Small Comfort

A Prayer of Gratitude.

tuscanysunriseGod who made us and sustains us— God,
immortal and mysterious— God, synonymous,
and more, with life, love, beauty, and the peace
that passes understanding:

When we are ungrateful, even our complaints are manifest of
sweet abundance: air and water; bread and butter; shelter from
the cold; and your embrace when we surrender deep in prayer—
as babies, weary even of exploring all the wonders of the world, its
lights and colors, sounds and textures, burrow into Mother’s shoulder,
fearless in her equanimity.

Yet we fancy ourselves victims of ungentle circumstance now and
again. Perhaps a small annoyance, not attended to, becomes infected.
Swollen, red, and tender to the touch, it spreads to the extremities,
and farther — others suffer the contagion. Thus can friends on Saturday
be enemies on Sunday, and, by Monday, legion.

Gratitude does not require the sky to be forever blue, or that the sun
appear at every moment we consider opportune. Not every day is halcyon,
not every month is June, and there are bitter winds that penetrate each
layer of protection, entering through skin and bone to pierce the heart. Small
comfort then to know that even when the sun’s invisible behind the storm
or hidden by the circle of the Earth, it shines as bright and will be visible
precisely when it ought to be. Small comfort too are food and shelter —
even friends, if friends remain (we might have driven them away).
A few are stubborn: let them in, for they can rub our feet and startle languid
faculties awake — the ones that sense not heat or cold but grace.

IT-IS-FINISHED-LAKESIDEWe are not patient, though, no matter that we’ve had our share of
warm, fair days and peaceful nights. We hear the thunder of a distant
storm; we witness human cruelty, we wonder at the blind impartiality
of nature, and we are bewildered at the magnitude of evil, at the
unpredictable caprice of fate, or doom. Disaster may be out of sight but
looms in some malicious posture, poised to strike when least expected.
So we watch and worry, like a sentry whose antagonist has neither form nor
name; and we neglect whatever bounty has accrued in our distraction.

We forget to feast. We lack the energy and appetite for our accustomed
satisfaction. Those who suffer and survive have told us they were somehow
more alive than when the breezes were benevolent and calm. They learned
to be astonished that amid catastrophe and cataclysm, life goes on.

You have warned us to beware the sleek vocabulary of the
merchants of salvation.

When they speak, their words are vacant. When they pray, their
prayers are memorized and animated, artful, eloquent, and uninspired.
Their lines are well rehearsed, but had they truly died and been
redeemed, their phrases would reflect (it seems to me, and I
have been there) something of the grave; not so articulate —
there are no words; would be forever fresh, a quiet wonder— if
they had been saved. If one has been to the abyss and fallen in,
then one is humble, having little need to understand, no reason to
pontificate… but rather one is moved to celebrate the mystery
and to be newly grateful, day by day by day.

Having suffered condemnation, having been appraised and
come up short, and having then been lifted and embraced —
one cannot judge, cannot condemn. The court has been adjourned
and all the prisoners released. We have no jurisdiction; it is
not our place to round the sinners up and put them back again.
Our duty, then, is light and brings us joy: To know as friend a
stranger, one who will, like each of us, be tried; and one thing
more: To gratefully remember how the tide that swept us out to
sea — when we, in mortal danger, cried out, “Save me!”—
pulled us gently to the shore.
Tree in the mist

Of Politicians

Vintage-Gypsy-Ballerina-thm-GraphicsFairy-320x320

Vintage dancing gypsy illustration, artist unknown, thegraphicsfairy.com

(A song)

God, they interrupt my dancing,
voices crashing through
the music of the evening, shattering the starlight,
frightening the gentle creatures of the night.

God, they pull me down from heaven,
white, scudding clouds on windy afternoons,
when I have just discovered absolute perfection,
true felicity in meter, pitch, and tune.

