Archive for the ‘Liturgy’ Category

Alder Bench

29 July 2013

Feast of Mary and Martha of Bethany

Dwelling in the Psalms

Part 1

 

INTRODUCTION

The Book of Common Prayer introduces the Psalter by saying “it is a body of liturgical poetry, designed for vocal, congregational use, whether by singing or reading.” And in the Anglican tradition, there has long been an expectation that clergy would say the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, and that this discipline would also be followed by devout laity as much as possible. Yet I think if we are candid, it is a discipline that is likely practiced only by a minority, whether lay or clerical. I can only confess that, having once known the riches of the monastic community praying and chanting the prayers and psalms day after day, season after season, I frankly found it nigh on impossible to say the offices on my own. They were designed for corporate, congregational prayer, and that was no longer an option for me on a daily basis.

Yet always, my heart hungered for what I knew was truly food for the soul. And so after years—nay, decades!—of praying in an unstructured, irregular manner, I found myself returning once again to a more traditional practice. Perhaps my own interior silence had deepened sufficiently to sustain a richer feast of psalms, readings, and canticles.

As a result, this arrangement of the Psalms is the fruit of an effort to find a way of praying the Psalms that is in accordance with the practice of the ancient Church, and that is also coherent with the life-style of the solitary anchorite or hermit. (Perhaps it may also be useful for others who pray alone, or even in community.)

Praying the Psalms in solitude is very different than praying them in a congregation or a monastic community. In solitude, one does not have the support of other voices, other souls—except, of course, for the presence of the Communion of Saints, who are even now and unto the ages lifting their voices in praise to the Holy Trinity.

The life of a vowed anchorite or hermit is also a life dedicated to silence and simplicity. As such, the traditional breviaries and lectionaries may be found cumbersome, and unduly complicated, often impinging upon the deep silence of contemplative prayer.

This arrangement, then, is significantly simplified. The cycle of Psalms is spread over a four-week cycle. In addition, rather than the ancient tradition of seven daily offices, and the more contemporary tradition of four offices a day, this Psalter is divided between Matins and Vespers. Some may choose to add a period of intercession at noon day, and the traditional late-evening office of Compline may more easily be recited by memory while preparing for sleep.

A few comments about the distribution:

For generations, lectionaries have distributed the scripture readings to reflect to some extent the season of the liturgy (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter….and less so for “ordinary time”). Yet I have been unable to find any tradition (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican) that does the same to a significant degree with the Psalms. By and large, the Psalms most often seem to have been prayed in a roughly numerical order, whether on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly cycle, with occasional variations to be found. If anyone knows of other types of ‘thematic’ lectionaries for the psalms, I hope you will let me know!

The only thing I have found which is close to a thematic (non-seasonal) distribution was that developed by Bonnell Spencer, OHC, in A Monastic Breviary, used by the Order of the Holy Cross and the Order of St. Helena. Fr. Spencer introduced the Psalter by saying,

In determining the assignment of [the psalms], the effort was made, not only to fit them to the time of day, but also to give certain days of the week a special tone. Thus worship and thanksgiving characterize the psalms selected for Sunday, and also for Thursday because of its association with the Eucharist and the Ascension. Friday, and to a lesser extent Wednesday, have been treated as penitential. The Incarnation and the part taken in it by the Virgin Mother are associated with Saturday.  A Monastic Breviary (Holy Cross Publications, 1976)

However, the more I have immersed myself in the ancient patristic tradition of ascetical practice, and discovered therein a clear path for the journey of the soul, I found the traditional psalm distribution to be jarring and seemingly without any reflection of this spiritual path. So at last, building on these studies, I began to examine the traditional stages of the mystical path as a context for praying the Psalms.

In the Western Church, we have traditionally identified three stages: Purification (or Purgation); Illumination; and Union. These designations found their roots in the teaching of the early church (3rd-7th centuries), especially in such masters of the life of the soul as Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius of Ponticus, Dionysius the Areopagite, and Maximus the Confessor. They identified similar stages, but more often used terms such as the Practical Life, Contemplation, and Theosis (or Divinization). Further, contemplation was often seen as having two stages within it, the earliest being contemplation of the created order, and the more advanced being contemplation of the ‘intelligibles’ or the ‘Heavenly Jerusalem.’ Only after passing through these stages, would the soul come to the fullness of the ‘likeness’ of God, or theosis, or union.

I have adapted these stages under the headings of “Faithful Living”, “Contemplative Living”, and “Holy Dwelling.” While using this understanding of the mystical path, rather than simply reciting the psalms in numbered sequence, I have arranged them—to the degree possible—to reflect the journey of the soul through the stages according to various themes reflecting the experiences and emphases of each stage.

