Ash Wednesday 1

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There was indeed a homily (a sermon, a message) today and where it began was this poem by Galway Kinnell.  I’m sure you’ve heard of it, maybe read it; it is called St. Francis and the Sow.  I will type only a few lines out, but leave you with the poem in its entirety HERE.

The lines from the poem, below, that the priest shared with us merged into a message that suited our times as well as our needs: sometimes it is nearly impossible to think we can love an unlovely thing.  The person who does us wrong and who lives in anger and in ugliness is not easy to love, but we are called to love him (or sometimes it is her) nonetheless.

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness…
-Galway Kinnell
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Ash Wednesday 2

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The following are excerpts from the Ash Wednesday service at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Snohomish, Washington:

Let us now bow down before the Lord.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent

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Blow the trumpet in Zion;

sound the alarm on my holy mountain!

…sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people.

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The Lord is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

For as the heavens are high above the earth

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

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We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.

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So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

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Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offenses. Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.

Accept our repentance, O Lord. 

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation/That we may show forth your glory in the world.

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Joel 2:1 & 15

2 Corinthians 5:20

Matthew 6:1 & 21

 

Fat Tuesday

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Tomorrow is the day when we begin to live without whatever it is we’re giving up for Lent.  If we observe Lent, that is.  Not everyone does.  In fact, I am an unofficial Lent convert, a tag-along Lenten follower, as I grew up in a church that is, if we are to put it mildly, rather opposed to the Catholic Trappings of the High Church.

But of course this bit of personal history has not stopped me from dabbling in the Episcopal arts or furtively memorizing bits of the BCP–that’s the Book of Common Prayer for all you non-Anglicans, non-Catholics, non-Episcopalians. For all of you who are what I once was: non-liturgical. Non-liturgical. That’s a fancy way of saying that all the standing-sitting-kneeling-standing-crossing-genuflecting of the Episcopalians (and Anglicans and Catholics) is absent. It’s a way of saying that the icons, crucifixes et al are missing as well.  Not that you miss them, or that they’re really ‘missing.’  I just mean, they’re not there.

But for my part, I do miss them, and I go out of my way once in a while to find them, to make sure that all of those Catholic Trappings my ancestors of Alabama were warned about and eventually fled, abandoned for the more jubilant Pentacostalism, are still there, and that the language–especially the language–is the same and I am part the service, part of the Words and the Forms and the Genuflection.

Tomorrow, the first day of Lent, I will be at the church of my choice, at St. John’s Episcopal, receiving the Ashes of Rememberance and bowing before a great and humbling tradition that becomes miraculous, becomes sacred.  For those of us who grew up in the American Evangelical Tradition, be that Assemblies of God, Christian Missionary Alliance, Vineyard, what have you, this turning toward the High Church Mysteries, the Catholic Trappings with all of its hyper-tradition, represents something the gymnasium-church could never offer, and frankly never wanted to and certainly never tried.  It represents holiness on par with the saints; I am not saying we are holier than thou, or that we are saintly to attend an Episcopal Ash Wednesday mass, but the opportunity to bow, to recite and to act as one, one body, one bread, one blood, one cup is to find oneself not alone, undisjointed.

When I ask for the Ashes tomorrow and accept that I can do nothing without God, can live no righteous life without faith and can live nothing but a life of sin except that He redeems me, I will also ask to be a part of the mystery, a part of a beauty I do not understand but yearn for.  This yearning is part of my Fat Tuesday, part of my indulgence before the repentance.  It is what I wish to hold on to, and to not give up on despite the pared-down services, the Baptist simplicity, and the non-liturgical life I must lead in a regular daily way.

Rarely are we born into the exact world in which we perfectly fit, and so, knowing this to be (even partly) true, I turn myself tomorrow toward the crucifix, toward the time of darkness and begin to understand about deliverance and sacrifice in a way that I can appreciate and understand better because I was not born into it. My appreciation for the Ashes and the memorized bits of the BCP do not alienate me from my non-liturgical past, but rather confirm it, as I would not have sought these holy spaces, these sacred words had I not had some inkling, some idea that they were possible or meaningful or necessary.

