Sacramental Spring

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

God’s Realm is like someone who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day while they sleep and rise, the seed sprouts and grows, how, they do not know. The earth itself produces first the stalk, then the full head of grain. Mark 4:26-28

Seeker,
How have you received and celebrated the sacrament of today?

Sacraments are not magic.
They are majestic, messy and,
at their core, mysterious portals to the eternal.

Prolific though they be,
we just don’t see what we won’t see.
In the face of resurrection’s springtime release, how blind can we be?

Pollen to irritate the eyes,
perfumes and bouquets resplendent
to overwhelm the senses.

And still the miracle fails to arrest us,
draw us out of our own heads,
teach us humility, and school us in awe.

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dry all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
John Muir

But first, we must be freed
from fractious fears,
and self-preoccupations to become self effacing.

For every day is Earth Day,
when we open wide the soul’s window,
let in the bird-song Psalms,

and intentionally practice that holy communion
of breath-receiving-and-returning—
first and final sounds we ever make.

In the face of our original inhalation,
and in the wake of our ultimate exhalation,
surely all else pales.

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.

Abraham Heschel

I went one day
for a walk in the woods,
and time lost track of me.

So, on I amble and sometimes stumble,
knowing less and less about anything,
but more and more sure about everything.

Don’t we need to lose sight to regain vision?
Knowing our blindness might cause us to reach out
and lead us into the path of another’s pain.

Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers –wiser than all alphabets— clouds that die constantly for the sake of God’s glory, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit glory in nature. It is embarrassing to live! Abraham Heschel

In all this wildly
wonderful and woeful universe,
love alone endures.

We understand this best
in the act of letting-go
what and whomsoever we have come to love

For we do not manufacture compassion.
We only welcome it,
make room to receive it, and express it with abandon.

From first breath to final,
this is our sacramental mission,
love is not attachment; it is release, outpouring, falling, letting-go.

How strange we are in the world and how presumptuous our doings!
Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder. For the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.
Just to be is blessing. Just to live is holy.
Abraham Heschel

joe

Die to Indifference

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

I tell you truly, unless a wheat grain falls into earth and dies, it remains just a grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

Seeker,
What keeps you awake and wondering?

Scolded by a blue jay,
brashly inserting himself into the grey morning,
I am chided out of numb amnesia.

Arrested at the crossroads by a brave soul,
I breathlessly pause to watch
her navigate puddles in an electric wheelchair.

Accosted by a rasping skein of geese,
low on the wing over the urban desert,
I look up at life that insistently breaks into my brooding.

Then, a surgical slice of sunlight
dissects the day and, without my consent,
totally and silently transfigures reality.

How many interventions does it take
to unfetter us from automatic living,
and liberate us to breathe, see, connect and care with deliberation?

Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness?
Pope Francis

In this world of divisions and subdivisions;
carved up by taxonomies of race, class, culture;
we are tempted to reinforce our stockades of self-protection.

As terror’s hot hatreds scald societies—
outside the window, over the wall, across the tracks—
anxiously we watch, worry, hope, and pray they won’t come here.

Seeking security, however tenuous,
can calcify our hearts, turning people into problems
and pains into issues always too big to handle.

Playing on our fears,
cold indifference seeps into living rooms, work places
and most especially into churches.

A heart broken and remorseful, O Holy One, you shall not spurn.
Psalm 51:17

What might it mean
for folk like you and me
to wake, walk, wonder and live each golden day differently?

Much is said about ‘making a difference’,
but when motivations and manners remain the same,
nothing really seems to change.

Perhaps the invitation
of spring’s explosion
is to be made different, from the inside out.

Take away the quietness
of a clear conscience.
Press us uncomfortably.
For only thus
that other peace is made.
Helder Camara

This is as much about dying
as it is about rediscovering and responding to resilient life,
in places and people once considered beyond repair.

We need to be both discomforted and inspired,
to wakefully welcome
each blessed and broken-open day.

As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. Thomas Merton (March 18th, 1958)

Would you dare to dispel indifference
by living lightly, as you shoulder the yoke
of this day’s wonders and woes with rinsed eyes?

joe

Touched by Earth

Photo by Joe Grant © 2019

The Realm of God is like when someone scatters seed on the ground.
Night and day while they sleep and rise, the seed sprouts and grows;
how, they do not know.
Mark 4:26-27

Seeker,
What does it mean to be rooted and grounded; earth between our fingers, dirt beneath our nails?

There is no synthetic soul, no virtual holiness.
Neither by agency, nor rhetoric, nor reasoning
can we manufacture sacredness.

Holiness is free-gifted.
Sanctity presents itself;
an essential quality of each and every being.

