Alleluia for the Easter Season

I used to find Easter a letdown. Lent is so full of the self-improvement activities of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I typically add a midday prayer to my usual Morning and Evening Prayer. I decide what organizations I want to give alms to: a different one each week of Lent. And fasting: not from food (my health doesn’t allow for that), but from something I feel is keeping me from closeness to God. The past few years it has been fasting from judging others (or trying to).

Then comes Easter. The first week is always a joy, reading about Jesus’s various post-resurrection appearances to his disciples. But in my Catholic faith, the Easter season continues way beyond this: for a full fifty days, until Pentecost. Catholic practice doesn’t instruct me to do anything special during these fifty days. So instead of the fullness of God’s grace, I’ve felt this season to be an empty repetition of “Christ has risen.”

Until this year. I don’t know why… but this year, each day of the prolonged Easter season has filled me with grateful wonder. The Scripture selections in The Liturgy of the Hours, which I pray from, feel richly full. Each week there are passages from Romans:

The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is the word of faith which we preach) (10:8).

If we have died with Christ, we believe that we are also to live with him (6:8).

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will bring your mortal bodies to life also, through his Spirit dwelling in you (8:11).

Both in life and death we are the Lord’s (14:8). [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “The Spirit of Promise”

image of an individual in a church looking upwards and maybe taking a photo; her back is to the camera.Memories can make good material for poetry. In “The Spirit of Promise,” Daniel Donaghy is remembering his Catholic childhood in the particular church that he’s now re-visiting. At first the poet’s memories are negative: “my grade-school nuns shaking // their heads at me”; the priest “putting down his Chesterfield / to tell me how many decades // of the rosary I’d need to say.” Then he recalls his parents in church: a softer memory, which however ends in their deaths from smoking. The remainder of the poem turns to his interlocutor, who had asked “what church was.” I love the poet’s multifaceted answer. “Church is a building, // or a service, or a group of Christians.” But then it’s even more: “something / you can give, so I’ll give it here”—and this something is “a blessing.” To think of “church” as a “blessing” is very moving to me. And the blessing given carries out the “Spirit of Promise” of the poem’s title: it’s “a blessing to a young woman / at the start of something or, /  like you, the start of everything.”

—Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]

The “Oh, There You Are” Prayer

image of a large spider dangling from its web.Three egg sacs hang in suspension in the garden near my doorstep. When I look for information online, most resulting websites discuss removal, infestation, means of discarding. The spider has lived between the wall and garden for a little over a month, a strange home in the alley’s wind tunnel. Gusts waver the plants during storms and windy nights, so the spider will sometimes spend hours swinging softly in her silk.

When an egg sac first appeared, I thought it was cloth or dust caught in the web, but then two more sacs jointed the first, cottony orbs like planets stopped in mid-orbit around the spider’s still bulk. One darkened with spiderlings, their bodies softened with newness and the pressure of spherical suspension, all those legs blending and twining together.

The spider and I have an understanding, as spiders and girls understand sometimes wanting to be left alone. She is Steatoda grossa, a false widow. I have no desire to kill her. At first, she was frightened of my footsteps, my tendency to drop my keys into the space of her web. But we’ve learned each other’s habits. I know she rarely moves, preferring to sit fat and splayed in strings that reach to the ground. She is in the same place every morning as she was the previous night. And she doesn’t startle or hide when I run outside, headphones loud, in the early morning.

My heart palpitations are worse in the morning. Cardiologists can’t find a cause or even an effect, the erratic beats a mistake without known consequence. They’re just something to get used to. Because I can’t get used to them, because they still feel like slices of death, I run and shove the headphones all the way in my ears to drown out the mistaken pulse. [Read more…]

Saying Yes to the Annunciation

annunciazione-by-fabrizio-boschi-on-wikimediaOf all the Gospel episodes, the Annunciation has long been one of the favorites of poets. The scene is unique and literally earth-shaking: Gabriel’s sudden appearance to the girl Mary, his announcement that she will bear a son who will be “the Son of the Most High,” her puzzlement (“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”), and her final yes—“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “Full Thunder Moon” by Julie L. Moore

storm clouds by Brandon Morse on flickrThe days following the election have been dark indeed. People unhappy with the outcome fear for many Americans’ safety and freedoms. Supporters of the president-elect feel alienated and misunderstood. The nation’s unsettled tenor reminds me of that post-9/11 haze in which we stumbled through our days unsure of what would happen next. Except this time we’re moving through a haze divided. Yet in these distressing times, a number of us have felt emboldened to love more and notice more: to live out our faith in the small actions of our everyday lives. I don’t know what the next four years will bring, but I know my child needs my patient encouragement—tonight—on his math homework. My friend—today—needs to cry on my couch with a mug of green tea in her hands. These small actions are also a sabbath rest. By setting ourselves aside, we let go of control and let love take over. Of course (O paradoxical God!), that’s when the most change happens. In “Full Thunder Moon,” poet Julie L. Moore enters a moment of immense personal darkness and lets the rain fall. The fact that the “storm doesn’t give a rip” both saddens and heartens me. We hurt, we “seek refuge.” We often do it alone, soaked in despair as the world goes on. Thank God the world goes on. Regardless of our suffering, there are always new generations of sparrows and finches seeking shelter from the rain.

—Tania Runyan [Read more…]