Some will caution, one cannot be dancing
always, there is work one ought to do.
Well, sir, I say, why can’t a girl plié
and pirouette her way across the room?
As she’s dusting, she can sing a lusty
song to lighten up her heavy load.
Where is it written, she must drag her toes
across the floor like little bags of brittle bones?

God, they interrupt my dancing
and I cannot hear my own sweet song.
Please silence them a moment.
If they will but listen, maybe
they will dance and sing along.
Everybody dancing—stranger things
have happened—
If they hear me singing a new song,
maybe they will dance and sing along.

 

MARGARET-TARRANT-FLOWER-FAIRIES

Illus. Margaret Tarrant 1888-1959

It Is Finished

All that perishes is done, its temporality
expired, its finite span come to an end.
Love dawns, and darkness runs for cover,
scattering to its mysterious retreats,
its caverns damp and chill and inhospitable to all
except the twisted denizens of night. But light
now floods the caves and crevices, and darkness
has no place to hide.

It is finished. Now everything begins, and
what now is, what has begun, is born of love
and cannot die. Remember this, in winters
that descend untimely, blighted by disease
or grief, when pain extinguishes anticipation,
faith is tested and found wanting, hope is lost.
But hopelessness is finished, and despair died
on the cross.

Now everything begins, and we reside
in that eternal morning where the sun
forever rises, lavishing magnificent
abundance on the living—energy for
what we are and what we shall become.

Like seeds dropped carelessly among dry weeds,
for what seemed an eternity we waited, tiny
miracles of life and possibility. We waited
comfortlessly, frozen, numb below the crust
of earth where we’d arrived, not understanding
why or how, borne by which wind or for what
purpose. There we lay, absurdly small and
weak, without the power to exchange our
situation with what we aspired to be—the oak,
the grapevine, even (if we had no other choice)
the common milkweed—anything alive
and free. We waited, with our destinies
obscure, obeying the imperative of life, until
the earth around us warmed and softened,
waking our imaginations. Smothering in
darkness, blind but sensing that the equinox
had come and gone—the sun returned at
last and lengthening the days—how urgently
we longed to break our bonds and dance.
And still we waited, waited on, exhilarated,
frightened, eager to explore; we would have
chosen to emerge before our time, too soon
discarding our protection but for intuition’s
wise reluctance, warning of another killing
frost… and so we waited, waited on, until
we thought that we must climb out of the
grave or die. Denied, we grew impatient, tried
to plan how it would be, and doubted our
ability to push through the detritus of
innumerable seasons, layers of debris that
moldered as we slept—dead grass; damp,
matted leaves; entangled roots of ancient trees
compounded by neglect and entropy… a feast
for worms, perhaps… for us, a trap, impenetrable
by such means as we possessed, without
momentum, drained of will, and utterly unequal
to the task.

So suddenly the moment comes, we are astonished
by the ease of our ascent despite our lack of
preparation, effortlessly rising through the loam
into the gentle light while slender threads roam
underground, revealing infinite supply.  Around us,
pomegranate, lavender, mesquite, and rose bloom
copiously, bearing fruit and indiscriminately offering
their attributes to creatures winged or crawling, great
or minuscule. We have been here before, astride
the grand continuum, awakening in spring, disporting
gleefully on endless-seeming summer afternoons, then
wonderfully ripening, as if we had reserved our true
magnificence for this extravagant display, this final
surge of life before the cycle of decay begins.

But we shall not descend again. Nature now is
satisfied, her laws suspended. She requires nothing
further from us. It is finished, and there will be
no more winters. Without limit, light becoming life
eternally, joy flows in rivers; bliss crowns the forests,
fields, and groves; and we have just begun to live.

All is as the Gospel promised:

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.*

It has begun, will be—and we shine on. Amen.