Psalm Stages & Themes

WEEKDAYSTAGESTHEMES
SUNDAYHoly DwellingResurrection / Theosis
MONDAYFaithful LivingCreation / Salvation History
TUESDAYFaithful LivingPassions / Discipleship
WEDNESDAYFaithful LivingPurification / Repentance
THURSDAYContemplative LivingIllumination / Wisdom
FRIDAYContemplative LivingSacrifice / Redemption
SATURDAYHoly DwellingIncarnation / Virtue

 Such a distribution of the Psalms supports the soul by each week emphasizing the different stages of the mystical journey. Of course, not every psalm fits neatly into these categories, and someone else might determine a very different distribution. I was also constrained by an effort to approximate the number of verses for each office, coming up with an overall average of 44 verses for each of the 56 offices in a four-week cycle.

Although traditional practice is to begin each week with Saturday Vespers, I have chosen to use our more modern calendar by beginning with Sunday. However, it would be simple to adjust this system to the more traditional, simply by moving Saturday Vespers to the beginning of each week.

What about the ‘imprecatory’ verses? Our modern sensibility finds them very objectionable, indeed. Some lectionaries omit them entirely. And yet, does that not simply impose our own sensibilities upon what has for millennia been part of the prayer of faithful people, Jew and Christian alike? As hard as some of these verses are to pray, it seems to me they must be retained. We may not wish to think of ‘dashing little ones’ heads against the rocks’ (Ps. 137), but there are people out there who do just that, and perhaps our prayer can bring them—and our own unruly passions—into the transforming presence of God. It is also worth noting that the ancient tradition was to see some of these verses as directed against the assault of demonic and evil forces, a reality which must be encountered by any soul who prays for very long.

One other note: Psalm 95 is not included here because it is used every day at the beginning of Matins. The translation used is that of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

In the coming days, I will continue these posts on the psalms, with a slightly fuller explanation of each stage, and with a chart of the psalms assigned to each office and day within each stage.

Susan Creighton+

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 2

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 3

Dwelling in the Psalms, Part 4

 

Mystical Icon of the Holy Church by the hand of Matthew Garrett, 2008 http://holy-icons.com/

In this season of ecclesiastical upheaval and discontent, it seems useful to remember that, sadly, thus it has ever been down through the centuries. It is even more important to remember that though the Church may sail through treacherous seas, Christ is always at the helm.

My prayers for the Church this morning led to those of St. Isaac of Nineveh (also known as St. Isaac the Syrian) from the 7th Century:

O Mystery exalted beyond every word
and beyond silence,
who became human in order to renew us
by means of voluntary union with the flesh,
reveal to me the path
by which I may be raised up to your mysteries
. . .
Gather my mind into the silence of prayer
. . .
Stir up within me
the vision of your mysteries
so that I may become aware of what was placed in my
at holy baptism.
You made me to be light and salt for the world:
may I not prove a stumbling block for my companions.
Prayers of Isaac of Nineveh, 7th C.
Translated by Sebastian Brock

Lord, overshadow your holy Church which has been redeemed by your blood; cause to dwell in it your true peace which you gave to your holy apostles; bind her children in holy bonds of indissoluble love; may the rebel not have power over her, and keep far from her persecution, tumult, and wars, both from those within and from those without; and may kings and priests be bound together in great peace and love, their minds always filled with gazing towards you, and may the holy faith be a wall for your flock.
A prayer of Isaac of Nineveh, 7th C.
Translated by Hilarion Alfeyev

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole
body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified:
Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before
you for all members of your holy Church, that in their
vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you;
through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of
peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for
the nations of the earth; that in tranquility your dominion may
increase, until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your
love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of
all who suffer: Let the cry of those in misery and need come
to you, that they may find your mercy present with them in all
their afflictions; and give us, we pray, the strength to serve
them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and
lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you
as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel
be preached with grace and power to those who have not
heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring
home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there
may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look
favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred
mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry
out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world
see and know that things which were cast down are being
raised up, and things which had grown old are being made
new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set
your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and
our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and
grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy
Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life
and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live
and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

 

Adorn yourself, O cavern!
Make ready, O manger!
O shepherds and wise men,
bring your gifts
and bear witness,
for the Virgin is coming,
bearing Christ in her womb!
Vespers Hymn of St Nicholas Day

Advent, 2011

For millenia past counting, humanity has experienced both a fascination and a dread of caverns and caves. Caverns can be awesome and beautiful; caves may be narrow and constricting, or broad and expansive. Our earliest ancestors found shelter within them, and a place of defense against weather, wild animals, and human foes. Other ancestors entered caverns for shamanic rituals, and painted their walls with the creatures who both sustained and frightened them.

