The voice of God is heard in Paradise: “What was vile has become precious. What is now precious was never vile. I have always known the vile as precious: for what is vile I know not at all. What was cruel has become merciful. What is now merciful was never cruel. I have always overshadowed Jonas with my mercy and cruelty I know not at all. Have you had sight of Me, Jonas, My child? Mercy within mercy within mercy. I have forgiven the universe without end, because I have never known sin. What was poor has become infinite. What is infinite was never poor. I have always known poverty as infinite: riches I love not at all. Prisons within prisons within prisons. Do not lay up for yourselves ecstasies upon earth, where time and space corrupt, where the minutes break in and steal. No more lay hold on time, Jonas, My son, lest the rivers bear you away. What was fragile has become powerful. I loved what was most frail. I looked upon what was nothing. I touched what was without substance and within what was not I AM.”
Thomas Merton, epilogue to The Sign of Jonas
From a Letter to Theo*
Vincent Van Gogh, The Hague,
September 3, 1882
Behind those saplings, behind that brownish-red soil,
is a sky very delicate, bluish-gray, warm, hardly blue,
all aglow – and against it all is a hazy border of green
and a network of little stems and yellowish leaves.
A few figures of wood gatherers are wandering around
like dark masses of mysterious shadows.
The white cap of a woman bending to reach a dry branch
stands out suddenly against the deep red-brown of the ground.
A skirt catches the light – a shadow is cast –
a dark silhouette of a man appears above the underbrush.
A white bonnet, a cap, a shoulder, the bust of a woman
molds itself against the sky. Those figures are large
and full of poetry – in the twilight of that deep shadowy tone
they appear as enormous terracottas being modeled in a studio.
*from – Vincent Van Gogh: A Self Portrait, Letters Revealing
His Life as a Painter, selected by W.H. Auden
…another chance to get it right.
Today, may I walk in right paths, in God’s light. May peace prosper the steps of my family and friends, in city streets and buildings, and among all nations.
Today, may people stream from east and west to converge in God’s neighborhood. May nations labor to dismantle barricades. May our city be a just, peaceable center, united and vibrant. May my friends and relations strive for the good of each other, and may I remember I am neither higher nor lower than a servant.
Today, may east and west meet in my right and left hands, complementing, comprehending one another.
In my body, may north and south correspond, lifting my mind above worry, grounding my feet on the earth.
Today may I know what I am: created, not self-made, instructed to walk and work in God’s ways.
May I hammer old knives into new spoons, old enmities into love.
May I respect the least functional part of myself as surely as Jesus cherishes a paralytic slave and saves him with a word.
May the shriveled and disused part of my heart be bathed in God’s mercy today, that I might see sunlight for what it is: the gaze that beholds and heals us all.
In a banquet hall spacious enough for a whole world of nations, may I rest among neighbors and strangers, friends and relations.
May we feast among prophets on food grown in plowed mountain soil, reaped with weapons repurposed as tools.
Living in the earth-deposits of our history
Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate
Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil
She died a famous woman denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power
The presence rolling through again
clears the shelves and shuts down the shops.
Friend of the soul, enemy of the soul,
why do you want mine?
Bring tribute from the village.
But the village is gone in your flood.
That cleared site is what I want.
Live in the opening where there is no door
to hide behind. Be pure absence.
In that state everything is essential.
The rest of this must be said in silence
because of the enormous difference between light
and words that try to say light.
A happy feast day to all my dear Companions of St. George, wherever you are in the world – Let faith be your shield and let joy be your steed ‘gainst the dragons of anger and the ogres of greed. And let me set free with the sword of my youth, from the castle of darkness the power of truth.