Advent II

Advent II
2016 – Cycle A
Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

Have you read any poetry this past week?

Some of you hear a poem every day if you listen to NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac.  Garrison Keillor, in his soft, buttery voice reads pieces entitled, Ray at 14, or Wet Autumn or What is Supposed to Happen.

Do you listen to the songs of Bob Dylan or those of the recently deceased Canadian singer Leonard Cohen? If so, you hear poetry.


Have you been immersed in the choreography of Martha Graham, George Balanchine or Savon Glover?  If so, you have seen poetry in motion.  Have you been lulled by a Chopin nocturne?  If so, you have heard musical poetry.

Do you worship God at the Eucharist each Sunday?  If so, you hear poetry.  Do you release that the psalms are poems?  Poems that express the profound array and complexity of human experience and emotions.  Have you ever taken time in preparation before Mass to read the text of the hymns we will sing, particularly the older hymns?  We sing poetry.  Consider a text we will sing today:

Now the heavens start to whisper
As the veil is growing thin.
Earth from slumber wakes to listen
To the stirring, faint within.

Earth waking with a big stretch and yawn to listen to the heavens.  What is heaven saying to us, to you?  Poetry purposely bends language in contradictory ways and weaves tapestries of words to crack open new meanings.  Meanings that can only be comprehended by the heart.  In the current movie, Dr. Strange, the brilliant but arrogant surgeon, Dr. Stephen Strange, after a car accident irrevocably damages his hands seeks out a sorcerer, the Ancient One (interestingly, a Hebrew title for God).  Dr. Strange’s journey in search of healing for his hands leads him to new life paths – like poetry.  He must learn to put aside his ego; to forget everything he thinks he knows and listen so as to be led from within his heart.

The Advent Prophet Isaiah offers us poetic dreams of our God where the wolf is a guest of the lamb, the calf and young lion browse together, the cow and the bear are neighbors, and children play with cobras.  Can you bring harmony to those images?  I can’t.  Wolves eat lambs, lions ravish calves, bears and cows are not neighbors and cobra’s attack and poison people.  The encounter and hope that Isaiah offers is found not in figuring these images out like solving a puzzle.  The puzzle solved we put it aside and move on.  Paradox and poetry are not solved and then discarded they invite us into the space in-between where the light is.  Consider the refrain of Cohen’s song Anthem,

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Our culture seemingly cannot abide much poetry.  For centuries now, we in West have voraciously nourished the ego and the mind.  Rational science is understood to be in opposition to irrational faith.  Observable proof trumps hope in the invisible.  Our national doctrine of Manifest Destiny has led us, as American historian, Daniel Walker Howe has written, to “giving little thought to preserving the natural environment for future use…” Because it is all about us and only us and the present.  In disregarding the spirit the ego has triumphed to our own detriment.

Poetry offers us a path out of our present situation but not an easy path.  Poetry offers us paradox and contradictions as the norm.  Poetry fractures our world like a cubist painting or the shattered shards of a mirror to see into different angles at the same time and there discover meanings hidden deep within us.  I said this is not an easy path because poetry needs time to soak into us like a gentle spring rain and we are too busy.  Ego thrives on instant gratification.  Spirit flourishes in the unhurried movement of unseen time.

But Advent is persistent in encircling us again.  Advent is particularly the season of poetry and plaintive chant melodies because it is trying to break through all the noise, the busy-ness, the lights and our ego, gently seducing us to forget everything we think we know.contemplation 3

Now the heavens start to whisper
As the veil is growing thin.
Earth from slumber wakes to listen
To the stirring, faint within.

[Hymn text: Mary Louise Bringle]

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1 Response to Advent II

  1. msperti says:

    And so poetically stated. Is it any wonder that children embrace poetry so enthusiastically? When I feel like I am losing order with a group of children, I will usually break stride and teach them a poem…it catches their attention and recenters them every time. Poetry had power to tickle, comfort a d wrench the soul. I will be sharing this one. Mel


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