In the Holy Scriptures, caves are the hiding places for warriors and prophets. They are also places of revelation—Elijah hears the Voice of God in a cave, and later discovers that the Voice is most truly heard in the silence of the heart. In the Psalms, David finds caves to be a place of prayer, penitence, and forgiveness. Even the Arc of the Covenant and the altar of incense, in flight from the destruction of the first temple, find refuge in a cave. And over and over, from Abraham to Judith to Lazarus, caves are the place of burial, symbolizing the words we hear at our own burial: “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shall return.”

Is it any wonder, then, that the early Christians identified the place of our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth as a cave? Truly, it was a refuge from the perils of travel, and the crowds filling the streets of Bethlehem. This humble cavern sheltered the prayers of Mary and Joseph, shone with the adoration of shepherds, received the Magi and their gifts, and rang out with the angels’ songs of great joy.

Assuredly, this lowly cave became the Holy Dwelling of revelation—the revelation that God has come among us, clothed in human flesh; it is also a foreshadowing of Jesus’ return to a cave for His own burial, the same cave that would bear witness to His Resurrection.

May this season of Christ’s birth remind us all to pray for and serve those who also seek refuge in the night, protection from all danger, and a Holy Dwelling—be it ever so humble—in which they too may receive the gift of God’s love, and learn to sing with the angels.

The Rev’d. Susan Creighton

 

(Thirty years ago–1981–The Feast of the Visitation fell on a Sunday. It was transferred to Monday, June 1st, and on that day I was ordained to the sacred priesthood. This meditation—in the form of a ‘letter’ from Elizabeth to Mary—was given a year later as a sermon in the Convent of St. Helena, Vails Gate, NY. I offer it once again, in thanksgiving to God for the many blessings of being called to stand at His altar and offer the Holy Mysteries.

Please pray for me that I may continue to bear this sacred office faithfully.)

A Meditation on the Feast of the Visitation

My Dear Cousin:

I dictate this letter with faltering voice and with a great sense of weariness, for the years have multiplied upon my head. I am so old now that I’ve forgotten just how many years there have been. But I’m not so old that I’ve forgotten everything. In fact, it seems the events of long ago happened only yesterday, and now as the dusk of my life draws to a close, and the soft darkness of death approaches, I feel moved to share some of these memories with you.

For you see, dear cousin, you were really the only one who fully understood; and of course you were the only one who could—for you, too, were a woman, and a mother—and you, too, have borne a son dear to your heart.

That day long ago when you visited me so unexpectedly is as clear in my memory as the summer sun. Then, as now, we lived high in the hills of Judea, and the air was clear and sharp, yet heavy with the expectation of the late rains and of the harvest soon to be gathered in. It had been a long, cold spring for me, and I had felt all the aches of the ancient in my heavy body; even then, my years were many. And then there was this added burden—so welcome but still so heavy.

My belly grew and my legs ached with the weight of it, and I wondered as my time grew near whether or not my strength would fail me.

My body had never learned in its youth how to be a mother, and these lessons come late were taxing to body and soul. I found a loneliness in it, for my beloved husband was enveloped in a great silence that even my love could not seem to penetrate. He had been like this ever since his last turn of service at the temple in Jerusalem: utterly unable to speak, and with the light in his eyes turned inward as if he gazed upon a sight beyond human vision. I know now that his silence came from God, but then it was a hard thing to know, and I longed so for just a word from him—just a word to tell me that he shared both my pain and my joy. But his silence became my silence, and together we waited.

In all those silent months, I had long hours to pray and think, for my old body refused to labor in other ways. It, too, had turned inward, and all my energies seemed to pour into this new life within me, and to leave little over for outward concerns. And as I waited and prayed, and grew heavier and heavier, I remembered: I remembered Sarah as she must have been: like me, both joyous and frightened with the advent of a pregnancy so ardently longed for. I remembered her faithfulness, her willingness to follow Abraham to new lands, to uncertain futures, to the eternal seeking of what must have seemed an illusory promise. Sarah knew; she knew what it was to wait, and pray, and remember. She knew what it was to be a mother, to bear a son, to let him go.

Then there was Rachel: won by Jacob after long years of labor; sharing him with her sister Leah. Rachel, too, must have known long years of silence and grief and prayer. And then at last God “hearkened to her and opened her womb” and she bore her son Joseph. Rachel knew: she knew what it was to wait, and pray, and remember; she knew what it was to journey ever forward and follow a God who demanded all; Rachel knew what it was to give that all as she labored over the birth of her son Benjamin, the son who claimed her life as the price of his own.

