For the days and times when we so experience our woundedness and faults and wonder how God can still love us:
God likes me covered with my creaturehood
and with my limits spread across His face.
He likes to see me lifting to His eyes
even the wretchedness that dropped His grace.
~Jessica Powers (from “Creature of God”)
(This is a repost of a profound poem.)
The poem I have to share with you this Sunday is another by Jessica Powers:
The Garments of God
God sits on a chair of darkness in my soul.
He is God alone, supreme in His majesty.
I sit at His feet, a child in the dark beside Him;
my joy is aware of His glance and my sorrow is tempted
to nest on the thought that His face is turned from me.
He is clothed in the robes of His mercy, voluminous garments–
not velvet or silk and affable to the touch,
but fabric strong for a frantic hand to clutch,
and I hold to it fast with the fingers of my will.
Here is my cry of faith, my deep avowal
to the Divinity that I am but dust.
Here is the loud profession of my trust.
I need not go abroad
to the hills of speech or the hinterlands of music
for a crier to walk in my soul where all is still.
I have this potent prayer through good or ill:
here in the dark I clutch the garments of God.
Note: every year I repost this poem because I still love it!
A beautiful snow last night and this morning a bird singing outside my window. This brings to mind a poem by Jessica Powers about a chickadee in a snow storm. There is always something to be learned from God’s creatures if we just take the time to look and ask Him to help us to really see.
Look at the Chickadee
I take my lesson from the chickadee
who in the storm
receives a special fire to keep him warm,
who in the dearth of a December day
can make the seed of a dead weed his stay,
so simple and so small,
and yet the hardiest hunter of them all.
The world is winter now and I who go
loving no venture half so much as snow,
in this white blinding desert have been sent
a most concise and charming argument.
To those who seek to flout austerity,
who have a doubt of God’s solicitude
for even the most trivial of His brood,
to those whose minds are chilled with misery
I have this brief audacious word to say:
look at the chickadee,
that small perennial singer of the earth,
who makes the week of a December day
the pivot of his mirth.
That God made birds is surely in His favor.
I write them as His courtesies of love.
Hidden in leaves, they offer me sweet savor
of lightsome music; when they streak above
my garden wall they brush my scene with color.
They are embroideries upon the grass.
I write the gayest stitched-in blossoms duller
than birds which change their patterns as I pass.
I nurse a holy envy of St. Francis
who lured the birds to nestle at his breast.
Yet I am grateful for this one which dances
across my lawn, a reckless anapest.
Subjects for gratitude push up my living
praise to a sum that tempts the infinite;
but birds deserve one whole psalm of thanksgiving
and these words are my antiphon for it.
Jessica Powers (1956)
The Will of God
Time has one song along. If you are heedful
and concentrate on sound with all your soul,
you may hear the song of the beautiful will of God,
soft notes or deep sonorous tones that roll
like thunder over time.
Not many have the hearing for this music,
and fewer still have sought it as sublime.
Listen, and tell your grief: But God is singing!
God sings through all creation with His will.
Save the negation of sin, all is His music,
even the notes that set their roots ill
to flower in pity, pardon or sweet humbling.
Evil fins harshness of the rack and rod
in tunes where good finds tenderness and glory.
The saints who loved have died of this pure music,
and no one enters heaven until he learns,
deep in his soul at least, to sing with God.
A Sunday-poem by Jessica Powers:
All the day long I spent the hours with suffering.
I woke to find her sitting by my bed.
She stalked my footsteps while time slowed to timeless,
tortured my sight, came close in what was said.
She asked no more than that, beneath unwelcome,
I might be mindful of her grant of grace.
I still can smile, amused, when I remember
how I surprised her when I kissed her face.
A Sunday-poem from Jessica Powers:
But Not With Wine
“You are drunk, but not with wine” (Isaiah 51.21)
O god of too much giving, whence is this
inebriation that possesses me,
that the staid road now wanders all amiss
and that the wind walks much too giddily,
clutching a bush for balance, or a tree?
How then can dignity and pride endure
with such inordinate mirth upon the land,
when steps and speech are somewhat insecure
and the light heart is wholly out of hand?
If there be indecorum in my songs,
fasten the blame where rightly it belongs:
on Him who offered me too many cups
of His most potent goodness–not on me,
a peasant who, because a king was host,
drank out of courtesy.
I have been thinking about starting a kind of series for you all: some musings on prayer, some thoughts, some gleanings, probably in random order. I pulled an article out of my files this morning by Jessica Powers, OCD, entitled “Who Hath First Loved Us.” Those five words are the key and the basis for prayer. Prayer is nothing but a response to Him “who hath first loved us.” And so we must start by steeping ourselves in His love, by consciously opening ourselves up to His love, by paying attention to that desire at the core of our being for His love. For that desire is, in and of itself, a response to His love touching our lives. “Quest is the condition of the wayfarer, of the lover. The mind points out the search, and the heart goes seeking; it reaches out toward the lovable known. This is the fundamental attitude of the Christian.”
The condition of search . . . presupposes another condition that the words of the Mystical Doctor [St. John of the Cross] always imply. It is the condition of being sought. God is there in the shadows; He has been seeking the soul, inviting it, calling it to Himself with the cry of infinite and incomprehensible love. He says to ever soul: “I have loved thee by name; thou art Mine.” And this is no sudden movement on the part of God! It is a search that had no beginning. “I have loved thee,” He says, “with an everlasting love.”
Just sit with that last sentence for a minute . . . a long minute . . . and let it speak deeply to your heart. That is prayer.
That line, taken from the line of a song about Mary, reminds me of a poem by Jessica Powers that Iwould like to share with you this Sunday:
And in her morning
The Virgin Mary cannot enter into
my soul for an indwelling. God alone
has sealed this land as secretly His own;
but being mother and implored, she comes
to stand along my eastern sky and be
a drift of sunrise over God and me.
God is a light and genitor of light.
Yet for our weakness and our punishment
He hides Himself in midnights that prevent
all save the least awarenesses of Him.
We strain with dimmed eyes inward and perceive
no stir of what we clamored to believe.
Yet I say: God (if one may jest with God),
Your hiding has not reckoned with our Lady
who holds my east horizon and whose glow
lights up my inner landscape, high and low.
All my soul’s acres shine and shine with her!
You are discovered, God; awake, rise
out of the dark of Your Divine surprise!
You own reflection has revealed Your place,
for she is utter light by Your own grace.
And in her light I find You hid within me,
and in her morning I can see Your Face.
An interesting twist on “love letters” from God in this piece by Jessica Powers from today’s Magnificat:
Sometimes lovely things that are lost. Beautiful things God scatters everywhere. As Walt Whitman said, (in other words), that God is tossing down love letters in the street and everywhere, if only we would watch out for them. I think I have come to see that even the contradictions and the crosses of life are his “love letters.”
I’ve begun to look for them [God’s love letters] with a certain joy–signs that tell me that Jesus is near. The unexpected delay, the negative response, the inopportune caller, the gimmick that won’t work, the nice food that got overcooked, the lack of something needed, the ballpoint pen that smudges, the mistake one can’t undo–the list is endless. Not (I hope) that I concentrate on the unpleasant things, but that they are little signs that I share in the life of Jesus.
Doesn’t this remind you of this one from Mother Teresa:
One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me”.