Lost things

Today’s photographic is called “lost spirituality” (by Jonny Baker on Flickr). 

It seemed appropriate for today when the significance of Good Friday, other than being a day off from school and work (for some anyway), is largely lost or ignored. 

  

In keeping with the bleakness of my mood on this Good Friday, here is a favourite poem from a beautifully bleak poet:

In Church (RS Thomas)

Often I try 

To analyse the quality 

Of its silences. Is this where God hides

From my searching? I have stopped to listen,

After the people have gone,

to the air recomposing itself

For vigil. It has waited like this

Since the stones grouped themselves about it.

These are the hard ribs

Of a body that our prayers have failed

To animate. Shadows advance

From their corners to take possession

Of places the light held

For an hour. The bats resume

Their business. The uneasiness of the pews

Ceases. There is no other sound

In the darkness but the sound of a man

Breathing, testing his faith

On emptiness, nailing his questions

One by one to an untenanted cross

(From Collected Poems, 1945-1990. P180.)

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The Musician

A memory of Kreisler once:
At some recital in this same city,
The seats all taken, I found myself pushed
On to the stage with a few others,
So near that I could see the toil
Of his face muscles, a pulse like a moth
Fluttering under the fine skin,
And the indelible veins of his smooth brow.

I could see, too, the twitching of the fingers,
Caught temporarily in art’s neurosis,
As we sat there or warmly applauded
This player who so beautifully suffered
For each of us upon his instrument.

So it must have been on Calvary
In the fiercer light of the thorns’ halo:
The men standing by and that one figure,
The hands bleeding, the mind bruised but calm,
Making such music as lives still.
And no one daring to interrupt
Because it was himself that he played
And closer than all of them the God listened.

~ R.S. Thomas

A wonderful poem for Good Friday with thanks to Robin

Photo is ‘thin place’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr

meaning in the waiting…

Kneeling – a poem about waiting. very appropriate as Lent draws to a close.

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great rôle. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.

 R. S. Thomas,

Let me go there…

Today I repeat myself by posting a favourite RS Thomas Poem (first posted back in 2007 on my old blog). This poem is called The Coming and it seems appropriate as Easter approaches:

And God held in His hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, He saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows, a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.

On a bare
Hill, a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said

Thomas writes a lot about about Via Negativa. His God is often absent, hidden and incomprehensive, yet he is also (paradoxically) the God who reveals himself in Christ.

‘The Coming’ gives balance to the theology of absence which runs through much of Thomas’s writings. Because of the coming of the son (and the sacrifice he makes), we can know something of the unknowable. We can catch a glimpse of the hidden.

Ordinary miracles

Ok, so I have now been signed off work until 13th March! It feels as if Lent is rushing by in a blur of coughing and sleepless nights, so I am hanging on to my Lenten discipline of posting every day. It is giving some much needed focus and structure to my days – days which, at the moment, are completely devoid of either.

On a cheerier note here is a poem for Saturday – The Bright Field by the wonderful RS Thomas.

Here we are reminded how very precious are the moments of our days – all those ordinary every day miracles which so often pass us by as we rush on through our lives.

In Lent we need to slow down and ponder these ordinary miracles – like sunlight on a small field – which give us glimpses of the eternity that awaits us. Ordinary miracles which put into the perspective the regrets of the past and the pressures of the future.

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receeding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Picture is ‘frosty morning’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr

Praise him…

Praise by R.S. Thomas

I praise you because
you are artist and scientist
in one. When I am somewhat
fearful of your power,
your ability to work miracles
with a set-square, I hear
you murmuring to yourself
in a notation Beethoven
dreamed of but never achieved.
You run off your scales of
rain water and sea water, play
the chords of the morning
and evening light, sculpture
with shadow, join together leaf
by leaf, when spring
comes, the stanzas of
an immense poem. You speak
all languages and none,
answering our most complex
prayers with the simplicity
of a flower, confronting
us, when we would domesticate you
to our uses, with the rioting
viruses under our lens.

Now that I am thinking about RS Thomas I thought I would post another of my favourites. Read this poem a couple of times… it is just wonderful.

I love the beauty and the power of Thomas’s imagery. Here we read of a God who is complex beyond our imagination, who is out of the reach of science.

This God murmurs to himself  “in a notation Beethoven dreamed of but never achieved”. He makes music in the rainwater and the waves. He sculpts with the shadows. He puts spring together for us …leaf by leaf… like a poet composing an epic poem.

He is the God of all human language but also the God beyond language… who speaks through his creation – “answering our most complex prayers with the simplicity of a flower”.

And we cannot domesticate him. We cannot define him or box him up -when we try, we will always discover more. God (like his creation) will riot when we put him under the microscope… growing bigger… multiplying before our amazed eyes.

I am humbled beyond words to worship such a God.

Picture is ‘cool, cool water’ by Mike Lockie on Flickr

Not knowing…

i was happy before

in the ignorance of not knowing
i was living without you

but now
you are more present
in your absence
than any of the things around me
that i can touch with certainty
at any time

the emptiness left by the imprint of your soul
has become the shape in which
i live my life.

Another wonderful poem from Cheryl at hold this space.

I love her stuff because it works on so many different levels.

This poem could be about the precious relationship/friendship that shattered… the death of a loved one… separation from family or friends. Their presence lingers… their influence still shaping the present and the future.

It also has echoes of R.S. Thomas and Via Negativa (Negative Theology). (If you read my old blog you will know how much I love Thomas’s poetry). Thomas speaks of a God who is wholly present in his absence, knowable in his hiddenness and who speaks in silence.

He is “the darkness between stars”.

We follow “the echoes…the footprints he has just left…”

……………………………………

Why no! I never thought other than
That God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence
Within, the place where we go
Seeking, not in hope to
Arrive or find. He keeps the interstices
In our knowledge, the darkness
Between stars. His are the echoes
We follow, the footprints he has just
Left. We put our hands in
His side hoping to find
It warm. We look at people
And places as though he had looked
At them, too; but miss the reflection
.

Via Negativa (R.S. Thomas)

Picture is ‘tiptoe through the shallows’ by Mike Lockie on Flickr