Friday, March 25, 2022

The Annunciation

 

Fra Angelico
Annunciation by Denise Levertov

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,

almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.

She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

____________________________

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.
More often
those moments
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.

______________________________

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.

Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:

to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.

A breath unbreathed,
                                Spirit,
                                          suspended,

                                                            waiting.

Merton with Wendall Berry & Denise Levertov, photo probably by Gene Meatyard

Monday, March 14, 2022

The Time of No Room

 


"The Time of the End is the Time of No Room"

from Raids on the Unspeakable

~Thomas Merton 


We live in the time of no room, which is the time of the end.  The time when everyone is obsessed with lack of time, lack of space, with saving time, conquering space, projecting into time and space the anguish produced within them by the technological furies of size, volume, quality, speed, number, price, power, and acceleration...


As the end approaches, there is no room for nature.  The cities crowd it off the face of the Earth.


As the end approaches, there is no room for quiet.  There is no room for solitude.  There is no room for thought.  There is no room for attention, for the awareness of our state.


In the time of the ultimate end, there is no room for man.


Into this world, this demented inn,

in which there is absolutely no room for Him at all,

Christ has come uninvited.

But because He cannot be at home in it,

because He is out of place in it,

His place is with those others for whom there is no room,

His place is with those who do not belong,

who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak,

those who are discredited,

who are denied the status of persons,

who are tortured, bombed, and exterminated.

With those for whom there is no room,

Christ is present in the world.

He is mysteriously present

in those for whom there seems to be nothing

but the world at its worst. . . .

It is in these that He hides Himself,

for whom there is no room.

Christian Action in World Crisis



Excerpts from Merton's essay, "Christian Action in World Crisis", published in 1962.

Merton's challenge is to build a culture of peace by doing the daily work of justice.  

"Two things are clear, first, the enemy is not one side or the other. The enemy is not just Russia, or China, or Communism, or Castro, or Krushchev, or capitalism, or imperialism. The enemy is both sides. The enemy is in all of us. The enemy is war itself, and the root of war is hatred, fear, selfishness, lust…As long as we arm only against Russia, we are fighting for the real enemy and against ourselves. We are fighting to release the monster in our own soul, which will destroy the world. We are fighting for the demon who strives to reassert his power over mankind. We have got to arm not against Russia but against war. Not only against war, but against hatred. Against lies. Against injustice. Against greed. Against every manifestation of those things, wherever they may be found, above all in our selves.

"…We must avoid two extremes: seeing all good on our side and all evil on their side, or, on the contrary, dismissing both sides as totally evil…


"…we must defend freedom and sanity against the bellicose fanaticism of all warmakers, whether “ours” or “theirs”…we must strive to do so not with force but with the spiritual weapons of Christian prayer and action. But this action must be at once non-violent and decisive. Good intentions and fond hopes are not enough.


"…We oversimplify. We seek the cause of evil and find it here or there in a particular nation, class, race, ideology, system. And we discharge upon this scapegoat all the virulent force of our hatred, compounded with fear and anguish, striving to rid ourselves of our fear by destroying the object we have arbitrarily singled out as the embodiment of all evil. Far from curing us this is only another paroxysm which aggravates our sickness…


"What is needed now is the Christian who manifests the truth  of the Gospel in social action, with or without explanation. Clear and decisive Christian action explains itself, and teaches in a way that words never can…


"Christians have got to speak by their actions. Their political actions must not be confined to the privacy of the polling booth. It must be clear and manifest to everybody. It must speak loudly and plainly the Christian truth, and it must be prepared to defend that truth with sacrifice, accepting misunderstanding, injustice, calumny, and even imprisonment or death. It is crucially important for Christians today to adopt a generally Christian position and support it with everything they have got. This means an unremitting fight for justice in every sphere – in labor, in race relations, in the “third world” and above all in international affairs."

(Passion for Peace, excerpts from p.81-84)

Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

  Map of Matter in the Universe Full sky map from ESA Plank mission showing matter between the earth and the edge of the observable universe...