Small things

Small Things

Anna Kamieńska

It usually starts taking shape
from one word
reveals itself in one smile
sometimes in the blue glint of eyeglasses
in a trampled daisy
in a splash of light on a path
in quivering carrot leaves
in a bunch of parsley
It comes from laundry hung on a balcony
from hands thrust into dough
It seeps through closed eyelids
as through the prison wall of things of objects
of faces of landscapes
It’s when you slice bread
when you pour out some tea
It comes from a broom from a shopping bag
from peeling new potatoes
from a drop of blood from the prick of a needle
when making panties for a child
or sewing a button on a husband’s burial shirt
It comes of toil out of care
out of the immense fatigue in the evening
out of tear wiped away
out of a prayer broken off in mid-word by sleep

It’s not from the grand
but from the tiny thing
that it grows enormous
as if Someone was building Eternity
as a swallow its nest
out of clumps of moments

Just around the corner

I know it’s Ordinary Time, but our house still has one foot in the Christmas season.  As most of you know, we started following the Vatican custom of leaving our lights and crèche up until February 2, the Feast of the Presentation (which is 40 days after Christmas).  (Check out the webcam at St. Peter’s if you doubt me–or even if you don’t doubt me.  It’s so cool.)  I say all of this as an excuse to share this meditation by Fr. Richard G. Smith on a seventeenth-century crèche.  It’s good anytime of the year:

“The Christmas Trees of New York City”

Most tourists visiting New York City in December find their way to the famous Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.  Unfortunately, far fewer will discover a less famous, though even more beautiful, tree a few blocks north of Rockefeller Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Actually, the tree itself is not particularly  noteworthy–it is the seventeenth-century crèche from Naples, Italy, which surrounds the tree that makes it worth a visit.  There we see all the usual character: dozens of angels, the shepherds and sheep, the wise men, the donkey and ox, Mary and Joseph.

What makes the crèche so unusual, though, are all the other scenes around it–vignettes of everyday life in seventeenth-century Naples.  Among the many scenes  we see a man walking a dog, a little boy dragging his mother somewhere, a woman baking bread in the kitchen, a man sleeping by the water fountain, even a young man flirting with a young woman.  There is something beautifully human and real about these representations.  And while they are all very beautiful, ultimately they are just scenes of simple people in their ordinary, everyday lives.  That is what is so wonderful about the crèche: if any one of those ordinary people living their ordinary lives were to just turn the corner (around the tree), they would find the wondrous scene of the newly born Jesus surrounded by Mary, Joseph, and the dozens of angels.  The newborn Jesus is so clase to any one of them, that they could walk up and touch him.  And that’s the point of the crèche.  God is that close.

In St. Luke’s telling, the birth of Jesus is revealed first of all to ordinary people, people like you and me, in the midst of their work who only need turn the corner to discover the God who wants no distance between us and himself.

(from Praying with Saint Luke’s Gospel, Magnificat Press)

Here’s a photo of the crèche.  You can see more detail here.


“He lived in God’s favorite place.”

That title caught my eye as I was leafing through the November 2011 edition of Restoration (published by Madonna House).  The article is a homily given by one priest at Madonna House at the funeral of another priest.  He speaks of the deceased as often being in “the right place for the wrong reason.”  A soul so abandoned to God that he didn’t always realize how God was using him.  “That’s why he showed up in so many of our lives just when we needed him to be there. Whatever he was up to—whether it was fixing a door or a chair—it often turned out that the real reason he was there was that you were there, and you needed him.” You can read the homily here.

“Love your helplessness”

This is why I love Thérèse . . . when I come across these kinds of things she said: “Agree to stumble at every step, even fall, to carry your crosses weakly; love your helplessness, your soul will benefit more from it than if sustained by grace you accomplished with enthusiasm heroic actions which would fill your soul with personal satisfaction and pride.” I find such hope in her words.  How very often I feel my helplessness and am aware of my stumbling.  It is such a comfort to be in her company . . .