Wed Feb 10 – “with what radiant joy he turns to you”

Ash Wednesday,   February 10  “Lent”  =   “Spring”

Mardi Gras has come and gone, opening the Christian tradition to the season of prayer called “Lent.”  That word has Anglo Saxon roots and means “Spring,” the  season when, in northern parts of the planet, what had looked dead — frozen earth, leafless trees — shows new life.  But gradually.   Re-birth takes its time.   Lent, a 40 day season of prayer, is less about giving things up (e.g., sweets, beer, other fancy things) and more about keeping watch near new life.   Here’s a suggestion for prayer during Lent.  Choose a little tree that you pass most days,  one where you can stand close to one of its small branches, say 6 inches away from your nose.  Stand still and breathe;  for a few seconds look closely.   During Lent’s 40 days stop now and again, be still;  look closely at the branch. Its buds do not storm into full spring growth like a brass band.  You hardly notice any change from day to day; but if you wait, new life will show up.  The Prophet Habakkuk teaches, “For the vision has its own time, presses on toward fulfillment.  If it delays, wait for it, for come it will, without fail.” (Hab 2:3).  At a university committeed to learning by students, staff, and faculty, Lent makes a good short prayer.

Denise Levertov wrote a poem I call one of my “top 5 lifetime,” though there are many more than 5 of these.   Dedicated this morning at the dawn of Lent, to all of us who stake our hopes in learning and teaching and mentoring and challenging.   Reading aloud, with pauses, has its own rewards.

Blessings during these Lenten days.


john st sj

Today’s Post Today’s Post – “The Poem Rising By Its Own Weight”

“The poet is at the disposal of his own night”    Jean Cocteau

The singing robes fly onto your body and cling there silkily,
You step out on the rope and move unfalteringly across it,
And seize the fiery knives unscathed and
Keep them spinning above you, a fountain
Of rhythmic rising, falling, rising
And proudly let the chains
Be wound about you, ready
To shed them, link by steel link,
padlock by padlock–

but when your graceful
confident shrug and twist drives the metal
into your flesh and the python grip of it tightens
and you see rust on the chains and blood in your pores
and you roll
over and down a steepness into a dark hole
and there is not even the sound of mockery in the distant air
somewhere above you where the sky was,
no sound but your own breath panting:

then it is that the miracle
walks in, on his swift feet,
down the precipice straight into the cave,
opens the locks,
knots of chain fall open,
twists of chain unwind themselves,
links fall asunder,
in seconds there is a heap of scrap-
metal at your ankles, you step free and at once
he turns to go —

but as you catch at him with a cry,
clasping his knees, sobbing your gratitude,
with what radiant joy he turns to you,
and raises you to your feet,
and strokes your disheveled hair,
and holds you,
holds you,
holds you
close and tenderly before he vanishes.

The Freeing of the Dust



Denise Levertov  (1923-1997)


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