Melancholy Beauty

Maybe it’s the days spent in a caravan in YnysMon or the news of late, but I’ve had an appettite for Melancholy beauty this evening. This is my smorgsbord of findings.

LOGOS..

Beautiful, Haunting Music

Some thoughtful writing by John Donne… Meditation 17

Empty Tomb

Empty Tomb - Unknown Artist

And a sonnet from John Donne:
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 canst 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 with 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 poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Beltane Eve Meanderings

A posting from the Community of Aiden and Hilda got me thinking about this season, which so far for me is bringing many changes. I’ll copy and paste it here, to give a flavour:

Tonight (April 30th) is Beltane eve, drawing us through the night to the dawn of the season of Beltane, the season of the sun. For the next three moons the Celtic calendar was focused on the warmth and light of the sun, of the strength of light over darkness with the summer solstice in the middle. It was the season of celebrations and feasting, but also of war and reclaiming what may have been taken from you, and of battling the enemy.

For the Celtic Christians this celebration and season lost none of its potency. It was a celebration of the Sun of Righteousness (a prophetic term for the Messiah), who comes, according to the prophet Malachi, with healing. It is a celebration of the strength of the Light of the world over spiritual darkness, and of reclaiming through ‘the Sun of Righteousness’ all and any parts of your life which have been taken from you by spiritual darkness, or ‘the enemy’.

Happy Beltane!
May the Great Light overcome all your inner darkness
May the warmth and healing of the Sun of Righteousness be with you and within you
And may you know the overcoming of ‘the enemy’ and a reclaiming of any part of your life or inner self which has been lost.

This last part of the prayer in particular struck me. It particularly reminded me of a short “statement of faith” I clung on to a few years ago, love is never wasted. Recently I was reminded of this by this meme from Action for Happiness:

There’s something both strong and bittersweet about this reflection, and I think that links well to this post:

http://barnonecollective.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/the-minor-fall-the-major-lift/

Of course after listening to that I had to find a version of the song in question to actually listen to…

 

Somehow this mix of the broken and the beautiful is so apt for humanity. I particularly therefore appreciated these two reflections on “unlikely characters” that God had good purposes for:

http://cyber-coenobites.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-lord-and-my-god-john-2028.html

http://cyber-coenobites.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-stripling-in-loose-garment-stripping.html

The hotch potch of real people in the bible gives me real hope at times!

 

To end, I had looked to the Carmina Gadaelica (online here:http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cg.htm ) for a Beltane Blessing, but decided on just picking a few segments from the possibilities for today:

“…The strength of the Triune be our shield in distress,
The strength of Christ, His peace and His Pasch,
The strength of the Spirit, Physician of health,
And of the precious Father, the King of grace.

…Be the Cross of Christ to shield us downward,
Be the Cross of Christ to shield us upward,
Be the Cross of Christ to shield us roundward,
Accepting our Beltane blessing from us,
Accepting our Beltane blessing from us.”

“…Bless everything and every one,
Of this little household by my side

Place the cross of Christ on us with the power of love,
Till we see the land of joy,
Till we see the land of joy,…

Thou Being who didst create me at the beginning,
Listen and attend me as I bend the knee to Thee,
Morning and evening as is becoming in me,
In Thine own presence, O God of life,
In Thine own presence, O God of life.”

Not quite there yet, but looking forward to Calan Haf…

 

Fire Blessing

In discussing possible appropriate prayers for the day a friend composed this on the spur of the moment, and it seems absolutely apt:

 In honor of the Four Fires of St. Brigid:

Thanks be to God for the fire of the Hearth–may my home always be warm and welcoming.

Thanks be to God for the fire of the Smith–may my labors always bear good fruit.

Thanks be to God for the fire of Inspiration–may the good Lord Jesus always kindle my imagination.

Thanks be to God for the fire of His Holy Spirit–may I always seek and understand God’s guidance.

Amen.

(composed by Dolores… also known as Dreamdeer… other writings collated here.)

of Love and Poetry

Fear not… I’m not about to make my scribblings public reading, but two things struck me today… I didn’t know (until friends via facebook told me so) that today is St Dwynwen’s day… and that she is a welsh “saint” with a largely legendary (and variable) life story, who nevertheless is patron saint of lovers… and sick animals. Fortunately the tribe of rodents are well, so I turned to the other aspect she represents. It actually made me think of how broad love can be, how many aspects of different friendships and relationships it encapsulates in one little word. Which made me all soppy so I gave a bunch of people a facebook Cwtch… oh dear… I shall have to work harder if I am to achieve grumpy old woman status.

