Friday, March 20, 2015

A Poem for Lent

"There must be a time of day when the woman who makes plans
forgets her plans, and acts as if she had no plans at all.

There must be a time of day when the woman who has to speak
falls very silent, and her mind forms no more propositions,
and she asks herself, "Did they have a meaning?"

There must be a time when the woman of prayer
goes to pray as if it were the first time in her life she ever prayed,
when the woman of resolutions puts her resolutions aside as if they had all been broken,
and she learns a different wisdom:
     distinguishing the sun from the moon,
     the stars from the darkness,
     the sea from dry land,
     and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill."

- Thomas Merton (I took the liberty of changing "man" to "woman")

In these last few months, preceding Lent, I have been sitting with a soul friend and her husband who are walking the way of this poem. I think Merton may have written it as a call to contemplation in the midst of an active life that bears the semblance of order and control.

For them, it's a very different call. None of the plans they make seem to come to fruition. The prayers they have prayed all their lives make little sense to pray now. Their resolutions have all been broken.

And yet -

the sun and the moon are distinct from one another,
the darkness has not overcome the stars,
the sea still washes up on the beach,
and the hill cannot obscure the night sky.

The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

And when I am with them, Christ is there. I sense the deepening strength, the gathering wisdom found in the stark simplicity of no more options. And my lips have not choice, but to proclaim praise.

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