But goodness, truth and beauty,
are graced to the gardener,
who has learned to live by earthy wisdom.

For mercy rains down from heavy heavens,
justice erupts from saturated soil,
peace blossoms in the sublime harmony of living communities.

Life is too precious to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love and, finally without hope. Václav Havel

Yet, so many of us earthlings
now find ourselves exiles
on our precious planet home.

Divorced from the cycles
of sun and moon, seas and soil,
we seem destined only to despoil.

Whether boxed in slum squalor,
where neither field, nor forest,
nor flower can grace our eyes,

or barricaded behind
artificial blinds,
where Nature becomes a screen show,

our reverence is three times removed from raw reality
by heads distracted, hearts divided,
and hands calloused only from continuous clicking.

What greater stupidity can be imagined than calling jewels, silver, and gold “precious” and earth and soil “base”? Galileo Galilei

Life herself, in proportions minute and monumental—
our one bright sanctuary in the endless dark—
is soaked with sacred mystery.

When we no longer sense this sacramental presence,
we have traded our common birthright for “urbanality”,
and lost our way back home.

How sad to separate
our souls
from the good green earth,

to desecrate the sanctity of soil
and denounce salt of the earth people
as dirty, pagan, heathen, villain!

For followers of a meek master,
once a worker of wood,
touching earth is our spiritual practice.

By calling upon us to consider the lilies,
our teacher was taught by Nature
to renew our covenant with Creation.

Reconnecting with the loam of our lives
we learn that holy is not heavenly.
It is in the humus of our humanity that we touch mercy.

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  Ephesians 3:17

And it is to the crumbled communion
of countless ancestors under our feet
that every body is commended.

Will you stoop today, be touched by sacred soil,
and sense the first silent stirrings of spring?
Nothing is more vital and urgent for us than growing deeper down.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
Psalm 65:12-13

Blessed are you, who wake up to this unfurling Realm,
to till and tend and be touched by resilient soil,
wherein we plant the seeds of possibility!

joe

Wakeful Waiting

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Photo by Joe Grant © 2018

And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake. Mark 13:37

Seeker,
As another year unfolds, what are you waiting for?

We call it longing
because it distends our sense of time,
and so much living is enlarged in the waiting.

Waiting…

for healing to happen,
anticipating a change to come,
expecting a loved one’s imminent return.

Waiting…

for loss to soften,
an ache to ease,
a void to shrink.

Waiting…

for tempers to cool,
a chafed heart to mend,
a conflict to ease, a bloody war’s end.

Waiting…

for a new day to break,
a tired old one to wane,
for the silence of night, or the chorus of dawn.

Waiting…

for a newborn’s cry,
or a loved one’s final breath;
we vigil before the mysteries of birth and death.

Waiting…

for the torrent to abate,
eager for the drought’s release,
we hold out for hunger and injustice to cease.

So many ways
and shapes of expectation,
whetted by keen anticipation.

All the while, and all around,
so much secretly undeclared,
quietly waits to be noticed, savored, shared.

The meaning of awe is to realize that life takes place under wide horizons, horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era. Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal. Abraham Heschel

Endlessly empty,
waiting feels like drowsy,
mid-afternoon dullness.

Routines called “ordinary”,
when taken for granted,
numb and stultify.

Immune to golden sunsets and icy mountain peaks,
milky ocean spray and windswept wilderness,
we fail to notice the grandeur and beauty that over-wash us.

Even crisis fails to stir those still blind
to famished children, ravaged lives,
littered oceans, denuded hills, rapacious mines.

Daily life presents challenges and lessons
that measure our attentive presence,
and test our receptivity.

In every golden moment grace hides
in plainest sight
for those with presence of mind and a will to penetrate.

When life, love or loss
lift the veil,
hearts and horizons are transfigured.

In the clarity of astonishment,
there is nothing
ordinary about existence.

Thus poets, artists, mystics come to life;
poised for inspiration,
to crack hearts or mend them.

Attentiveness is 
that heightened state of readiness,
of wakeful watching and wondering.

Wakefulness sharpens connection,
disdains distraction, discards pretension,
unmasks self-preoccupation.

Like a heron intent on a gravelly stream,
or a tail-twitching tabby transfixed in the grass,
electrically-charged anticipation sharpens senses with focus and purpose.

Now we enter a state of expectant attention—
engaged presence—
the opposite of terminal boredom.

Fine-tuning the present, attentive to the peripheries,
scanning the horizon,
wakeful wondering disciples wait.

(God) did not wait till the world was ready,
till (all the) nations were at peace.
(God) came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release. Madeleine L’Engle

Who knows how grace will
greet you this day, this year.
But will she find you awake and ready to receive?

joe