_IT-IS-FINISHED-LAKESIDE___

* From the Canticle of Zechariah, Luke 1:78-79
“It is finished” (John 19:30)

Benedictus

isabella-breviary

From the Canticle of Zechariah

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

—Luke 1:78-79 (from the Canticle of Zechariah)

The Canticle of Zechariah is said at the close of Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours, or the Breviary—the official set of prayers marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer. The Canticle of Zechariah, or Benedictus, was “intoned by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, when the birth of his son changed his life, removing the doubt that rendered him mute, a significant punishment for his lack of faith and praise.”* (The entire Benedictus, which begins at verse 68, appears below.)

I cannot find the Bible translation that contains the graceful phrasing above. In the GOD’S WORD® Translation, the text begins, “A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful”—matter-of-fact but clunky, though sweeter by far than the Jubilee Bible 2000 version, which opens thus: “Through the bowels of mercy of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high has visited us….” When I hear the words the tender compassion of our God, I am instantly comforted. Knowing that the dawn from on high shall break upon us fills me with hope. To the extent that I dwell in darkness—which is quite a lot, actually—the promise of the sunrise and of guidance for my clumsy feet into the way of peace gives me faith that this day, at least, I will walk in the light, and I will not walk alone.

isabella-breviary-calendar-page-july

Calendar page for July from the Isabella Breviary; note Zodiac sign, upper left, and depiction of peasants at work rather than regal grandeur. The “Isabella” for whom this Breviary was made is the Queen Isabella of Castile (a region of Spain) who, with her husband, King Ferdinand, sponsored Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World and also issued the degree ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave the country, leading to the infamous Spanish Inquisition; 1492 was a busy year.

The Liturgy of the Hours

The Liturgy of the Hours includes psalms, hymns, readings, and other prayers and antiphons. Together with the Mass, it constitutes the official public prayer life of the Catholic Church and forms the basis of prayer within Christian monasticism. The Liturgy of the Hours, along with the Eucharist, has formed part of the Church’s public worship from the earliest times. In the Middle Ages, elaborate breviaries were commissioned by aristocratic patrons for their personal ownership and as gifts for loved ones. Pictured here are two pages from the Isabella Breviary, a gift in 1497 to Queen Isabella of Castile (1472-1504) on the occasion of the wedding of two of her children to a son and daughter of Mary of Burgundy and Maximilian of Austria. The main illuminator of the manuscript was a Flemish artist known as the Master of the Dresden Prayer Book, active in Bruges. One particular feature of his style was to treat the page as a solid background in which the place for the miniature was cut out, as in a passe-partout. A magnificent floral and foliate border frames scenes incorporating various episodes in the Old Testament. The image at the top of this page shows the principal scene, in which the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments are surrounded by musicians and David playing the harp. Below is a depiction of the Adoration of the Magi from the New Testament. —from the Web Gallery of Art and Wikipedia

*From an October 1, 2003, address by Pope John Paul II

isabella-breviary-adoration-of-magi

Adoration of the Magi, from the Isabella Breviary

Benedictus

Blessed be the Lord,
The God of Israel;
He has come to His people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour,
Born of the house of His servant David.

Through His holy prophets He promised of old
That He would save us from our enemies,
From the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
And to remember His holy Covenant.

This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham:
To set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship Him without fear,
Holy and righteous in His sight
All the days of our life.

You, My child shall be called
The prophet of the Most High,
For you will go before the Lord to prepare His way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our Lord
The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
And the shadow of death,
And to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning.
is now, and will be forever.

Amen.

Hymn 87

IN THE GARDEN OF MY GRACE

PICTURE OF SERENITY. Girl in the Garden at Bellevue, Édouard Manet 1832-1883. Manet, a French painter, was one of the first nineteenth-century artists to approach modern-life subjects [and]... was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism

Girl in the Garden at Bellevue, Édouard Manet 1832-1883

GOD ALMIGHTY, here beside me,
come and sit with me awhile.
Father-Mother, comfort me, your
cherished and beloved child.

Bring me ease and consolation;
make me glad of who I am.
As you loved me at Creation,
wrap me in that love again.

