Tag: nature

Inspirers – Francis of Assisi

Why Him?

.

Why him

why him

why him?

.

Because it seems God chose

one so foolish and so poor

.

To show that only

openness to God

is enough.

onlyopenness FOP

This poem was inspired by one of the stories about St. Francis of Assisi, a man open to nature, open to others, especially the disadvantaged and diseased, open to God.

The poem “Canticle of the Sun” was written by St. Francis of Assisi – and maybe this is one of the reasons I am so inspired by him – he was a poet!

“…Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.”

Brother sun

“Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful…”

Sistermoon

Francis was open to nature – in a big way.

I grew up in south London, and even there I connected with brief glimpses of nature’s beauty – a kestrel hovering over a reservoir, or a stunning sunset in the skies over the less inspiring suburban sights of the London Borough of Wandsworth…

When I moved into the countryside for my first full-time job, it felt like both finding a new home, but also coming home, to a kind of spiritual feeling at home, connected, more strongly now, with nature.

 

Walking the Hills

 .

The wild birds inhabit these hills

            and I, a walker,

glancing down the valley

            dazzled by gleaming lights

                        flung across the fields like necklaces

.

I feel connected with the wind

            the grass under my feet

                        God’s sky above my head.

 

connectedFWTS

 The spirituality of St. Francis, and his Franciscan brothers, was an outdoor spirituality, deeply connected with the natural world.  It included praying in the woods – as above – as well as the better-known preaching to birds and talking to wolves.

It was also a felt and lived spirituality, not a dry, theoretical, abstract belief system.

 

In the Wood

.

To one praying in the wood

The word of God came

.

Louder than the human voice

The other saw deeper into Christ

.

Through his tears

Than forests of theologians.

.

seedeeperforests FOP

But the poem with which I began this post – “Why him?” – draws me back to his openness to God, openness to changing his life, and openness to others, including those who were shunned by others.

There is a story about how Francis could not bear the sight of those suffering from leprosy.  But through his openness, “that which was bitter became sweet”.  His whole attitude of mind and heart changed.

 

Bitter Sweet

 .

When the sweet

becomes bitter,

.

The bitter,

sweet,

.

Then you are

on the way,

.

Transformed

from darkness to light.

.

onwaydarklight FOP2

 

Openness is also about the practice of contemplation, and being open to change through grace.

 

Like a Droplet

.

Your nature is absorbed

like a droplet of water

into the mighty ocean

of divinity.

 

absorbedoceandivinity FOP

 

Eternity

 

Raised to the infinite grace

of life and love

.

I plunged into eternity

conscious of nothing created

.

Absorbed in the infinity

of godliness

.

That ocean of light

where nothing is seen

.

But God

In all things.

.

oceanoflight FOP

Openness is also about being open to others – through listening, through imaginative awareness and through compassion.

 

The Welcome

.

We must welcome

the guest

.

Who enters our lives

however briefly

.

Seeking

what we do not know

.

And minister

in unknown ways,

.

Meet many

an angel.

welcometheguest meetangel

If you have read through to the end of this post, I hope you have learned something about St. Francis of Assisi, and what he means to me. 

I hope I might have sparked an interest in you to find out more, and would be happy to recommend some of the books that have inspired me if you are interested.

 

Connected

.

The wild birds

Inhabit these hills

.

And I, a walker,

Glancing down the valley

.

Dazzled by gleaming lights

Flung across the fields like necklaces

.

I feel connected

With the wind

.

The grass under my feet

God’s sky above my head.

.

connectedFWTS

Inspiring Poems: “Wisdom and Spirit of the universe”

” WISDOM and Spirit of the universe!
Thou Soul, that art the Eternity of thought!
And giv’st to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion! not in vain,
By day or star-light, thus from my first dawn
Of childhood didst thou intertwine for me
The passions that build up our human soul;
Not with the mean and vulgar works of Man;
But with high objects, with enduring things,
With life and nature; purifying thus
The elements of feeling and of thought,
And sanctifying by such discipline
Both pain and fear,–until we recognise
A grandeur in the beatings of the heart. “

by William Wordsworth (from “The Prelude”)

Spiritual Reflection: The Stairway to Heaven

You may or may not know this beautiful painting by William Blake

jacob-s-ladder.jpg!Large

…or this older icon…

ladderofdivineascenticon

The both take up a very ancient idea that goes back thousands of years: “he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” is another version (Jacob’s dream, from The Book of Genesis).

My interest in this rekindled when I re-read this:

“the material universe is a ladder by which we may ascend to God”.

