I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
(from ‘After Apple-picking’, Robert Frost)
For the last few years I have been trying to change the way I think and talk about living with chronic illness and depression. I am less interested in wellness – which may or may not come – but I am interested in wholeness. For I realise I do not feel whole. And yet I believe in God’s eyes I am already whole, I just can’t feel it or know it or access it in my daily lived experience.
And so I have been reflecting again this year on the poetry of these lines which I have long loved:
FOR NOW WE SHALL SEE THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY; BUT THEN FACE TO FACE: NOW I KNOW IN PART; BUT THEN I SHALL KNOW EVEN AS ALSO I AM KNOWN
(I CORINTHIANS 13.12 KJV)
Like all Advent journeys, this one must start in that ‘darkly’ place. I am writing this series in the grip of a deep depression, hoping to create my way out of it and taking some inspiration from the painter Mark Rothko who, when creating a chapel said, “I want to make something you don’t want to look at.” At times during this series it may feel like I don’t want to look: at who I am, at who God is.
Yet, as the spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous reminds me: God comes through the wound.
I want to make something you don’t want to look at
The places in me from which I shy away from looking, whether because of fear or shame, are the very places I need to be looking, if I want to see the God who is both Here, and Then. This series will be about looking at the ways God is present in my here and my now. Most particularly, I will be looking in the places where I think or feel God is absent. I want to know how God might be encountered in the very directions I forget to look.
In her poem ‘cartographies of silence’ Adrienne Rich cautions me, ‘Do not confuse silence with any kind of absence’. Too often I do. For I confuse what I do and don’t know. Further, at Advent I change the metaphors: what was light becomes dark, what was dark becomes light. Yet these are not easy metaphors to relate to my spirituality: ‘knowing’ might be ‘dark’, ‘unknowing’ may be ‘light’.
In the seed, the genes whisper: stretch out for the light
and see the dark
And the tree seeks the light, it stretches out for the dark
And the more darkness it finds, the more light it discovers.
(from Horologium, Reide Eknar)
Once again, I come to the Advent season knowing I have to face the darkness within me and without me. I need to look in the shadowy places I do not want to look, if I am to glimpse a vision of the whole of who I was created to be; if I am to have an encounter with the One who is Whole.
Union is a watery way.
In an eye, the point of light.
In the chest, the soul.
The place where ecstatic lovers go
is called the tavern, where everyone gambles,
and whoever loses has to live there.
So, my love, even if you are the pattern
of time’s orderly passage, do not go,
or if you do, wear a disguise.
But do not cover your chest.
Stay open there.
Someone asks me, What is love?
Do not look for an explanation.
Dissolve into me, and you will know
when it calls. Respond.
Walk out as a lion, as a rose.
Inhale autumn, long for spring.
You that change the dull field,
who give conversation to damaged ears,
make dying alive, award guardianship
to the wandering mind,
you who erase the five senses at night,
who give eyes allure and a blood clot wisdom,
who give the lover heroic strength,
you who hear what Sanai said,
Lose your life, if you seek eternity.
The master who teaches us
is absolute light, not this visibility
Rumi: Bridge To The Soul, Coleman Barks.
3 thoughts on “whole: Sunday 1”
Thank you, Kate, for sharing your words and images this third year.
Sent from my iPhone
You’re very welcome Barbara. Thank you for your encouragement! All blessings on your Advent journey, Kate
You take my breath away. You are strong in your vulnerability. Thank you.