For Boston and All of Us…

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!


From Prayers by the Lake…

Think of yourself as though you were dead, I say to myself, and you will not feel the coming of death. Blunt the barb of death during life, and when it comes it will not have the means to sting.

Think of yourself every morning as a newborn miracle, and you will not feel old age.

Do not wait for death to come, because death has indeed already come and has not left you. Its teeth are continually in your flesh.  Whatever was living before your birth and whatever will survive your death–that even now is alive within you.

One night an angel unwound the tape of time, the end of which I was unable to perceive, and he showed me two dots on the tape, one next to the other. “The distance between these two dots,” he said, “is the span of your lifetime.”

“That means my lifetime is already over,” I shouted, “and I must be prepared for the journey. I must be like a diligent hostess, who spends the present day cleaning house and making preparations for tomorrow’s slava1 celebration.”

Truly, the present day of all the sons of men is for the most part filled with concern for the next day. Yet few of those, who believe in Your promise, concern themselves with what will happen the day after death. May my death, O Lord, be my last sigh not for this world, but for that blessed and eternal Tomorrow.

Among the burned out candles of my friends, my candle, too, is burning down. “Do not be foolish,” I reprimand myself, “and do not regret that your candle is burning out. Do you really love your friends so little, that you are afraid to set out after them, after the many who have strolled away? Do not regret that your candle is burning low, but that it is leaving be­hind unclear and dim light.”

My soul has become accustomed to leaving my body every day and every night, and to stretch herself out to the limits of the universe. When she has sprouted in this way, my soul feels as though suns and moons are swimming over her even as the swans swim over my lake. She shines through suns and supports life on earthly planets. She supports mountains and seas; she controls thunder and winds. She completely fills Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.2 And she returns to shel­ter in a cramped and dilapidated habitation on one of those earthly planets. She returns to the body that she still, for another minute or two, calls her own, and which sways like her shadow among mounds of graves, among lairs of beasts, among howls of false hopes.

I do not complain about death, O Living God, it does not seem to me to be anything sad. It is a terror that man has created for himself. More strongly than anything on earth, death is pushing me to meet You.

I had a walnut tree in front of my house, and death took it from me. I was angry at death and cursed it saying: “Why did it not take me, an insatiable animal, instead of something sinless?”

But now I think of myself as though I were dead, and near my walnut tree.

O my Immortal God, look mercifully upon a candle that is burning out, and purify its flame. For only a pure flame rises toward Your face, and enters Your eye, with which you watch the whole world.

On the Way Home from Church…

I take the tab out of my collar as I leave the highway. The guy is by the stoplight. The one with the cardboard sign that says “Homeless Vet, Anything Will Help.” I have no idea who he is but I know who I am.  And I don’t want him to see the collar of a Priest. It’s just too complicated, the guilt, the feelings,  the expectations.  I don’t know who this guy is.  I don’t know where he comes from.  I tell myself it  makes no sense to give this guy money for the liquor store down the street   so he can get into more of what got him on this exit ramp in the first place.  And I do give to the local mission, really, and he can go there if he needs to.  So my tab is in my pocket and I try not to make eye contact as I drive by.  I pray that the light doesn’t change just before I pass  so I have to look him in the eye.  Because I don’t know who he is, but I know who I am and I still feel like somehow I left Christ on the sidewalk.

It's as Gray a Day…

as I can remember. The rain has been falling for hours while the cats sleep it all away on the living room floor. A ceiling fan quietly twists and hums through its duties and the irregular drops of water tap on the windows like lost children.

There are things to do today. In fact there’s a lot to do. Why people want to be in such a hurry to get out in the “real” world puzzles me. The chores, the things you do because you have to and the people you have to deal with are hardly any fair payment in return for being able to vote and walk into a liquor store. Work, at least work as it has become, is what happened when the world fell from its former grace. Its part of what some folks call the “curse” of the days beyond Eden and it has meaning only because the goodness of those days still somehow finds a way to shine through the cracks in the wall around the garden.

We were designed to be Farmers and Priests, caretakers of the good world given to us and singers of praise to its Maker. Now we live in cubicles, try to make our way through the gibberish, and if not by the sweat of our brow we make our way through the years by the sweat of our soul. Adam had no axe, there was no disfigurement to prune away, no death to remove from its place, no need even for a fire in the warmth of God’s life. Yet all that is past now. The tree could not be removed and we face the morning with a sigh.

It’s time to go now. Time to shower. Time to shave. Time to put on the best face for the day. In the car we go with the rest of the herd, crawling like ants in hope of sugar. It’s why people waste their money on the lottery and push their kids to be rock stars, the hope to be free of it all.

It’s a sign, too, that we were designed for something better and there is a place for us yet to go. The traces of Eden and the hope of heaven have not left us. They are instinctual, primal, and basic. They are why we sigh in the morning, fall into restless sleep at night, and think about what could have been on gray rainy mornings.

Good Friday…

What great mystery is this?
The sun turns dark as light perpetual emerges.
The eternal chooses death for the sake of the mortal.
The boasters have fled.
The meek keep vigil.
A pagan finds truth.
Priests remain in darkness.
A mother is given to a son.
A son is given to the ages.
The demons rejoice.
Hell is made ready for the taking.
The world kills its king.
Yet in death he becomes unconquerable.

What mystery is this?
A day called good.
While the humble weep.
The world is healed.
Its savior is wounded.
Love is shown as thorns.
Earth itself is shaken and groans.
Angels watch in wonder amazed.
So let us be, on this day and always.
Keeping watch ourselves as the story unfolds.
Hearts aflame with that which defies words.
Love unmeasurable for those who survey
this all, and understand.

I Prefer…

the sounds of birds to TV,
the sounds of cars passing by in the night as well.
Distant trains,
moving water,
woodpeckers rapping,
and the sound of nothing in particular is just fine.

Singing in the kitchen,
the hum of a basement furnace,
wind in the trees,
anything not plugged in to something.
It’s all better than TV,
even the TV I like,
and the only ads are for the
handiwork of God.

There is a Warm Wind…

blowing across the city tonight.
Windows are rolled down.
Curtains float in the air.
Furnaces are silent.
The grass is brown but not for long.
The trees are bare but budding.
People are stirring from their slumber.
Its late in winter but there is a warm wind
blowing over the city.
The world seems to know
its time for a new skin.