Tag: child

Inspiring Poetry: Intimations of Immortality

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

          Hath had elsewhere its setting

               And cometh from afar;

          Not in entire forgetfulness,

          And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come 

               From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

               Upon the growing Boy,

But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

               He sees it in his joy

from “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” by William Wordsworth

Perhaps children are more aware of spirituality than adults are. I posted on this recently, then came across Richard Rohr quoting from this wonderful poem by William Wordsworth in Rohr’s book “Falling Upward”.

This post tries to make the link between Wordsworth’s poem and thoughts about childhood and spirituality.

I remember being asked to write an essay at school about evolution, and everything in me (as someone who did not follow any particular spiritual way and certainly not Christianity) protested that all that I was was an advanced form of amoeba.  I struggled to find words for it, though – “humanity”, “emotion” were the best I can remember. As Wordsworth writes:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

          And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come 

               From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Likewise, I remember as a teenager being moved by sunrises, sunsets, powerful songs, beautiful music – what I would now describe as “the transcendent” – what there is in this life that is beyond words, that takes us out of ourselves, that raises us, spiritually.

…he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

               He sees it in his joy

Sometimes people talk about “original sin”, but I think there is also “original awareness” of spirituality. 

To become like a child we do not need to regress in our understanding.  But we may need to be born again to a realisation of the reality of spirit in our humanity, and to a wondrous appreciation of the presence, everywhere, of beauty and transcendence, calling us out of ourselves to God, who is the ultimate transcendence, who is ultimate spirit and being, and who calls us to a relationship that will transcend our dreams and ground our spirit in the greatest love of the universe.

I think Wordsworth put it all so well in his poem!

The Spiritualities of Christianity: Becoming like a Child

Perhaps children are more aware of spirituality than adults are.

I remember being asked to write an essay at school about evolution, and everything in me (as someone who did not follow any particular spiritual way and certainly not Christianity) protested that all that I was was an advanced form of amoeba.  I struggled to find words for it, though – “humanity”, “emotion” were the best I can remember.

Likewise, I remember as a teenager being moved by sunrises, sunsets, powerful songs, beautiful music – what I would now describe as “the transcendent” – what there is in this life that is beyond words, that takes us out of ourselves, that raises us, spiritually.

Christianity is sometimes known as the religion that talks about “original sin”, but I think there is also “original awareness” of spirituality.  Alongside the many evils and sins described in the Bible, from Cain’s murder of Abel to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, there are also many moments of epiphany – Jacob’s ladder, the transfiguration of Christ, the book of Revelation.

And Jesus said “Unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven”.  Children experience wonder and awe at what, to adults, appear the most banal things.  I saw a video on social media, recently, of a very young child unwrapping a banana in gift wrap.  I think it was a light-hearted post by their family, but the child’s overwhelming excitement as she discovered what lay hidden was genuine, infectious and deeply moving.

To become like a child we do not need to regress in our understanding.  But we may need to be born again to a realisation of the reality of spirit in our humanity, and to a wondrous appreciation of the presence, everywhere, of beauty and transcendence, calling us out of ourselves to God, who is the ultimate transcendence, who is ultimate spirit and being, and who calls us to a relationship that will transcend our dreams and ground our spirit in the greatest love of the universe.

Inspiring Paintings: Like a Child 

Inspiring Paintings: Like a Child 

This amazing painting by Giotto captures the dramatic moment when St. Francis of Assisi (on the right, naked) throws off all his clothes in protest to his father (being restrained on the left), who was a rich merchant.

Francis says that he will from now on only follow his “heavenly father” (you can see the hand of God at the top of the painting).

I love the expression on the bishop’s face (who covers up Francis), the children front left who are caught up in the drama without really understanding what is going on, the onlookers, who probably also weren’t exactly sure what was going on apart from a domestic row, and the way Giotto uses the building to highlight the conflict between the two parties.

I wrote this poem about this moment in Francis’ life, captured so beautifully by the painting:

The bishop holds him

like a child

.

And in his nakedness

we see our own condition

.

Without impressiveness

without pretence

.

Open

to grace.