Invitation to Poetry: Illumination

Poetry Party #28!  I select an image and suggest a title and invite you to respond with your poems, words, reflections, quotes, song lyrics, etc. Leave them in the comments or email me and I’ll add them to the body of the post as they come in along with a link back to your blog if you have one (not required to participate!)

Feel free to take your poem in any direction and then post the image and invitation on your blog and encourage others to come join the party!

Today — December 8th — is both the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Christian Tradition and the Enlightenment of the Buddha in Buddhist Tradition.  The Immaculate Conception honors the conception of Mary without sin, illuminating her purity and grace from the moment she was conceived in her own mother’s womb in preparation for her to give birth to God. In Orthodox tradition, Mary is know as Theotokos, which means God-bearer. December 8th also marks the observance of the Buddha achieving enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. The word enlightenment is derived from the idea of becoming filled with light, light symbolizing clarity and wisdom.

I spent the last five days with a luminous group of women leading them in a retreat of praying the Hours using art and movement. It was a great gift to witness their creative unfolding in the rhythm of these days, their beauty as they freed themselves to follow their own impulses and desire for expression. I had them write poetry and create a contemporary version of the Book of Hours, which in medieval times were illuminated manuscripts.  They were considered illuminated because of the use of gold or silver which reflected light and symbolized the radiance of the divine Source.

We are in the season of darkness and in the coming days the darkness will grow.  I love winter darkness and celebrate its gifts.  There is, for me, a kind of luminous beauty that radiates from darkness. To become illuminated means that one carries a light within rather than seeking it from another source.  Just like Mary and Buddha, we each carry the spark of the divine flame. The mystics have told us this for centuries.

This is a rather long prelude, but my invitation to you this week is to write a poem in honor of the call to illumination.  In the growing darkness of these days, might you discover your own brilliance and the brilliant beauty of the world?  The image below was taken at the retreat center (on the Hood Canal) one evening when the world was luminous.




Winter dusk,
the rouge glow of sunset
is wonderful.
The open mind
of an urban monk at night
is pristine.


(editor’s note: kigen was the one who originally alerted me to the wonderful confluence of these two feasts on December 8th — thank you kigen!)

like a face flushed with passion,
the water draws me

like embers glowing brightly,
the pink sky draws me

but beyond the sky,
below the water’s surface,
lies velvet darkness

the light is not theirs–
like us, they hold it briefly
but it slips away

it will come again,
once more to be reflected,
filling us with hope

-amy at a square peg breaks free


“consent illumined her (them/us)”

(excerpt from a Denise Levertov poem — you can see more of it over at lucy’s blog)

-Kayce Hughlett at lucy in the sky with diamonds


Last night I walked an advent labyrinth.  The room was lit with candles and filled with cello music.  The labyrinth was surrounded by large incomplete works of art – each inspired by the Magnificat.  Incomplete and pregnant with possibility, the art work set the stage for contemplation.  A moth danced around the room – darting from flame to flame.  As one participant observed that the moth would either be delighted or distraught at the multitude of flame options, I was led to ponder the lights in my life.

Am I delighted or distressed by my options?  I too am pregnant with incomplete work – when will I give birth?  What will it be?  Will it look like its Father?  After all, the creation within me is due to His actions within me.  I am the moth to the eternal flame.  And I am distracted by the many small flames that surround me.  This light, planted within me, is pure potential…a forest fire that causes me to tremble in fear and excited expectation.  The flames that distract will flicker and go out but the flame within me will join with the eternal flame and never be extinguished.  LORD may Your light sustain me.  May Your light draw forth that which You have placed within me.  I am your servant.  May it be with me as You have willed.



of birth
and death,
the depths
of her
this evening,
loves’ truth
who have

-Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes


Reflections of peacefulness

Before the demands of the day
Letting go
Setting aside a myriad of concerns
Letting go

Where do the thin, streaming clouds end
The ripples of water begin

What is this space
That lies between

Ripples of consciousness
Finding peace everywhere I look
From within
And from without



Prayer for Illumination
[Audire ’05]

Holy Presence, Wholly Present
Complete me
Through Christ
So that
I might be
a holy presence, wholly present.




Light is the absence
Of darkness,
Darkness is the absence
Of light,
Via negativa
Opens our eyes
To see the bundle
Of colored pencils
God grasps each night
To color the sky
One last time
To fill our hearts
With awe
Before we begin
To illuminate
Our own dreams.

-Rich at Pilgrim Path


I hope it flows from me ……

The illumination….

Flows to and fro….

I hope it glows…..

And it grows….

Flows to His will….

Flows form His will…..

Illuminate me…..

I would love that….

Expressions of the light aglow inside of me….

Forever it goes….

Out of His loving awareness….

Gently giving it wings….

It embraces me…

In a space that is altar….