Manuscript

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Formally, a manuscript is a hand-written document, and an illuminated manuscript is a handwritten document decorated in or with precious metals, such as gold or sparkling jewels. But the informal measure of a manuscript tends toward something altogether different.  Somewhat akin to my passion for books before my History of the Book class and the formal, true, illuminated passion I now possess, is the difference between what the general populace thinks a manuscript is and what it really is–its nuance, its depth, its ability to cause obsession.  That is now my lot, thanks to the University of Nottingham School of English.

Who knew?  Really, I guess I did.  I just never acknowledged it to an extent that led me to study so profusely and profoundly and so productively.  I have always liked–nay, loved, I have loved–books and all kinds of paper.  I have loved inks and texts, scripts, bindings, impressed leathers (a recent discovery, but a love nonetheless), manual production, for as long as I can remember, in one way or form or another.  Whether it was snipping sheets of paper into tiny rectangles in order to staple them back together again in a crudely bound form, or that collection of quills, pen nibs, sealing wax and inks in my middle desk-drawer and this fetish I’ve cultivated for touching the cotton stock at the art store.  I am hooked.

Hooked, I tell you.  And according to my brilliant tutor, Joanna Martin, that’s the least of it.  An all-out obsession (as noted above) awaits.  I do not intend to staunch it.

This is what drives my days, these days:

This blog: The British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts Blog

And these websites: National Archives Paleography & Medieval Writing

And words like the one above: paleography, and colophon, and miniscule and minim, and minium and rubrication and codex and codices.  And Chaucer, for whom I have only until now had a sort of passing respect, is climbing in importance. So are people whose names I will never know, but who penned or fabricated or outlined or decorated the beauties I pore over.

Today I realized that this is what I want to do.  I want to study manuscripts.  I am 40 years old and it took me all this time to get my sh*t together to figure this out.  So, off I go then, to describe the Gothic Textura, to learn how it differed from the Anglicana script (and all of its variations).  Delightful.

 

Holy Week poems. Green mown pathways.

The light here in our house is abundant, sometimes to an overwhelming degree, as the skylights let in all manner of sun and dusk and morning. It does not filter through a screen or a curtain from the ceiling but rather pours through, a coffer for all that falls down.

This is a poem I found in R.S. Thomas’ collected works, a text I was required to purchase for my Literary Geographies course at U Nottingham. I disliked the other 3 texts, but I found in this one some redemption, and some right fine words and thoughts. This poem, entitled ‘Asides’, is a little sketch of a big world and more than a few offset thoughts. It comes back to itself, as we all do. It encounters Holy Week in its own way, and would approve of freshly mown green pathways.

Asides
by R.S. Thomas

And at Carcassonne I was looking
At the cats on the river
Tow-path. How they ran,
Male and female, faster

Than the smoth river through
Hoops of light: so I forgot
The castle and teh long wars
Of kings and princes and

The philosopher’s question, even
My own need for
Conviction. And the mice sang
In the dew, as though they agreed with me.

Spring and the push mower, Margaret

Kara was out mowing the circle today.   It’s a large swath of grass and she was using a push mower.  Not the kind you pull-start and push rather than ride, but a reel mower, the kind with a round blade that goes shwsh-shwsh-shwsh-shwsh through the long grass and usually gets stuck every 10 or 12 feet.  That kind.  She was mowing as I was glancing, musing rather, out the upper office window of our house, wishing I felt better, wishing I had the energy to join her, the way I would on a non-hormonal day.

The truth is, I love push-mowing.  I love the sound it makes and the hand-labor.  I love its green-eco classification and the fact I can push it without putting fossil fuels into the air.  It is silent, relatively silent.  It represents a simpler time and a more communal one.

Kara is one of the neatest people I have met.  She is my friend Margaret’s daughter and for her, Margaret, I post today’s poem: Spring and Fall by G.M. Hopkins.

Spring and Fall

To a young child

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving

Over Goldengrove unleaving?

Leáves, líke the things of man, you

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Áh! ás the heart grows older

It will come to such sights colder

By and by, nor spare a sigh

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you wíll weep and know why.

Now no matter, child, the name:

Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.

Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed

What heart heard of, ghost guessed:

It ís the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Poetry Month: Days 2&3

Day 2 brought with it this post from Cosmos the in Lost, which references both poetry and artistry with a nice reference to Johannes Paulus II, one of my favorite popes.