All I need you have provided.
Fear has faded with the night.
All I ask lies at my feet—my
help, my hope, and my delight.

Not behind the mass of mountain,
hidden high or buried deep,
all I sought is spread around me
like the bright and boundless sea.

All my striving to be better
all my worry and my fear,
at your word I now surrender
as you whisper in my ear:

Peace, my child; for all is well. Now
dry your tears and lift your face
to the sun, for you are dwelling
in the garden of my grace.

Everything you need for hunger
grows in my eternal fields.
Eat; be filled with joy and wonder,
such as these is Heaven’s yield.

All you need for thirst is given,
with the rain that from above
pours to fill the streams and rivers.
Drink of it, and drink of love.

All your sins are long forgiven,
and your innocence restored,
as you were, made in my image,
on the day that you were born.

Seek and you will surely find your
dreams; the stars will light your way;
gentle lessons will remind you
what is needed for today.

Celebrate and weep no more. As
I have given, freely give.
Life and death I set before you
now. Choose life. Choose love, and live.

Peace, my child; for all is well. Now
dry your tears and lift your face
to the sun, for you are dwelling
in the garden of my grace.

© 2017 Mary Campbell & Annagrammatica

For Janice

Purple Flowering Shrub to illustrate prayer "The Shrub"

 

 

Epiphany

adoration-of-the-magi-sandro-botticelli-c1475

Adoration of the Magi, Sandro Botticelli, c. 1475

God, send forth your spirit upon us.

Had we not wandered from the hearth
where burned the flame that gave us sight
and warmed our bones—had we not gone
from home, and left the fire behind;
then, captured in the snares of night,
we had no recollection of
from which direction we had come
nor could we see the firelight—
Until we knew that we were lost,
we did not call for you, O God.

Had we not wandered from the stream,
believing that the food and drink
we carried would suffice for thirst
and hunger—when the wells were dry,
our flasks were empty, long since gone
our meager stores of bread and wine—
and those who would have guided us
we pridefully had left behind—
Until the skies refused to rain,
we did not call upon your name.

And still you came with angel hosts
and gave from Heaven’s bounty all
we needed—what we needed most:
the certainty that when we call
on you, already you have come
with love and grace to lead us home.

reading-a-letter-by-delphin-enjolras-1857-1945

Reading a Letter, Delphin Enjolras, 1857-1945

From Wikipedia: Epiphany—also Theophany or Three Kings’ Day—is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Moreover, the feast of the Epiphany, in some Western Christian denominations, also initiates the liturgical season of Epiphanytide. Eastern Christians, on the other hand, commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. The traditional date for the feast is January 6.

Colloquially, an epiphany is an “Aha!” or “Eureka!” moment, defined at merriam-webster.com as “an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.” The poem/prayer “Epiphany” above represents my own realization that only in darkness does light have meaning but the light is never withdrawn….

 

 

 

Prayers for Life’s Unfolding

 

carl-larsson-ethnic-children

…created in your image… (Carl Larsson, 1853-1919)

In response to prayer requests today for financial and employment fears and a little girl’s loss of her beloved kitty-cat

ANXIETY AND LACK

Almighty God, each day and every hour do you reveal the beauty of your spirit in creation, and by wonders you perform we learn to know you. How can we then fail to love you with our hearts, our souls, and our minds? You have created in each of your children a masterpiece, a lively spirit, perpetually renewed, ageless and unwearied. To each one of us do you impart particular gifts, no two the same, for you have made us in your image, one by one, and we receive not by what we deserve, not as reward, but out of your immeasurable love—ours to receive, embrace, and celebrate with gratitude.

