This is what church is for:
sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness
It is a quote from Galway Kinnell’s extraoridnary poem “Saint Francis And The Sow”:
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
“The bud” is the perfect symbol for who/what we are.
Our youngest grand-daughter is not quite one-year-old. Recently, she learned to crawl and now joyfully motors in her slow methodical manner around the house. She is pulling herself up to a standing position and, with someone holding her hands, is taking first tentative steps toward upright ambulation. She is starting to experiment with language. Her vocabulary is limited to “Hi” and “Dadda”, but her comprehension is clearly beyond her ability for expression. She has progressed joyfully from just nursing, to eating almost anything imaginable that can be pureed.
Twenty months ago, she was barely a “bud”. And yet, like every human being, the “bud” that she was such a short time ago, contained all she would need to begin to smile, eat, crawl, talk, walk, and eventually one day compose her own Symphony in G-minor, Op.6, No.6, or write a poem about the pure potentiality of life, paint a picture of a Starry Night, run as fast as her mother, invent a vaccine for the common cold, drive a long distance truck, or conceive and raise children of her own.
A miracle of unfolding is what we all are. We are “long, perfect loveliness” waiting to manifest in form.
Tragically, like all of us, she will forget that
everything flowers, from within.
She will begin to view herself in terms of lack and scarcity. She will start to believe the lie that she needs to find something or acquire something that she lacks. She will stop seeing herself as “the bud” that contains the unlimited potentiality so powerfully evident in the first twenty months of her existence. She will start to define herself by things external to herself and by her ability to have an impact on the world.
Then, she will need relearn her “loveliness.”
She will need to go somewhere that will “retell” her “in words and in touch” that she “is lovely”.
That is what church is for. In words of sacred text, prayers, hymns, sermon, and in touch of hands, voices, and bread and wine, we are reminded of our original loveliness. We gather to support one another in reconnecting with the “bud” of beauty and truth that is our true nature as children created in the image of God. We come to discover again that we each bear within us the powerful potentiality of love.
Church is the place where, even in the midst of “the fodder and slops” and “down through the great broken heart”, we are invited to remember that we can always “flower again from within.”
Thank you Dawna for passing on this beautiful poem
or, as Hafiz put it:
It Felt Love
Did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give to this world
It felt the encouragement of light
We all remain
from “The Gift”
(poems by Hafiz)