April 5, 2017

From: Portland Magazine Many years ago I was fishing in the Wilson River with my brother-in-law.  It was autumn, salmon season.  The air and the river were cold and you could smell the sea.  Yellow and gold and bronze leaves darted and swirled and spun in the crystalline waters at our feet.  Morning mist hung in the hemlocks and firs climbing the mountains.  Everywhere there was mottled light. I heard the sound of plastic hitting rock and I looked over and saw my brother-in-law lean over to retrieve his lure box from the river, and then he slipped and fell in, and the river yanked him away.  He groped frantically for the rocks and jabbed his heels desperately into the riverbed and after a second or two he actually stood up, the [...]

POETRY: Blood In The Snow by Gregory Spencer

March 3, 2017

I have yet to see a crimson cardinal, though Virginia boasts he’s there waiting on some blossomed branch whistling. Perhaps a blood-red bird will soon appear against this winter-white ash that floats down graceful from God’s chimney. Our children have fallen—we all have— and bear hot bruises from these ice slips. Undeterred, they surf the slopes this March, calculating pace and angles for success. I sent them out today in striped shirts to crunch and slide near the Holocaust museum. Just yesterday a man was murdered there. I remember the news said he did nothing wrong; but I let the children go anyway, to walk that path where winter’s white ash falls from God’s chimney and I’ve yet to see a [...]

POETRY: Snowfall, by Sarah Arthur

February 8, 2017

When the snow falls it falls like death in slow layers and keeps falling till nothing we have known is known. We stand silent in the woods awaiting the wide white twilight. They say when you die of cold you fall asleep first. And so I wonder: If you die of snow like a princess do you dream for a hundred years while a blanket of white mounds over your chest and pines stand silent in the trackless deep and not even the mice know you’re there? If a tree falls in the snow does it sleep for a hundred years? And if you prick your finger and a drop of red blood falls on the silent snow do the woods shudder with strange violence; does the snow rot with dark undergrowth; do the dead leaves bleed? Does the woodsman then awake, shoulder his ax, [...]

POETRY: Cemetery, by Benjamin Alire Saenz

February 1, 2017

I walk these grassless grounds Cracked, withering in weeds. My eyes move From one monument to the next: a star For the hour of their births, a cross For the hour of their deaths. Grave after Grave, row after crooked row like fields Of rotting corn. My eyes fall On words: Para mi querido hijo, a mother’s Final letter to her war-dead son. The foreigner Has found a place, died for a flag that knows only How to wave adios in English. A broken angel, Wingless, protects the grave of an infant Whose name the wind has stolen. A cloud Covers the sun. It will not rain. I stand In this noonday darkness somewhere between A cross and a star, strip off my clothes, rags That hide my bones. Bones. Bones fighting to bare Their blankness to open air. [...]

JESUS: He Weeps, by M. G. J. Beets

January 31, 2017

From The Wordless Voice Jesus wept. The Jews then said: “Look how he has loved him.” Some of them said: “Could this man who has opened the eyes of a blind man not have done something so that Lazarus would not have died?” (John 11:35-37) We assume, as a consequence of our approach to the gospel as a philosophical text of the highest importance which we are trying to understand in depth, that there is nothing we are told about Christ that does not have a special significance. In the verses 11:33 and 35 we are told that Jesus is distressed and that he weeps.  These words certainly mean that Christ shares with us our human emotion of grief and so, that he weeps becuase someone he loves has died and because of his [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: God Has The Keys Of Death by John Donne

December 5, 2016

From Death’s Duel To God, the Lord, belongs escape from death. (Psalm 68:20) This whole world is but a universal churchyard, but our common grave, and the life and motion that the greatest persons have in it is but as the shaking of buried bodies in their graves by an earthquake.  That which we call life is but a week of death, seven days, seven periods of our life spent in dying, a dying seven times over; and there is an end.  Our birth dies in infancy and our infancy dies in youth, and youth and the rest die in age, and age also dies and determines all.  Nor do all these, youth out of infancy, or age out of youth, arise as a phoenix out of the ashes of another phoenix formerly dead, but as a wasp or a serpent out of a carrion, [...]

POETRY: This World Is Not Conclusion by Emily Dickinson

November 25, 2016

This World is not Conclusion. A Species stands beyond— Invisible, as Music— But positive, as Sound— It beckons, and it baffles— Philosophy, don’t know— And through a Riddle, at the last— Sagacity, must go— To guess it, puzzles scholars— To gain it, Men have borne Contempt of Generations And Crucifixion, shown— Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies— Blushes, if any see— Plucks at a twig of Evidence— And asks a Vane, the way— Much Gesture, from the Pulpit— Strong Hallelujahs roll— Narcotics cannot still the Tooth That nibbles at the [...]

POETRY: All Souls’ Day, by Frances Bellerby

November 2, 2016

Let’s go our old way by the stream, and kick the leaves as we always did, to make the rhythm of breaking waves. This day draws no breath— shows no color anywhere except for the leaves—in their death brilliant as never before. Yellow of Brimstone Butterfly, brown of Oak Eggar Moth— you’d say. And I’d be wondering why a summer never seems lost if two have been together witnessing the variousness of light, and the same two in lusterless November enter the year’s night… The slow-worm stream—how still! Above that spider’s unguarded door, look—dull pearls…Time’s full, brimming, can hold no more. Next moment (we well know, my darling, you and I) what the small day cannot hold must spill into [...]