Tag Archives: prayer

Everything depends upon that moment.

Today is the beginning of our salvation;
the revelation of the eternal Mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
as Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
“Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”

I had wanted to continue my ruminations on The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air by further considering The Moment that Søren Kierkegaard refers to when, after waiting in silence, “…the silent lily understands that now is the moment, and makes use of it.”

I don’t know what that moment consists of for you, for me, for us as a world community, or in our cities or church communities or families. No doubt there are overlapping times and seasons containing infinite instants, and only by quiet listening can we make any sense of them. But this passage in particular I wanted to pass on, in which the writer discusses what is missed when we fail to make the proper, standing-before-God kind of preparation:

“Even though it is pregnant with rich significance, the moment does not send forth any herald in advance to announce its arrival; it comes too swiftly for that; indeed, there is not a moment’s time beforehand…. But of course everything depends upon “the moment.” And this is surely the misfortune in the lives of many, of far the greater part of humanity: that they never perceived ‘the moment,’ that in their lives the eternal and the temporal were exclusively separated.”

So many thoughts swirl in my own noisy mind and heart that I could not imagine how I might find a way to share even these few gleanings with you. Then, in God’s providence and the church calendar, appeared someone who is the supreme example for us of being ready for the moment, that time in history and that time in her life, in a particular moment of a day, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. Today we remember that event, when Mary listened, and responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

The Word became flesh and came to live with us, taking on all our human experience, its weakness and suffering and  death. He defeated death, and opened the gates of Paradise. The Incarnation, the beginning of our salvation, is The Moment of history; our own “Yes” to God, echoing Mary’s willingness, can be the essence of our every prayer as well, as we wait on Him.

Kierkegaard exhorts us, in words that seem especially fitting for this time of uncertainty and change: “Would that in the silence you might forget yourself, forget what you yourself are called, your own name, the famous name, the lowly name, the insignificant name, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Hallowed be your name!’ Would that in silence you might forget yourself, your plans, the great, all-encompassing plans, or the limited plans concerning your life and its future, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Your kingdom come!’ Would that you might in silence forget your will, your willfulness, in order in silence to pray to God, ‘Your will be done.'”

We know that God’s will for us is good, now as ever. Our inability to see or understand that is due to our weakness or sin, or His hiding of His works. May He give us grace to wait and to pray, and eventually we will see the full salvation of the LORD.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11

Swimming, almost without end.

ON SWIMMING

The rivers of this country are sweet
as a troubadour’s song,
the heavy sun wanders westward
on yellow circus wagons.
Little village churches
hold a fabric of silence so fine
and old that even a breath
could tear it.
I love to swim in the sea, which keeps
talking to itself
in the monotone of a vagabond
who no longer recalls
exactly how long he’s been on the road.
Swimming is like a prayer:
palms join and part,
join and part,
almost without end.

-Adam Zagajewski

The birds and I find plenty.

A titmouse was clinging to the topmost branch of the juniper bush out front, when I came out the front door to take a walk. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one here before. I told him that I had some nice food that he would like in the back garden, and he should go try it out. He did fly off in that direction… Of course, this is not his picture at right.

I’ve been worrying about the crows that only this year have touched down on my property and pecked around a bit on the patio. Will they frighten off the songbirds? Will they start poking and plowing in my flowerpots the way they did on Joy’s deck in Monterey? They were one topic I discussed with the nice man at the Wild Birds Unlimited store I visited yesterday.

As we talked he pointed to the crows and doves and woodpeckers feeding outside the picture window at the front of the shop, and said that in his experience a few crows do not discourage smaller birds. He said that crows eat anything, so there was nothing I could leave out of my feeders that might be specially attracting them. I looked over the list of which seeds and nuts the various birds like, and brought home a slight variation on what I’d been buying elsewhere.

This afternoon I put a few peanuts with the sunflower seeds in the tray feeder, and it wasn’t long before a chickadee flew down and immediately flew off with one in his beak. Though lately I haven’t seen large flocks of finches and juncos swooping through the garden the way they did in early spring, a goldfinch did eat sunflower “chips” from my chapel feeder today, and at the same moment a few feet away the hooded oriole drank from the hummingbird feeder.

I haven’t tried in the last year or so to do much bird photography, but I found these pictures I did get when my new landscaping was still only sleeping and creeping. The background is much changed, but the birds look similar; probably at least the orioles are the same pair that have “come back every year from Costa Rica or wherever they overwinter,” as the man at the store led me to believe.

The chickadee only let me get close enough for a picture because — what I didn’t know at the time — he was concerned at my own threatening proximity to the birdhouse where chickadee eggs were incubating that year. No one seems to be nesting in that house so far this spring, though we saw bluebirds checking it out many weeks ago.

The garden is wet. We’ve had drenching rain day and night, with more to come. It’s strange to have this much rain in May; normally we’re getting the last of our garden planting done. There was supposed to be a break of an hour or two, which was my chance to get out on the paths. I was glad to be wearing my raincoat because plenty of little showers came down after all before I reached home again.

