Photo: Mark Mallett
O Morning Star (Hymn)
O Morning Star, thou soon shall rise
attending dawn in eastern skies.
Draw then our eyes to thine ascent;
may we behold thee, innocent.
O Rose of Winter, blooming e’er,
thy foliage green, thy blossom fair,
thy seeds on many winds be blown
and in the humblest gardens sown.
O Savior, when at last we meet
thy gentle soul and wash thy feet,
heal thou the sick, lift up the poor,
and grant us peace forevermore.
There is a kind of energy in prayer
that lifts a body up and off the grime…
and fervent wishes, too, and fare-thee-wells…
and every one that’s given, each received,
makes light the one whose chariot is air.
So never slight the usefulness of prayer
in healing and escorting one to flight,
as long as the intention is sincere
and not an empty promise or cliché,
as long as there are love and earnest hope—
enough to drown a cynic’s weary doubt—
as long as there’s a flame within the heart
and faith to thwart the candle’s burning out.
Send thoughts and prayers, oh, send this very hour
to those who suffer, those whose spirits fail
a burst of happiness, a gust of cheer,
a surge of certainty of higher things…
and let them be the energy that lifts
a body up and sets it on the breeze;
yes, let them be the wind beneath their wings
that flows unfailingly to joy and peace.
Sunrise, Claude Monet, 1872
Expecting everything or nothing, I wait for life—
the pinch of not quite fitting into the space I’ve
been allotted. I welcome it, this wakening to new
sensations, to borders where just yesterday my
view approached the infinite. Shadows fall more
suddenly, light erupts ferociously, colors deepen,
fading sooner, brightening unannounced. I can
but observe, cannot control or shape or sculpt my
path, which from this aspect seems to narrow till
it vanishes—but no, it widens yet again and I am
given one more mile and more besides, perhaps.
It doesn’t matter. I don’t pray for amplitude but
Surprise me! Let dawn be as I have never seen it,
sunlight storming over the horizon, armies of
radiance bearing clarity and compassion. Give me
eyes to see the unaccustomed. May I scent the
cataracts that fall like needles from tall, stony,
terraced ledges. Turn my longings not toward the
beloved and familiar but to the astounding and
impossible. I would have both play and
contemplation, friendship and solitude, music and
cacophony. Numbness I abjure, preferring pain to
cold indifference, for in the wake of fear and
sadness follow joy and sweet salvation, streaming
on wings of angels, never ceasing in their dance.
How, O God, may we attain eternal life?
We gain it breath by breath.
How shall we embrace the poor and the
rejected? We heal one another touch by touch.
How will we find love in this unsympathetic
world? It finds us friend by friend.
How might we approach you when we’re weary
and afraid? We reach you prayer by prayer.
How do we scale the heights and stand upon
the mountaintop? We rise up step by step.
How might we know joy when we’re
oppressed and overwhelmed? Joy fills us
breath by breath and touch by touch,
friend by friend and prayer by prayer,
step by step, one motion at a time,
in the pure light of your everlasting grace.
Tiny toes and wiggle-fingers so amuse you,
little one. All you need for bliss is streaks of
sunlight on the wall and someone warm to
kiss your face, to hold you close and coo
your name. The future is a distant land that
holds no fascination. Only now is in your
orbit, darling, nothing more. When you’re
hungry, you don’t hesitate to waken all the
world, and all the world springs into action
just to fill your empty tummy. Satisfied, you
peer at us with gratitude, or so it seems.
Then a bath, a clean and fluffy creeper, and
a blanket. Thank you. All is well again. You
smile and gurgle, and the rest of us behold
the miracle of you. We laugh at your
delight and grin at your astonishment,
which roll across your consciousness like
waves along a sandy beach… and then
you sleep. We envy you your peace,
complete as Eden was before the fall.
You teach us to be mindful of the
minute we are living in. You give us faith
that our needs, too, will be met. We can
let go of our fretting and anxiety and be
like you—in love with sights and sounds
and new sensations. We can sing with
redbirds, robins, and the radio. God,
let us not forget the raw discovery of
infancy, the thrill of color in the gardens
of our lives, and may we be content with
friends and the occasional surprise—
so little else do we require. Amen.
God, my prayers are an unholy mess.
I plan and structure them, write lists
and check things off, and when I’ve
finished, I feel the same sensation of
accomplishment as if I’ve scrubbed out
the commode. But I don’t believe that
prayers are meant to be an inconvenience.
I think you want us to hand you the mess.
I don’t think you get tired of hearing us say,
Here I am again, God, not one bit saintlier
God, my life is slovenly. I start each day with
pure intentions: to be kind, industrious…
to know my own magnificence, shine with
your radiance… and, yes, to make a
difference. By ten a.m. my noble aims are
ashes in the grate, and I am heavy with the
weight of my undone objectives. I organize,
I strategize, and then I beat myself about
the head and chest because I’ve cashed out
my vitality. Salvage what is left of me, I pray,
and place me on the path that leads to
blessedness despite my awkward gait.
God, I live and move in tarnished splendor.
What you created pure as ice and bright as
gold has faded, lost its shape, grown cynical
and weary of the race. Yet all the elements
remain, and you, God, and only you can
reassemble them. Only you can recreate me,
as you did that first day when the world lay
at my feet. Reawaken me, O God, to your
awesome power and your tender grace.
In the Flower Garden, Robert Lewis Reid
Dear God, I do not fear awakening from this
odd dream of temporality, nor shall I dread
departing from the steep and rock-strewn
roads we travel. Even as we watch, the veil will lift,
the fog will clear, the sun will saturate our days,
and night will fall no more. Then we shall meet
again the cherished souls whose carcasses have
long since shown themselves too fragile to
contain them. Happiness that we have known
and tried to hold will dawn and fill the vales with
colors richer than the flora of the tropics and the
fauna of the seas. Bliss that punctuates our years
and separates the intervals of anger, sadness, and
regret will bloom and never fade. Sickness that was
once a haggard rumor will meander out of memory.
Love will be the form and substance of all things seen,
imagined, hoped for. Peace will not be ripped away by
swords or savagery. Arms like boughs of oak and fans
of palm will reach out to receive those of us just arrived
out of the dream. Lingering wounds will heal apace,
bathed in water from eternal streams whose source
will not evaporate as basins in the desert do.
Ephemeral, surprising joy that comes upon us unawares
and dissipates too soon, this time will stay and keep us
airborne like the seeds of cottonwoods on fresh spring
breezes, and when we alight it will be only to reside
a space within the garden of thy planting, to perform
the easy labor of thy grace. Earthly life is but a preview
of eternity—we are promised nothing less. If we only
knew it, we have just begun to love, and the dimension
we have named “above” will swallow all things gross
and terrible, the rivers of the darkness, all that withers
and decays. Alleluia! Amen.