And so the long months went on, there on the hills of Judea. The days passed, and I waited, and my belly grew. I found it hard to sleep, and often rose long before the dawn to sit in the soft darkness and watch the light slowly creep over the eastern mountains. Those were the moments when I felt utterly at peace; I knew that my beloved had been faithful to God; I knew that the life within me would not die; I knew that the silence and waiting would come to an end.

Those quiet mornings were precious to me, and I felt my own heart sing as the first sleepy birds began the morning chorus. And singing brought to mind that other old friend from the past: Hannah. Like me, Hannah had been long barren, and sorely tormented by her affliction. She, too, had known the scorn of others as the years rolled past. She, too, waited and prayed most fervently, and the Lord heard her prayer and had pity upon her. In due time Hannah conceived, and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.” Hannah knew what it was to bear a son, and to let him go—to lend him to the Lord’s service; and she knew how to rejoice in her blessing: “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee; there is no rock like our God … He raised up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.”

Hannah knew how to wait, and pray. Hannah knew how to sing.

And so, dear cousin, the months passed. And that clear spring day dawned, and the birds sang, and I went about the chores of my silent house, waiting, ever waiting.

Then you came. You entered my house and greeted my beloved and me, and with the sound of your young, hopeful voice, the child in my own womb leapt for joy. 

From the deep pit of silence within me came the cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! … And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

And your voice broke into song: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.” You sang, O Mary, my cousin, and you brought joy and peace to our silent house. And then you departed upon your own way, already swelling with the child within your own womb, and I waited, larger and heavier, and so near to my own time of delivery.

Yes Mary, we both know what it is to wait, to bear a son, to let him go, to sing.

And in these many years since, we have not ceased learning to wait, to pray, and to sing. Even in those moments of the greatest grief, we have known joy. My own John left us so early; his father’s blessing was upon him, and he went forth to prepare the way of the Lord; he went forth to be the prophet of the Most High … It was hard to let him go, and yet we knew we must, for he was ours no longer; the Spirit had claimed him from time before time, from that moment in the temple when my beloved Zechariah was struck dumb.

But it was hard to let him go: Sarah’s son was spared the knife; my son was not.

Yet still we sang: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free.” And you, my dear: you were so very young, yet you bore so very much more. You bore the Son who redeems us all; you bore the pain of scorn and rejection even as he lay in your womb; you bore the abandonment of Golgotha; you bore the incredible news of his resurrection; you bore the sight of his risen body and sore wounds. 

You bore all this, my dear Mary, because you are the most favored one: You are she, chosen above all women to be the Mother of God.

You are she, my dear, who has become the mother of us all. Yes, even of me, your old, old cousin. For you are she who has taught us all to wait, to pray, to remember, to sing.

You are she who has taught us to bear forth within our barren bodies the Word of the Lord.

You are she who has taught us to seek the fruit of Christ within the hearts and minds and souls and bodies of all whom we meet.

You are our Mother, calling us forth to give birth to Love.

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”

With weary joy, my dear, I remain your affectionate cousin,

+Elizabeth+

                AND THE ANGEL SAID:
TO YOU IS BORN THIS DAY
IN THE CITY OF DAVID
A SAVIOR, WHO IS CHRIST THE LORD.

Born in humility,
Becoming our flesh:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Mothers will come,
To nourish a babe:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Fathers will come,
To shelter the weak:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Children will come,
Trusting, unafraid:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Shepherds will come,
Knowing his Voice:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Royalty will come,
To adore the true King:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Servants will come,
To serve at His Throne:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Sinners will come,
To weep at His Feet:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Mourners will come,
Seeking the Light:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Prisoners will come,
Longing for freedom:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Priests will come,
To lift bread and wine:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!
Born in humility,
Becoming our flesh:
                Sing, O Angels of Heaven!
Proclaim the birth of Christ!


 GLORY TO THE FATHER, AND TO THE SON,
AND TO THE HOLY SPIRIT:
AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING,
IS NOW AND EVER SHALL BE,
UNTO AGES OF AGES. AMEN.

SC+, 2010

Be Silent All Flesh…the Lord has roused Himself from His Holy Dwelling. (Zechariah 2:13)

Christmas, 2010

In the midst of military, political and economic chaos in all corners of this earth:

…a small businessman in Maine, grateful for his freedom, begins a movement now numbering thousands of volunteers who lay Christmas wreaths on the tombs of fallen soldiers with a moment of silent prayer.

In the midst of crowds thronging the malls and holiday parties, with the gaiety escalating to near-hysteria:

…a woman gathers her courage, and calls for silence when a child is overwhelmed by the noise and unchecked emotions swirling around him.