Then there’s been this thing… to flood facebook with poetry… which meant I discovered this outstanding poem:

A Blessing for one who is exhausted:

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

by John O’Donohue

 

Music & Poetry & Art for the times

So, some dearly loved friends are going through the wringer at the moment, and all day my brains been in a bit of shock with it all.

Sat down to write some blog (cos sleep is a long distant land tonight) and I found all the stuff that I was going to put just disappeared out of proportion to the rest. So I’m collating these expressions of the journey of today instead.

The only song that resonated initially was this one by Michael Card – Death of a Son, based on Psalms 22/69.

Then this one by Rachel Taylor Beales – Please Don’t pass me by.

And this was the one card (of 54) I picked blindly for prayer meditation this morning…

John Resurrection CardNo really!

It kind of reminded me of this story from John chapter 11, about Lazarus.

Seeing the card with talk about trouble in life and yet resurrection, especially at a time when you’re desperate to hope, can give pretty different signals to different people. For me, I felt very much like Lazarus’ sisters, Martha & Mary, in this case.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.“Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?

I sympathise with their, “why didn’t you do something earlier?” type questions, and the implicit assumptions in Martha’s reply about the resurrection of the dead, “yes I know about that… but what about NOW…”

Somehow all this also got me to thinking about the writings of Julian of Norwich, in her revelations of divine love, which she experienced during a near death illness. And also this poem by John Donne:

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,

For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,

Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,

Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,

Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.

Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,

And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,

And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;

One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Then in the late evening tonight, it’s been all about the music again, and I’m beginning to tire so I may just let the links speak…

(with an alt version to be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3KDDmEGJUk

One thing that helps with that “whole world in his hands” stuff (apart from the better tune ) is that those hands, always and forever, bear the scars of the nails. Those are hands I trust.

Communing with Trees

A friend posted this on her blog about a recent meeting with a tree, and she opened up a discussion about “do other people do this?” and “what do you think is going on?”

My first thought was “aaargh how do you put that into words!”… so I borrowed some from the Beaker Folk and a “cosmic Christ” image that I thought were good starters for me.

But I eventually found some words, so I thought I’d keep them on here.

So to start with, yes, I quite often say “hello” to trees, the sun, the moon, the sea, my beloved van, my pets, animals I meet… it feels more like greeting an old friend or a distant relative than anything else… with God being the loving connection between us and around us.

I’ve never really figured which “ism” it properly fits into, though I think from my reading so far that Panentheism/ Christian Orthodoxy fit. (I still haven’t figured out if the two are truly separate or if that’s one of those, “it depends who you’re talking to/ how you explain the terms” scenarios).

I also tried to explain how I understand these experiences, eventually, though first I thought: I don’t remember a time before when I didn’t feel connected to the natural world in this way, so I think that might be one reason I find it hard to put down into words, like trying to think about just how exactly you walk. However, saying that, I’m going to attempt putting some thoughts out there… I may be some time.

I think from Orthodox Christian Theology, The Bible, and my own sputtering experience, I find that:

The Creator is there.

The Greatest and Good Spirit holds all being together.

The One Made Human is with us, knows us, is close to our hearts.

God is Good. God is Love. God is present. God is over all and seen in all.

And then in that light, I experience that I am me, and I am connected by the Love of the Creator to this particular tree. Somehow in that light, tree is more than just a hollow noun, it is the name of a fellow creature from the heart of Love. And I am more really me. So I suppose that’s how I see it, a glimpse, a revelation of a truth that’s always there, and not yet fulfilled.

 

There were others who put things better (and more succinctly) too, so I thought I’d save some of their words for recollection.

Talking to trees is talking to Earth Family created as kin in the image of God…

I think im talking to the tree and god. As god is in everything that lives moves and has its being. I love trees and the silver birch that i see every time I open the front door has such a calming presence. Utterly speechless. God is every where, in everything and if we are open is constantly communicating in and thro creation. A magical world,

 

A Miscellany of Encouragement

I’ve been meaning to blog for some time, but this is the first time in a while that I’ve given myself the time to do it. I’m glad I have, because, having some difficulties with returning to work after illness, additional encouragement is most welcomed; in the process of looking at a couple of pages for this scrapbook, I’ve followed the classic internet trend of one page leading to another, and another… all encouraging me in my journey.

