Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
Day 4 of our new Birthing the Holy prayer cycle honors Mary as Our Lady of Silence and Our Lady of the Underworld. The first reading for Morning Prayer is excerpted from Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude:
Let me seek, then, the gift of silence, and poverty, and solitude, where everything I touch is turned into prayer: where the sky is my prayer, the birds are my prayer, the wind in the trees is my prayer, for God is in all.
Mark S. Burrows will be leading a retreat for us next Saturday, June 4th on the concept of HeartWork (Herzwerk) in Rilke’s poetry. He has this beautiful reflection to share with us:Already the barberries are ripening with reds
and the garden’s wilting asters breathe their last.
Whoever’s not rich now, as the summer has passed
will wait, and wait, and never come to know themselves.
Those who can’t now close their eyes,
assured that a harvest of faces still lies
waiting within them, for night’s coming,
to rise in their inner darkness: –
it’s over for them, as if they’re an old person.
Nothing more will come, no new day unfold,
and everything lies to them that still might be;
even you, my God. For you are like a stone
that pulls them daily down into the deep.
From “The Book of Pilgrimages” in The-Book-of-Hours
(translation by Mark S. Burrows)
I’ve loved this poem since I first read it many years ago—for the way it unsettles my complacence. For the way it evokes the sacredness of time in its long journey in me. For how it beckons me into the hidden depths of my own “self” where everything is alive. Where everything is becoming. Everything. Including my own self.
What is that “harvest of faces” within us? Memories of those we’ve known—and lost? The presence of those we have loved, or feared? Images of those who’ve loved or hurt us? Rilke is pointing something essentially unknowable and yet ever present in the depths of who we are. There, in that darkness, lie the seeds of what yet will be—of us. Of the one we are becoming. Here, what lives is not the past with its memories, or not only this. Nor the future we can only hope for or dread. No, these depths hold an assurance we also long for. They point to the life that is always unfinished. Always still waiting for us to indwell it with its unexpected newness.
For the openness of your life depends both on what was and on what “still might be” for you. When you become open to this startling truth, you begin to find yourself not as a guest in your own life. In that solitude, you might begin to discover yourself as the host of each “new day” as it unfolds in your life. Even today.
Imagine you are writing an epitaph for your gravestone. What would you write on it? Would you chronicle the financial investments you made that brought you wealth? Would you list your professional accomplishments? Did any of that help you discover who you were in the depths of your soul?
Rilke is talking here about riches that cannot be measured in external terms. These are hidden from the crowd and cannot be measured in outward ways. As you imagine these riches in your life, ask yourself what it would take to devote more of your time and energy to cultivating them. What would you let go of—grudges or griefs, fears or fantasies—to make room for that inner work? What would making such “space” bring you here and now? What are you waiting for?
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Image © Christine Valters Paintner