I have still been drinking in the roses wherever I find them. If they are within reach I will bend over and find out whether their olfactory gifts are rich enough to keep me standing there inhaling and blocking the sidewalk. This white one just down the block is quite plain in the color department, but it always makes me stop a long time to receive its “hello” with  my nose.

I walked into moist currents of other delicious smells this afternoon, and once looked up wondering what it was. I saw this honeysuckle — not what I was smelling — and though it seemed to have had a bit of its scent temporarily washed away, its posture was impeccable.

The sweetness I got from it this time was all in my memory, how when my granddaughter Annie was being pushed out of the womb, and I was taking care of her brothers, we came with trowels and a bucket to dig cuttings from this very patch to plant in my previous garden. That was seventeen years ago this month, and I’ll be attending her graduation from high school in a couple of weeks 🙂

The birds seem to like feeding in the rain. The male goldfinch sat on top of the penstemon for a few minutes as it blew in the wind, while rain poured down. Eventually he came up to the feeder for his seeds. Even now when it’s almost too dark, I can see the doves and house finches flying in for one more bedtime snack.

Soggy or not, whether full or empty of birds, my garden is my heart’s nourishment. I have missed the garden lately because of two aspects of my remodeling project. First, it takes time at this point to peruse options for flooring, paint, and bath fixtures. But the second distraction is greater: it’s my own attitude about these tasks. I don’t feel adequate to them, I don’t like making these decisions alone, etc. etc. I have worked myself into a tizzy more than once, and have lain awake with my mind aswirl, murmuring about these “problems.”

With the help of two priests, the prayer of the Optina Elders, and quite a bit of listening to the Psalter over the last few days, I have calmed myself and am trying to remember that God is with me at the paint store and helping me make decisions, just as He was with me in my waiting for the architect during Lent. All will be well. This is the Prayer of the Optina Elders:

O Lord, grant unto me that with Thy peace
I may greet all that this day is to bring.
Grant unto me grace to surrender myself completely to Thy holy will.
In every hour of this day instruct and guide me in all things.
Whatever tidings I may receive during this day,
do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly
in the firm belief that Thy holy will governs all.
Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say.
When unforeseen things occur, let me not forget that all is sent by Thee.
Teach me to behave sincerely and reasonably toward everyone,
that I may bring confusion and sorrow to no one.
Bestow on me, O Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day
and to bear my part in its events.
Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe,
to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.

This afternoon my neighbor Kim was going to come down to look at carpet samples on site, which my dear daughters can’t do. Kim couldn’t come today, so instead I took a walk, and watched birds, and I even did some more plant identification from a picture that Soldier sent me from Colorado, of what I think are bluebells.

Months ago I had started reading a book that Pearl gave me, Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively. Today I was so relaxed and focused that I had the good sense to know that it was okay, even good, for me to sit and read it, and I am loving it. I don’t know if it or the titmouse was the icing on the cake of this peaceful and satisfying day, but the book is more sanitary, so let’s go with that. A splendid cake, tasty icing, fattening only to the soul.

More or less in Poetry Month.

It’s National Poetry Month, and also Lent, which is a helpful confluence. “Less TV and more poetry” sounds to me like going in the right direction. But I don’t watch TV… What about my own tendencies to less housework, less attentiveness, less prayer…? Clearly, these things must be worked out on an individual basis, and may God give you wisdom. We are early in the month and I don’t think I’ve overindulged in poetry yet. I want to take advantage of the reminder and post a couple of poems before the month is over.

My thoughts about children’s books and Lent converge on this excerpt from Richard Wilbur’s More Opposites, which I think one of The Most Fun collections of poems and drawings. I don’t even require another person to read Wilbur’s humorous poems to — they often make me chuckle contentedly or muse to myself. I see that I already posted this particular one, but it was years ago, and I for one can benefit from a rereading.

The illustrations of this question in the book include a simple drawing of people with distressed faces holding their tummies. I think the cartoon at bottom makes a similar companion to the poem. It’s

#15 in the More Opposites book:

The opposite of less is more.
What’s better? Which one are you for?
My question may seem simple, but
The catch is — more or less of what?

“Let’s have more of everything!” you cry.
Well, after we have had more pie,
More pickles, and more layer cake,
I think we’ll want less stomach-ache.

The best thing’s to avoid excess.
Try to be temperate, more or less.

-Richard Wilbur

There is a Mennonite cookbook titled More With Less, from which I gleaned many good cooking ideas in the early days of my homemaking career. But more valuable than the actual recipes was the refreshing concept that one might have more health and more enjoyment of eating and probably more money to spend on other things if you ate less.

Of course this is something we need to keep in mind all the time, not just during Lent. The church fathers caution us not to eat so much food that we aren’t able to pray after eating it; an overfull stomach hinders prayer. If it’s possible that Less Food = More Prayer….

Let’s just pause and think on that.

(re-post from 2013)