Of all the liturgical seasons, Advent is uniquely colored by mystery, longing, and paradox. It is therefore the season most susceptible to the power of poetry, a form far more capable of channeling these three movements than prose. As Madeline L’Engle writes in her Advent poem, After Annunciation, “This is the irrational season / when love blooms bright and wild. / Had Mary been filled with reason / there’d have been no room for the child.” Advent is also the season of silence, which L’Engele addresses in other poems I’ll share in a subsequent post. All four – mystery, longing, paradox, and silence – come together in this excerpt from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s near-forgotten work, “The New England Tragedies.”
Truly we do but grope here in the dark,
Near the partition wall of Life and Death,
At every moment dreading or desiring
To lay our hands upon the unseen door!
Let us, then, labor for an inward stillness,
An inward stillness and an inward healing;
That perfect silence where the lips and heart
Are still, and we no longer entertain
Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
But God alone speaks in us, and we wait
In singleness of heart, that we may know
His will and the silence of our spirits,
That we may do His will, and do that only!