Tag Archives: sorrow

19 August, Readings from Mary Webb XXV: The Door.

 

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I heard humanity, through all the years,
Wailing, and beating on a dark, vast door
With urgent hands and eyes blinded by tears.
Will none come forth to them for evermore?
Like children at their father’s door, who wait,
Crying ‘Let us in!’ on some bright birthday morn,
Quite sure of joy, they grow disconsolate,
Left in the cold unanswered and forlorn.
Forgetting even their toys in their alarms,
They only long to climb on father’s bed
And cry their terrors out in father’s arms.
And maybe, all the while, their father’s dead.

Here we see that Mary Webb felt the despair that drew the student artist we mentioned yesterday to take her own life. Mary Webb was very close to her father and devastated by his death. Of course there is more than that event here. One reason the Father’s door seems closed to some of God’s children may be that we Christians are not active enough in keeping it open and welcoming. 

mercydoorkrakow

 

Time to remember the Doors of Mercy around the world: this one was in Krakow, with the light of the candles welcoming us in. Let us have a light in our smile. ready for anyone who comes our way. Our smile is the Father’s smile, a joyful but tremendous responsibility.
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July 13, Readings from Mary Webb XXI: ‘How short a while.’

How short a while –eternities  gone by —
It is since book and candle, half the night,
Consumed the hours, and in the first grey light
I turned and strove for slumber wearily:
But the sad past complained too mournfully,
And wept before me till the dawn grew white;
And the stark future, stripped of all delight,
Loomed up so near — I could but wake and sigh.

Now they are gone. I lie with ungirt will
And unlit candle, sleeping quietly.
Love flows around me with its calm and blessing;
I can but let it take me, and be still,
And know that you, beloved, though far from me,
All night are with me — comforting, caressing.

Let us finish this week with Mary Webb by reading a poem that transcends, rather than denies sorrow. And we can pray that all may feel love’s calm and blessing, flowing around us. Love is not static! It is active,  alive now. Delight can return and will.

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July 12, Readings from Mary Webb, XX: Hunger

modeltrainNot for the dear things said do I weep now;
Not for your deeds of quiet love and duty
Does my heart freeze and starve since you endow
Cold death with beauty.

Just for the look of utter comprehension;
The dear gay laugh that only true hearts know;
For these I would from life’s severe detention
Arise and go.

According to Stanford University’s Mary Webb archive, this poem grew out of grief for her late father. Her own sorrows and trials were to follow.

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July 11, Readings from Mary Webb XIX: The Little Sorrow

 

Within my heart a little sorrow crept
And wept, and wept.
Below the lilt of happiest melodies
I heard his sighs,
And cried–‘You little alien in my heart,
Depart! Depart!’

Amid the loud, discordant sounds of fate,
I listening wait–
Not hoping that a song can reach my ear:
But just to hear
That little weeping grief I once bade cease
Would now be peace.

Mary Webb wrote bravely from the heart. Sorrow below the lilt of happiest melodies: she knows of what she writes. 

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July 10, readings from Mary Webb XVIII: The Neighbour’s Children

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This poem hurts more  than yesterday’s, I feel.
They run to meet me, clinging to my dress,
The neighbour’s children. With a wild unrest
And sobbings of a strange, fierce tenderness,
I snatch them to my breast.
But my baby, ah! my baby
Weepeth–weepeth
In the far loneliness of nonentity,
And holds his little spirit hands to me,
Crying ‘Mother!’ and nearer creepeth;
Beats on my heart’s lit window anxiously,
Shivering and sobbing, ‘Mother, let me in!
Give me my rosy dress, my delicate dress
Of apple-blossom flesh, dark eyes like flowers,
And warm mouth kissed by a red anemone.
Give me my toys–the hills, the seas, the sun,
Loud song, wild winds, the morning’s cloudy towers.
Give hands to hold and ears to hear and feet to run.
Give me my lesson books–fear, love and sin–
All hell to brave, all heaven to win!’

Then, shadowy, wild and wan,
A little face peers in,
Except in dreams unknown even to me,
And like a summer cloud is gone.
It is the neighbour’s children, playing near,
With voices ringing clear.
But far in twilight, like a moon-awakened bird,
Was that another, fainter laugh I heard?

Brockagh School, Co Leitrim, 1969

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July 9. Readings from Mary Webb XVII: Beyond

 

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Far beyond, far beyond,
Deeper than the glassy pond,
My shivering spirit sits and weeps
And never sleeps.

Like the autumn dove that grieves,
Darkly hid in dove-like leaves,
So I moan within a woe
None may know.

Not having children, carrying pain and disfigurement, exiled in London to further her literary career: we can begin to list the trials of Mary Webb, but like all of us, at times she bore a woe that none may know. May we trust that it will pass or that we will learn how to confine it or to tell someone about it.

And may we be ready to listen, trusting the Spirit to give us wisdom when we need it.

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July 8, Readings from Mary Webb XVII. Good-Bye To Morning

speedwell
Mary Webb’s girlhood, as we read yesterday, was a magical time, spent largely out of doors. In adulthood her hyperthyroidism caused her much suffering and brought abut her early death at 47. Here she faces that eventuality.
I will say good-bye to morning, with her eyes
Of gold, her shell-pale robe and crocus-crown.
Once her green veils enmeshed me, following down
The dewy hills of heaven: with young surprise
The daisies eyed me, and the pointed leaves
Came swiftly in green fire to meet the sun:
The elves from every hollow, one by one,
Laughed shrilly. But the wind of evening grieves
In the changing wood. Like people sad and old,
The white-lashed daisies sleep, and on my sight
Looms my new sombre comrade, ancient night.
His eyes dream dark on death; all stark and cold
His fingers, and on his wild forehead gleams
My morning wreath of withered and frozen dreams.

darkevening

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17 March: Before the Cross IV: Fulfilling the prophecies.