May it all always pull me….

To His everlasting light…

Illuminate me…

Sending me….

To His trusted path…

Always leading me…

Keeping me…

In His light…

Always there…

In every moment…

Guiding me…

Illuminate me…

Sounds of Him….

In the center of my soul…

Illuminate me…

Tears always come…

Illuminate me…

Let go…

Let God…

Illuminate me…

The voice is gentle…

The only place I want to be…

In the hands of God…

Illuminate me…

Just let it….

Join me…

Here is the call…

Illuminate me…

Receive the gift…

Hold it…

Illuminate me…

Through all that it is Divine…


Illuminate me….

Blessed are we….


We are always there for you…

Illuminate me…

Open and free in your love and light…

Thank you…

Illuminate me…



Just a Spark

O heaven and earth,
in this season of Advent,
of anticipation and waiting,
of carols and candles,
bring again Your spark of Light and Hope
that You may
light the deep dark,
enter the despair,
sit with the doubts,
caress the fears,
ease the depression.
I ask only for a spark,
enough to splash colors of
rose and burgundy and violet
across my barren soul.

-Cathy at It’s a Matter of Thyme


Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found Him,
As angel he ralds said.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

O Savior, Child of Mary, who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!

My hymnal attributes it to “German carol, 15th century,
arranged by Michael Praetorius, 1609.”
(Submitted by Martha Louise Harkness)


The candle light
is waning the wax
is melting,
and dulcimer
and flute are playing
“The Friendly Beasts,”
and I am alone
with my thoughts
on this dark morn…
Come, Lord Jesus
my heart is wick;
ignite it.
My words are wax;
melt them
Make this day
a day for dancing
and humming
however gently
down hospital halls
into infirmary rooms.
Melt the gloom,
let your light shine
within me for my
small world—a manger—
to see more of Thee
and less of me.

-Martha Louise Harkness


Colors of dusk
give passion to our journeys,
the night travelers–
soon your light will glow through
this window instead of my dreams.

Bette Norcross Wappner (b’oki.)


We yearn for the light
We ache to hear, to see, to respond
Confused, lonely we wrap ourselves in silence, listening, praying, being
Warmed by the cover, encouraged by a spark, we throw off the shroud and pursue the fire

-Sunrise Sister at Mind Sieve


luminist painters revealed light–
we otherwise wouldn’t see
luminaries in arts, in sports, in politics, too–
are more than usually visible
luminarias show pathways–
during a season of darkness
the smile on your face–
illuminates your love
J the B decreases because in him, just as in us–
the light of Jesus Christ increases…
illuminating the world!

-Leah Sophia at This Far by Faith



Your arrivals and departures
in luminosity
of searing beauty
that rent water
between firmaments
leave me dripping
Your light when I close my eyes.

Christine Eleanor Merritt


Just the right moment
when all is still
and all is at rest
there! I see it!

The way across…
the way through…
the path beyond
reflected in my heart.

It’s known as reality –
a place to bring vision
and joy and peace and light
where there is blindness
and anger and brokenness and darkness.

More than ever,
as You shine within my heart
I know I am made
to spread that Light.

– Deb Vaughn at An Unfinished Symphony
Advent 2008

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to You;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to You.
Psalm 139:11-12



Red sky at night
must mean that
I left my rose-colored
glasses on again.Red sky in morning
burns my eyes.
Close the blinds
and let me sleep
some more.

But then, I’m
by a voice:
You must be
the light
you want to see
in the world.

Old man
you knew a few
things about light.
still reigns
in the country
you loved.
Show us how
to banish it

Kievas Fargo


Look to the light.
Let it lead you
through the darkness.

Lean towards the light
like the trees on
the crumbling hillside.

Watch for the sunrise.
Let it soak into your spirit,
crimson and gold.

Peter was told.
Keep your eyes on the light
and you can walk on water.

-Pamela McCauley


No fear of release
The profuse color of day
surely comes again.



Enter: the Light

Illumination, is a choice.
The Light comes in,
through the open door;
flung wide by a heart
ready for blinding, painful
becoming. Mary sat,
under an olive tree,
lifted her chin, bravely:
“be it unto me…”
and became: Theotokos,
a Bodhisattva for
the children
God was calling:
to open.
The Buddha, sitting
under his Bodhi tree
felt the universe
wake up, and smiled
a wide, deep, endless
smile: midwifing the world.
They sat together,
bare foot and young,
hearts open. Singing
a lullaby to suns
born in their laps,
and playing with tops
made of stars.
Listen, listen, creation
whispers: wake up,
take up the Light
and bear the sweet,
burning, theos
within your heart.

-Josephine at Turn Left at Joy


in dark places

in me
in every place

please put away the snuffer and nurture the flame

-Mavis at Set the Bird Free

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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