Sunday, April 08, 2012

But Joy Comes in the Morning...

...Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.

Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe.
Chaplets for disheveled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.

Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls alway
Make each mourn an Easter Day.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1865

Friday, April 06, 2012

It's been a year...

... since Good Friday of 2011. All was excitement and anticipation, all was possibility. While I still feel all of those things now, I think they have been tempered with a bit more growth, and a bit more perspective. My hope and excitement remain but they are of an entirely different quality.

Last year I had just finished my master's degree and was heading off on an international adventure with the best cousin anyone could ask for. I was about to move into my own place from having lived at home during grad school. I was about to start my first real job.

All of those huge life milestones came on the heels of each other in rapid succession over about 3 months. It was a golden summer, that summer of 2011. But I think for different reasons, it was a gold that lost its glimmer once the trees lost their leaves. You see, now I understand that I had built up a hope and a happiness around the things that it takes to count as a person in this world, by most standards. Once that happiness was tested and things started to be stripped away, I felt a darkness and a feeling of disorientation I had never known. This is, of course, how God works most of the time. When you start to become enough for yourself, when you are not living outside of your own ability and not seeing beyond just what's around, God loves us enough to challenge that, to want more from us, to draw us out. It's not always a fun process. In general, I would have to say that when it has happened to me or those around me, it's been painful or miserable, or just dark. But always, unfailingly, the other side is brighter, fuller, and so much better than what preceded it.

Since it is Good Friday today, there is no better metaphor for the preceding paragraph than the sacrifice of God's own son to lead us all to a brighter hope in Him. John Donne puts it beautifully in his poem:

GOOD-FRIDAY, 1613, RIDING WESTWARD.

LET man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th' intelligence that moves, devotion is ;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey ;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.
Hence is't, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul's form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ;
What a death were it then to see God die ?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul's, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg'd and torn ?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us ?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They're present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them ; and Thou look'st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity ;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I'll turn my face.




Amen.

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