Finding the Art in Everything

16 May, 2008


I recently picked up The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus by Brennan Manning. I have been hungry for something lately--hungrier than usual and even less satiable. When I was browsing my dad's bookshelves for a commentary on Isaiah (yup... still working on that one), the book triggered some recognition I still can't identify, so I pulled that one too.

At the same time, I have been lately nagged by the phrase "And the Word became Flesh."

I wonder if I don't spend too much time in the theoretical when it comes to Jesus. I can argue my faith, I have made a great context for it again and again in the ideas and events I have encountered in my studies this year. But in all of this reading and research, I have been wrestling with a great sense of practical agnosticism. I know God can, but I don't know if God would for me.

I more than carry that characteristic American pragmatism and self-reliance. Couple that with my dominant image of God as the creator and sustainer of the universe, and I am left with the awareness of God but not seeing how it's supposed to fit with what I see and experience on a much-smaller-than-cosmic scale.

And then I remember Jesus. And I see that I have been forgetting the point at which, according to St. John, the Word became flesh. When I reexamine my day, it is so easy to see why something other than this esoteric cosmic force is needed--I need something to combat the confusion, the fear, the good-byes, the resentment, the worry, and the failure. And I need something big enough to explain the joy and the hope that still runs through all of these things.

So I return to the figure of Jesus, and I find the answers to the fleshiest, most human daily agonies:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matt 11:28-30

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you?...Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. " Matthew 5:26-34

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:11-13

" But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you... Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" Matthew 5:27-34

04 May, 2008

May Poems

El Hombre
William Carlos Williams

It’s a strange courage
you give me ancient star:
Shine alone in the sunrise
toward which you lend no part!

From Al Que Quiere! The Four Seas Company, 1917


Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

CANNOT tell you how it was;
But this I know: it came to pass
Upon a bright and breezy day
When May was young; ah, pleasant May!
As yet the poppies were not born
Between the blades of tender corn;
The last eggs had not hatched as yet,
Nor any bird forgone its mate.

I cannot tell you what it was;
But this I know: it did but pass.
It passed away with sunny May,
With all sweet things it passed away,
And left me old, and cold, and grey.

"May" is reprinted from Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress and Other Poems.

Christina Rosetti. London: Macmillan 1879.