My clergy writing group resumed this past week, after some months off.  It looks like we will start a blog for the group to share what we do sometime the beginning of next year.  Until then, our prompt was two poems by Emily Dickinson related to facing death (one of which featured a fly).  This is what I wrote:

“I am of an age, now, when limits and mortality are in my thoughts with regularity.

I’m not sure when they were ever absent, mind you. (more…)

My friend Elise killed herself.

Tim gave me the news yesterday.  I think it happened Sunday (or maybe the prior Sunday, but I wasn’t really tracking dates). (more…)

PAYING THE PASSAGE

Make way!
Make way!
Make way for the image of God.

Sometimes
my brother
I thought you would live forever …

Oh!
That’s right!
You will …

Be at peace my brother.

May this day find you
in good cheer
and in little pain.

Warm the home fires for me
soon.

May you find enduring peace
in the fire
of God’s consuming love.

Remember me
if you will
as you feast
at his table.

I wrote this yesterday, with the following introduction:

This started this morning (in bed) as I imagined sending an email to my friend, Leo Joseph, a Franciscan monastic and an Episcopal Priest, who is, still, to my knowledge, nearing the end of his battle with cancer.

Overnight I received word on how Brother Leo is actually doing:

John, Susan Reeve said something about an email I was supposed to have received from you this AM. I told her I hadn’t received any such. She then showed me a copy of your thoughtful prayer for Fr. Leo. Thank you for it. We ended up actually not using it for now, because, as I explained to the group, Leo, while terminal, has been chugging along for almost a year since diagnosis (even tho at one point I thought he’d be gone by last Christmas!). At this point, death doesn’t appear to be imminent yet. He continues to celebrate weekly Sun. Eucharist at St. John’s, attend Vestry meetings, take short trips & visit friends occasionally, etc. His attitude is good, he’s alert & hasn’t lost his wicked sense of humor. To look at him externally, you wouldn’t really guess he has cancer; he’s actually gained some girth because of the swelling. That being said, he tires very easily and has to pace himself, and realizes that his present condition can change on a dime. I just wanted you to know that his current status isn’t presently quite as dire as it sounded from your note. There will, I’m sure, come a time in the future when your wonderful prayer will be most useful. Harry

This is what I think is going to be my Easter sermon this Sunday, so members of my congregation may not want to read it (before then):

One phrase that really caught my attention in the Daily Office readings this past week was from John’s gospel:

“The truth of the matter is, unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.” [John 12:24 The Inclusive Bible] (more…)

One of the things I usually read daily with the offices is the daily excerpt from An Almanac for the Soul — Anthology of Hope — by Marv and Nancy Hiles.  This is really a collection of brief spiritual readings (arranged by the seasons of the year) from the Iona Center ($25.95 plus shipping. To order: Iona Center, P.O. Box 1528, Healdsburg CA 95448; ionacenter@comcast.net; or 707.431.7426).  It’s given me a lot of food for thought.  Two readings, recently, really caught my attention.

The first reading is from First You Have to Row a Little Boat by Richard Bode:

Where a friendship once existed there was now a void, and I was filled with sadness, knowing I couldn’t bring it back to life again.  My Sorrow, she was there with me, and I gave myself the sacred right to mourn, not by forgetting but by remembering; not by suppressing events or pushing them into oblivion but by calling them forth from the tangled roots of memory.  I remembered the people and places I knew:  the blue sloop pointing into the wind and the friends and mentors with whom I sailed, and I knew that I missed them all.  I think most of us are afraid that if we let ourselves feel our sorrow for the passing of the life that was, we will never regain our composure again.  But the fear is misplaced; what should truly frighten us is the possibility that we might lose the power to recall the life we lived, which gives us our connections to ourselves.  Our most terrifying diseases aren’t the ones that take our life; they’re the ones that cast us adrift on an empty sea by depriving us of our connections.

The second (which I’ve abbreviated) is from A Tagore Reader (edited by Amiya Chakravarty):

To be able to love material things, to clothe them with tender grace, and yet not be attached to them, this is a great service.  Providence expects that we should make this world our own, and not live in it as though it were a rented tenement.  We can only make it our own through some service, and that service is to lend it love and beauty from our soul.  … Civilization is waiting for a great consummation, for  an expression, of its soul in beauty.  This must be your contribution to the world.

In his “Readings in St. John’s Gospel” William Temple says the following (in his commentary on John 1:29-34):  “The Sin of the World.  How utterly modern is this conception!  It is not “sins”, as by a natural early corruption of the text [we] were led to suppose, but “sin”.  For there is only one sin, and it is characteristic of the whole world.  It is the self-will which prefers “my” way to God’s – which puts “me” in the centre where only God is in place.”

This passage came to mind this morning while I was reading an excerpt from St. Augustine’s “The City of God” (In “Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church” by J. Robert Wright):  “[God] foreknew that some of the angels, in their pride, would wish to be self-sufficient for their own felicity, and hence would forsake their true good; and yet [God] did not deprive them of this power, (more…)

I came across the following in Robert Raines A Time to Live:

E. B. White watched his wife Katharine planning the planting of bulbs in her garden in the last autumn of her life and later wrote about it:  ‘There was something comical yet touching in her bedraggled appearance …  The small hunched-over figure, her studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with her detailed chart under those dark skies in dying October, calmly plotting the resurrection.’  There is room for all of us in the resurrection conspiracy, the company of those who plant seeds of hope in dark times of grief or oppression, going about the living of these years until, no one knows quite how, the tender Easter shoots appear.