When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree;
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.
Christina Rossetti (1839-94)
Monday, 23 February 2015
From behind the wall of the Present I heard the hymns of humanity. I heard the sounds of the bells announcing the beginning of prayer in the temple of Beauty. Bells moulded in the metal of emotion and poised above the holy altar - the human heart.
From behind the Future I saw multitudes worshipping on the bosom of Nature, their faces turned towards the East and awaiting the inundation of the morning light - the morning of Truth.
I saw the city in ruins and nothing remained to tell man of the defeat of ignorance and the triumph of Light.
I saw the elders seated under the shade of cypress and willow trees, surrounded by youths listening to their tales of former times.
I saw the youths strumming their guitars and piping on their reeds and the loose-tressed damsels dancing under the jasmine trees.
I saw the husbandmen harvesting the wheat, and the wives gathering the sheaves and singing mirthful songs.
I saw woman adorning herself with a crown of lilies and a girdle of green leaves.
I saw Friendship strengthened between man and all creatures, and clans of birds and butterflies, confident and secure, winging towards the brooks.
I saw no poverty; neither did I encounter excess. I saw fraternity and equality prevailing among man.
I saw not one physician, for everyone had the means and knowledge to heal himself.
I found no priest, for conscience had become the High Priest. Neither did I see a lawyer, for Nature has taken the place of the courts, and treaties of amity and companionship were in force.
I saw that man knew that he is the cornerstone of creation, and that he has raised himself above littleness and baseness and cast off the veil of confusion from the eyes of the soul; this soul now reads what the clouds write on the face of heaven and what the breeze draws on the surface of the water; now understands the meaning of the flower's breath and the cadences of the nightingale.
From behind the wall of the Present, upon the stage of coming ages, I saw Beauty as a groom and Spirit as a bride, and Life as the ceremonial Night of the Kedre.
( Night of the Kedre - a night during the Moslem Lent - Ramadan - when God is said to grant the wishes of the devout.)
Thursday, 19 February 2015
'The Light of the World' by Holman Hunt
found again after two hundred years....
I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper....
When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me....
I am food on the prisoner's plate....
I am water rushing to the well-head,
filling the pitcher until it spills....
I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden....
I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge....
I am the heart contracted by joy...
the longest hair, white
before the rest....
I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow....
I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit....
I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name....
by Jane Kenyon (1947-95) American Poet and Translator
Saturday, 14 February 2015
"Universal Man" from a 13th.C copy of Hildegard von Bingen's 'Book of Divine Works'
What then is heaven to a reasonable soul? Truly nothing else but Jesus God For if heaven is only that which is above all things, then God alone is heaven to man's soul, for he alone is above the nature of a soul. Then, if a soul can through grace have knowledge of that blessed nature of Jesus, truly he sees heaven, for he sees God. So there are many men who err in understanding some things that are spoken of God, because they do not understand them spiritually.
Holy Scripture says that a soul who wants to find God must lift her inward eye upward, and seek God above herself. Some people who want to put this teaching into practice, understand this word 'above' to signify the setting of one thing above another in place and worthiness of bodily position. But that is not the case when the word is taken spiritually; for a soul is above every bodily thing, not visibly in location, but in purity and worthiness of his unchangeable blessed nature.
And therefore whoever wants to seek God wisely, and find him, must not run away with his thoughts as if he would climb above the sun, and cleave the firmament, and imagine his majesty to be like to a hundred suns. But he must rather draw down the sun, and all the firmament, and cast it beneath the place where he stands, and put all this, and all physical things too, at nought. And then, if he can, he should think spiritually both of himself and of God also. And if he does so thus, then the soul will see above itself, then will it see into heaven.
In the same way this word 'within' should be understood. It is often said that a soul shall see our Lord 'within' all things and 'within' itself. It is true that our Lord is within all creatures, but not in the way that the kernel is hidden within the the nutshell, or as a little bodily thing is contained within a greater. But he is within all creatures, as holding and preserving them in their being, through the subtlety and power of his own blessed nature, and invisible purity.
For just as something which is most precious and clean is laid within wrappings, so it is said metaphorically that the nature of God, which is most precious, most clean, most goodly, most remote from bodily substance, is hidden within all things. So whoever wants to seek God within, must first forget all bodily things, for all such things are on the outside, as with his own body. And he must stop thinking of his own soul, and think on uncreated nature, that is, Jesus, who made him, keeps him alive, preserves him, and gives him reason, memory and the power to love. Jesus God is within him through his power and sovereign subtlety.
Extract from 'The Ladder of Perfection' by the English Augustinian Mystic Walter Hilton (1343-96)
Tuesday, 10 February 2015
Sun, earth and air
Have wrought by God's care
That the plants live and bear.
Praising God for this food,
In truth live we would
Bearing beauty and good.
The bread from corn,
The corn from light,
The light from the countenance of God.
From the glory of God
May the fruits of the earth
Bring light into being
Within our hearts.
For the food we have, we give thanks,
And ask for those who have not
The Grace of Your Love
And the favour of Your Bounty
Thursday, 5 February 2015
'Point Judith, Rhode Island' - Oil painting by Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904)
Tonight, as midnight breakers raked and rolled
The glistening pebbles down the streaming beach,
I glimpsed a sombre glory, dark and cold;
A majesty beyond my spirit's reach.
And looking heavenwards I saw a star,
Vivid and true, trapped in the folds of night;
A pin-point beacon blazing from afar,
Enthralling every surging wave with light:
Flickers and flares of pale and austere gold
Marking the swell of sea towards the land,
Where midnight breakers pulled and raked and rolled
The glistening pebbles through the weeping sand . . .