I’ll start with one that inspired me to clear thinking on some reasons why I am not a strict materialist (believing only matter exists/ is important), particularly commendable in that it was an apparently popular BBC magazine article that celebrates a long forgotten author and a philosophical approach to life.

The next is a piece of music, I want Jesus to walk with me, sung by Eric Bibb, here on youtube.

I want Jesus to walk with me
All along my pilgrim journey
I want Jesus to walk with me
When I’m in trouble walk with me
When my heart is almost breaking
I want Jesus to come walking with me
In my trials, walk with me
When my head is bowed in sorrow
I want Jesus to come walking with me.

I came across this song as one accompanying this version of common prayer. As I often find it easier to find accompanying music to listen to via youtube, I searched and came across a version where Eric Bibb explains his love of this song, and then via that to the song itself. There are many things I appreciate about this song, including its long history as a negro spiritual from people in much more concrete hardship than I have ever faced. I love the simplicity, the rhythm, the cadences, but mostly I love that straightforward call for Jesus to be Emmanuel, God with us.

It echoes back for me to the May Bank Holiday weekend. I really wanted to have the opportunity to celebrate Calan Mai, especially with the beautiful weather, so I (ironically?) ended up spending the weekend in England with family. We spent plenty of time outside, and went for some lovely walks. Me and my Mum managed to come across a church doing ‘Al Fresco Church’ in a beautiful place. Entirely random in some ways, and yet it felt made to measure in others. The theme was the tapestry God weaves (for Good) through all events in our lives, good and ill. We sang the (beautiful, but impossibly high for most female voices) song composed by Matt Redman, Blessed be your Name. And I weaved a piece of dried up prickly blackberry thorn into a group ‘tapestry’, chuckled at the beautiful ‘singing’ of the many accompanying dogs, and marveled at the divine providence that brought me to that very beautiful sunny place for that time. Emmanuel, in the times good and bad.

On the Monday evening, I managed to share with my Mum and sis a delightful fire and food (with more accompanying dogs in hope of sausages or sticks) that felt like my own May Day celebration. (Fortunately our BBQ didn’t lead to the same chaos as this Beaker Folk One). I had really appreciated this thought and prayer from the community of Aiden and Hilda for the first of May, and that day with my family felt like a way to celebrate it fully in action:

Happy Beltane! The Celtic celebration of the start of summer and the time the light is the strongest. May the Sun of Righteousness rise upon you this Beltane with healing in his wings!
A Beltane prayer:
May the Light rise to guide you,
May the sacred fire cleanse you,
May the wealth of heaven be poured out upon you
And may you know peace

Which also leads neatly on to this poem, by Sally at Eternal Echoes, that I think catches the spirit of Calan Mai for me this year (and also Pentecost!)…

” Set your fire within my soul…”

I came across it after looking at another post or two from the Beaker Folk. Firstly this one on thoughts on days of clear blue skies (for people not from the UK, I’ve no idea how you came across this blog, but hiya, thought I’d just clarify that in the UK, days of blue skies and sun are such a rarity that they are considered a very precious commodity). There’s one part that particularly clarifies my kind of optimistic pessimism:

“I’m going to believe there’s a deeper Magic below the prosaic surface. I’m going to assume that, random and scary though this life is, the point is buried in there somewhere… I’m going to assume that our hope and futility meet at a cross made of wood on a hillside under a darkling sky. And I will be amazed, and awed, and apprehensive. But I will not be afraid. At least, not all the time.”

I found that this poem/ prayer from Sally at Eternal Echoes, like many of the psalms, just the right one for me in the days following on from the Blue Skies, and a good way to pray through tougher days,

“so I am knocking,

no I am railing against heaven’s door,

will you answer…”

And I will end this rather lengthy extended scrapbook session, with this answer from the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley, about Ascension Day.

But there’s one thing we now know. Pierced by thorns, slashed by a whip, holed by nails, cut open by a spear, dirtied by three decades of wear and tear on this abrasive planet – there’s a human being on a throne in heaven. As we fight and fall ill, abuse each other and die, those wounds we suffer and inflict are already made glorious in heaven. It makes our present sufferings not an ounce lighter – and it doesn’t reduce the damage we do one little bit – but it gives it meaning, an end, a resolution, a redemption. Your hurts, my hurts – they’re all wrapped up into the world-ending, eternal, freely-carried hurts in the place where hurt shouldn’t be able to go – tied into the sufferings of the God who can’t suffer, raised from the death of the God who can’t die. It may not stop the pain, but somehow it makes it feel like it’s shared.