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This painting has been the subject of more than one family discussion over the years. But why have I included it in a series about the Crucifixion? Surely this is a Christmastide image?

Well, the man on the right is Saint Luke: see in the background the book open at his Gospel and his beast, the ox, at the small of his back. Luke was thought to have been an artist, responsible for the first icons, and a confidant of Mary, on account of the infancy stories in his Gospel. Here he is in both roles.

At home we have on the wall a framed postcard of the mother and child section of the picture. ‘I’ve seen that look on all your faces,’ my wife tells our now grown up children. It makes Jesus look truly human.

‘But that pose!’

‘That too; a moment of joy, stretching his arms and legs: he has finished drinking his mother’s milk, he’s close to mother, warm summer air playing over his skin.’ Mother and child are there for the artist, and the beholder – you and me – in all their humanity and vulnerability.

As in Luke’s story of the Presentation in the Temple, there is  a foreshadowing  here. This painting is from the studio of Rogier Van der Weyden, but produced after his death. There are other versions including the original in Boston Massachusetts; this is in Bruges at the Groeninge Museum.

Over the Channel in London’s National Gallery is another painting from Van der Weyden’s school, a Pieta.   Here we are kneeling at the foot of the Cross, with Mary and three contemporaries of Van der Weyden (The painting can be dated to mid-15th Century.) If they are invited to come and mourn with her awhile, then so are we; as witnesses we close the circle of prayer, of support for Mary and of sorrow for Jesus’ death.

The Dominican priest on the right is reading from near the end of the  Bible he holds wrapped in blue cloth, but his finger is marking an earlier passage, telling us that the death of Jesus fulfils the prophecies.

The similarity between the pose of Christ in the two images is striking: arms and legs outstretched, head turned to his mother. Intimately, her hand is on his belly in each picture. She remains his mother.

The traumas of the infancy stories in Luke and Matthew point to this moment. Now it is finished. But when Luke came to write the Gospel, and when we and the Dominican friar came to read it, we already knew this was not the end.

May we, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, walk with Jesus and know him in the breaking of bread.

WT

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3 March: Margaret’s Story – as shared by L’Arche Flintshire.

‘I’ve been a part of the Community in Flintshire for a long time. For the last few years I have represented Flintshire on the L’Arche National Speaking Council. This means that occasionally I get to go off to meet up with other Communities and report back what I find out to the group here in Flintshire. 

Two years ago I went to Belgium on an inclusion course and performed a short presentation. From that I got to go to Belfast for the international [L’Arche] gathering. I came up with a workshop for about twelve people. [They were] all my ideas. We played ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’ but instead it was ‘we’re going on a house hunt’ and it was about all the places I’ve been to with L’Arche.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet and know people from the other Communities. I’ve had lots of invitations from people to come and visit– I haven’t managed to go to them all yet, but I’m hoping to. I love L’Arche.

Before L’Arche I was very quiet, although I bet everyone would probably disagree. It’s given me a lot of confidence in myself. I’m a different person. It’s helped me through so much.

L’Arche gives us a chance to feel part of a community. We help each other to grow. We are a friendly group. If we have any sadness or any happiness we all stick together as one. We just lost one of our core members, but everybody is sticking together. We all brought each other up from that.

L’Arche offers the world an awful lot of things. With Jean Vanier doing what he did – just taking two people into his home and from then all of a sudden you go from one Community to 135. It’s a brilliant worldwide thing that we are all in one boat. It doesn’t matter where we come from. We are all one in the boat.’

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2 February: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

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The Nunc Dimittis Canticle is recited every night in the Catholic Church; in Anglican churches, such as Canterbury Cathedral, it is sung during Vespers. It is originally the Song of Simeon; the old man was overcome with joy and peace when he met the little scrap of humanity that was ‘the Salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples.’

That was the easy bit when I was asked to play Simeon in a mystery play at Canterbury Cathedral three years ago. My grandson was already too big for the part but the doll we borrowed did not steal the scene. I could concentrate on the Baby, the Father -and then Mary.

It is a massive shift of key as the prophetic revelation finds utterance, and yet we know it is true: a sword will pierce her heart – indeed there is a tradition of the seven sorrows of Mary. I had to come down from my great joy in an instant and look into Mary’s eyes with an overwhelming compassion that was neither mine, nor yet Simeon’s, but the Father’s.

Thirty years after the Presentation that compassion would be brought to practical life by John.

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This window from Saint Mary’s in Rye, Sussex shows Mary, almost blind with grief, following her adoptive son by the hand. She turns her back on the apple tree of temptation and stumbles trustingly towards the Vine.

The empty Cross is a point of light against the night sky: sorrow will be replaced by joy, overturning the order of Simeon’s vision. This is a John’s Gospel window. We also see the Great Bear in the stars. If a star told of his coming, this constellation points to the North Star by which we can find our way to him.

I am the way.

Anyone who wants to follow me must take up their cross daily and follow me.

 

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