O God, now send your Holy Spirit to your children to enfold, protect, and cherish. You give not meagerly but out of such abundance that we cannot help but receive it thankfully and with a grateful heart. Where there is difficulty, give us vision to see past it, far beyond, to your eternal presence and your perfect grace. Now guide us hour by hour and day by day along the path of holiness to joy and satisfaction. Be our portion, meat and drink, in thought and word and deed. May we then celebrate your generosity, becoming likewise openhanded and compassionate.

grass-field-sunrise-wallpaper

…the earth’s abundance…

Where we perceive that there is lack, open our eyes to all the gifts surrounding us and keep fresh our certainty that you, God, are the answer to all questions, the solution to all problems and perplexities. As we grow closer to you… hour by hour and day by day… may we feel the palpable and present love you have for us above all else. May it be our first thought in the morning and our last before we close our eyes. May we turn to you in joy and sorrow, sure of your wisdom, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, and your perfect love. God, may your will be done. Amen.

GRIEVING

girl-cat

?Willem Jan Willemsen 1866-1914

Dear God, what an astonishing creation you have given us in which to alternate activity and rest, where every creature great and small was made no two alike by you for holy purpose. Thank you, God, for prayer, our sacred conversation. We lift up to you our families, friends, companions—those on earth and those who have passed on. When death takes loved ones from our midst, we pray for healing, even as we know that they still live in ways mysterious to us. May we emerge from grieving to remember them with fewer tears and greater joy… for in your wisdom and compassion you have given us the love of family and friends who mourn with us and comfort us until the pain begins to ease. May loss not take our innocence and trust but leave us with a reverence for life, compassion quickly stirred by others’ suffering, wisdom and energy to offer aid and comfort. May we know you by those mercies, sense your presence, hear your voice, and glimpse your glory. Help us realize that we are needed by the living, who require our love and cherishing. In thankfulness and praise we offer this our prayer. Amen.

WORK

Almighty God, your love is beyond measure. To follow you is to live a life transformed and jubilant. Thank you, dear God, for the great gift of work. May it bring us joy and satisfaction. In it may your name be glorified. Send your Holy Spirit, God, to wrap us in tranquility and peace during transitions in our work life. May indecision, stress, discouragement, and uncertainty not overwhelm us. Lift us high and ever higher, should we slide in the direction of depression and anxiety. Then shine your light to guide us in the way that you would have us go. May your will be done, O God, in new, more nurturing employment or in our growth and inspiration where we are presently assigned. Make work the perfect channel for our gifts, our talents, our inclinations, and our energy. May we be blessed and likewise be a blessing to friends and colleagues, customers and clients, supervisors and assistants.

illus-by-hannie-holt-indoor-play

Dutch illustrator Hannie Holt 1940s

We pray for the encouragement of families, who give us strength when work leaves us feeling drained. Fortify all our relationships, particularly those most fragile and most vulnerable to the effects of stress. May our communication be loving, honest, and generous. Be present in our interaction, and may our harmony bless others and inspire them. Even now, God, you are working for our benefit, our healing, and our victory. We pray for renewed perspectives and grateful hearts, made strong and tender in your care. Send miracles, dear God—your grace made manifest in ways our minds can’t penetrate. Now let us rest in you and trust. Amen.

PROSPERITY

woman-hat-art-deco-artist-helene-lam

…prosperity and purpose… (Helena Lam

Merciful God, you shower us with blessings too numerous to count, too great to measure, and we bring you praise and thanks for giving us this day, so full of promise and of possibility, and for the gift—astonishing, perpetual—of prayer. And so I pray for true and genuine prosperity and for your bounty to be recognized, embraced, and celebrated. Sustain our minds and bodies so that they are radiant, made whole and strong and glowing with well-being. May your Holy Spirit enfold and heal us at every moment in the unfolding of our lives, at home, in travel, in the workplace, school, and place of worship. Bless our families and make our homes both safe and welcoming, places of activity and rest, where your spirit reigns. Meet our  financial needs and more, so that we are able to be generous as well as adequately fed and sheltered. And may our prayer be carried on the wings of angels and laid at your feet in confidence and trust. Amen.