In the midst of beeping monitors and flashing lights required by a frightening series of medical tests:

…a gentle nurse promises to let a patient sleep in silence through the night.

In the midst of strident voices—left and right—decrying this or that current (and perhaps soon-to-be-forgotten) cultural battle:

…a 7th Century monk prays: “O Mystery exalted beyond silence, gather my mind into the silence of prayer, free from the concerns of this world.”[1]

Yes…Let all flesh be silent. For in these small pockets of silence, all too rare and fleeting, hidden away and often unnoticed—in these precious moments between breaths when we can hear our own hearts beat . . . now is the time to keep silence.

For it is only in such silence that the Holy One can rouse from His Holy Dwelling in the Heart of God, and come among us to be born in a poor stable in Bethlehem.  Only in such silence can the Holy One bring strength and courage to the heart of a soldier keeping watch in the mountains of Afghanistan. Only in such silence can the touch of the Holy One comfort the heart of a little child surrounded  by poverty, or despair. Only in such silence can the Holy One enter our own hearts, and find once again His own Holy Dwelling.

I do pray we will all find those moments of silence when the Lord enters His Holy Dwelling within our hearts.

Susan Creighton+



[1] Isaac of Ninevah, 7th C. Syria: in The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life, translated by Sebastian Brock, (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1987)

EASTER MORN

Joseph said,
“The Tomb was closed—yet now the Rock is rolled away?”

Pilate said,
“I’ve washed my hands of this MAN—I’ll hear no wild tales HE yet lives.”

The Women said,
“We came with oils, but found a shroud—where can HE be?”

The Rain said,
“Our tears did wash HIS face—as we will wash each soul Baptized from this day hence.”

The Earth said,
“We welcomed HIS bones—and found our ancient mass transfigured into Light.”

The Fire of Hades said,
“We feared HIS coming—now HE commands us as Holy Fire.”

The Wind said,
“HIS Spirit turns our silence into Alleluias on high.”

The stars said,
“With HIS light risen from the tomb, our brightness is eternal.”

They all cried out,
“Alleluia! Christ is Risen! HE is Risen indeed! Alleluia!”

SC+, 2010

 

 

 

  

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

 

 

 HOLY SATURDAY

Joseph said,
“Here—I have a tomb, new, unused. HE may lie within.”

Pilate said,
“Take HIM—I care not where this troublesome man lies.”

The Women said,
“We weep, we mourn, but gather the oils—we will bind HIS wounds.”

The Rain said,
“Our tears will wash HIS face.”

The Earth said,
“We welcome HIS bones, formed from our dust before time began.”

The Fire of Hades said,
“We fear HIS coming—HE will steal our bounty.”

The Wind said,
“HE breathes no more, and even I am silenced.”

The stars said,
“HIS light is hidden, so we must shine bravely through darkest night.”

They all said,
“In silence, We will keep watch.”

SC+, 2010

 

 

The Whale
            A meditation for Good Friday

Sinking, sinking, sinking.
deep rest in darkness cold:
Tide washing torn flesh,
dilutes the blood,
chills the soul,
tossing limbs to and fro.

Silence beyond silence,
Cold beyond cold,
Fear beyond fear.

Bones lose strength,
and sinews sag
their very form is lost,
and what was once a life
with borders, edges, frames
returns to elemental stuff
where even cells break down
and atoms float into the void.

Consciousness and will
no more do dwell
within, without, or with at all.
There is no where, no up, no down,
no time, no space to mark
the passing of a life,
or entrance of a death. 

            And each is all.

“Remember: you are earth,
and to earth you shall return.”
We’ve got it wrong,
for earth herself
emerged from silent sea—
a pattern in the chaos we
label terra firma,
deluding our senses
into stable cosmos, order, law.

The very law of elementals
which moves in cyclic spiral,
crumbling cliffs and grinding
rocks upon the shore,
as earth dissolves into the sea,
so do our bones and soul,
becoming one within the void.

            And each is all.

Yet even there the life force moves,
and gently bumps against
my cells that are no more,
consumes and hallows emptiness:

“And there goes that Leviathan . . .”
that swallowed Jonah, spat him out:
Bone and sinew, flesh and blood?
or broken down to cell and atom, DNA?

What elemental form is known in death?
Is there some cell, some atom,
some electron with my name
engraved upon its very being? 

The dead return to earth,
that cosmic ordering of chaos,
that quieting of turbulent form. 

Yet is there not a further path,
where even earth
returns to void?

            And each is all.

 

SC+ ca. 1998

 

 

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