Incidentally, I always wanted to be Catholic; I wanted the mystery, the ritual, the silences. Instead, I was born into an Assemblies of God church, which is probably what prompted my interest in Catholicism.

In any case, I would like to make this my post for Day 2.

DAY 3
The poem that comes to mind is ‘One Art’ by Elizabeth Bishop. It is probably much over-used, but that does not diminish its significance in my life nor my interest in it as a poem. ‘One Art’ explores the art, or process, of loss. I have lost so many things in my life, from people to places to so many, many things. But I think that the loss that pierces the deepest is the loss of my self-esteem, my self-control, and my sense of humility or forgiveness. I am not saying that ‘One Art’ either captures or makes amends for these losses, simply that it does what poetry ought to do: it brings the truth of the feeling home.

So here is Elizabeth Bishop on Day 3:

ONE ART

 

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.


—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15212#sthash.hERS8VVH.dpuf

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.


—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15212#sthash.hERS8VVH.dpuf

April is National Poetry Month: Day 1

Yesterday was April 1, the first day of National Poetry Month 2014. In thinking back over the day I remembered that the lines ‘Like the dew on the fountain/ Like the foam on the river/ Like the bubble on the fountain/ Thou art gone, and forever!’ from Sir Walter Scott were quoted in the film John and I watched last night, Persuasion. This overlap seems entirely perfect: Yesterday was the turn-in date for my final assessment essay (for which I chose Pride and Prejudice as a text) and also the first day of National Poetry Month. To have Austen and poetry coincide is simply lovely.

I shall leave you with this link to the entire poem (which is book-length), The Lady of the Lake, by SWS.

http://www.bookrags.com/ebooks/3011/

The Woman Who Travels and the Man she Marries

A woman is different from a girl in so many ways.  This post is an attempt to portray the difference between a Girl Traveler, who is described in this post and a Woman Traveler, who is described below.

The Woman Traveler

She is wise without being arrogant. She has seen Easter in more than one time zone and has been moved by the olive branches—real and metaphorical—passed between people and cultures.  She can be still.  She sees you because she has seen so much else.  She is patient with you: she knows what it is you are saying because you do not need words to say it.  She speaks without language, she refuses to give up her sense of humor, she is often misunderstood.

She lives to enrich her mind, and often travels not because she wishes to make a name for herself, but because the land and the home in which she was born were so generous as to give her a bigger heart and a broader mind than she could ever have expected, ever hoped for.  Her wish is not for fame or notoriety.  Her globe-trekking may take her only across the state or just across the border, but it isn’t distance she seeks—it isn’t to run, to escape or flee that she travels.  Travel seeks her out and she follows its call.    Nearly everything she does feeds her steady, passionate curiosity.  She undertakes adventure the way many women undertake a new handbag: with pride and perhaps a bit of expense.  She will not drag you to a club or a seedy bar or an overpriced restaurant.  She does not try to prove anything by being on the move.  You can rely on her passion for life to lead you both into the most rewarding adventures and acquaintances.  Not everything she does is amazing.  She is human and seeks companionship.  A woman who travels is often lonely, looking for friendships but understanding the reality of maintaining them, really nurturing them, is far beyond her, and a true like-minded man such as yourself is what she is really in need of.

A woman who travels is ready to board a plane or a train or a shuttle bus without being hindered by the laundry list of supplies she doesn’t have with her.  She may not be able to sleep on the plane or the train or the shuttle bus, but she knows that that is part of the experience, part of the journey.  Everywhere she is is exciting and that is because she is with you.  She comments without being asked, and often perceives the world so differently, so entirely differently from you that you catch your breath—and find yourself wondering how you could have seen the world so plainly before you met her.  She is the color and the texture of your travels.

She wants your point of view.  She needs your eyes to help her discern what it is she is doing, and why she is doing it.   She is sometimes afraid, despite what she says, or how she acts, or what she has done in the past, and your presence helps ease that fear.  She is not trying to outdo you.  She wants to share.  She is longing to put the foundations of her experiences into form, to build something with the bricks of her journeys, the collected windows of her travels around the world.  Her hair and her skin and her wardrobe are afterthoughts, but come to think of it, everything about her fits together.  She is comfortable in her own skin, her unbrushed hair, her simple wardrobe.