St. Bonaventure goes on to describe three ways we can seek God – remarkable in their clarity and accessibility:

  1. “First…we must pass through vestiges which are corporeal and temporal and outside us” (he means “nature”!)
  2. “Next we must enter our mind, ,which is the image of God, an image which is everlasting, and spiritual and within us”
  3. “Finally we must go beyond to what is eternal, most spiritual and beyond us.”

I find that so amazing:

  1. Find God through appreciating the beauty, awesomeness, otherness, power, peacefulness (and more) of nature
  2. Find God through understanding the power of the human mind to think beyond time, to reason, to understand, to empathise (and more)
  3. Find God through what transcends this world: heaven and eternity

I hope you also find this image of the ladder, and St. Bonaventure’s “three ways” inspiring.

Do all three ring true with you, or perhaps one especially?

I wrote this poem, inspired by St. Bonaventure’s ideas:

The three

Ways of seeing

Firstly the world about us

our senses perceive

Secondly the soul within

which only the spirit knows

Thirdly the mind

venturing beyond itself

Into new worlds

unseen and unknown.

outsidewithinbeyond JTG2

Inspirers – William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth inspired me with words about beauty and about transcendence…

beauteousevening Wordsworth

It is a beauteous Evening, calm and free;
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven is on the Sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear’st untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest “in Abraham’s bosom” all the year;
And worshipp’st at the Temple’s inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Poems_(Wordsworth,_1815)/Volume_2/It_is_a_beauteous

He celebrated nature in accessible language, and reached out to mysteries that lie beyond our responses to natural beauty…

daffodils wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:

.

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Poems_(Wordsworth,_1815)/Volume_1/I_wandered_lonely

I warmed to the way he wrote so openly about the spiritual consolations of nature.

This tribute I wrote was deliberately written in an imitation of Wordsworth’s style…

Tribute to Wordsworth

 

Often when the dreadful weight of this

Unintelligible and weary world

Oppressed me like a care, I turned thankful

To your poetry – I felt it move

Along my veins, inside my heart, when I

Was young and saw into the life of things.

That was a blessed time, though transitory,

And soon I had to leave to find my own

Philosophy, though nature always kept

A place of refuge and a solace for

My soul.  And now in lonely cities, in

My room and ‘mid the roar of nearby roads,

I think of you, and I recall my early

Wanderings in the world of poetry.

placerefuge JOC

That photograph is of his beloved Lake District, where he grew up – a place where I have visited and have also been inspired.

In the previous poem I echoed some of his phrases he uses in his poem “Tintern Abbey”

When I visited this awesome place, I too felt its power, and wrote this:

Tintern Abbey

 

Framing the hills

made sacred by those

Who devoted this space

of body and mind

Whose dedication

was to the rock

they adored

We tread again

their foundations

Gaze upward as they did

to distant frontiers

Where angels constantly cross

the boundaries of time

Call to us in their hymns

to attend to the music of God.

tinternabbey JOC

In another poem, Wordsworth says that we are born “trailing clouds of glory” – an inspiring thought (‘Intimations of Immortality’).

clouds of glory

I hope I may have inspired you to read Wordsworth yourself.  ‘My Heart Leaps Up’  and  ‘Lines Written in Early Spring’ are beautiful short poems to read next, perhaps…

Inspirers: St. Bonaventure

You may or may not know this beautiful painting by William Blake:

jacob-s-ladder.jpg!Large

…or this older icon…

ladderofdivineascenticon

They both take up a very ancient idea that goes back over thousands of years.

He saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it

Jacob’s dream, from The Book of Genesis

St. Bonaventure seized my interest with his own account of life as an upward journey in one of my favourite books – Journey of the Mind to God – in which he refer to

the material universe is a ladder by which we may ascend to God”.

St. Bonaventure goes on to describe three ways we can seek God – remarkable in their clarity and accessibility.

1. “First…we must pass through vestiges which are corporeal and temporal and outside us” (he means “nature”!)

2. “Next we must enter our mind, which is the image of God, an image which is everlasting, and spiritual and within us”

3. “Finally we must go beyond to what is eternal, most spiritual and beyond us.”

I find that so amazing:

  1. Find God through appreciating the beauty, awesomeness, otherness, power, peacefulness (and more) of nature
  2. Find God through understanding the power of the human mind to think beyond time, to reason, to understand, to empathise (and more)
  3. Find God through what transcends this world: heaven and eternity

Do all three ring true with you, or one especially, or none at all?

What follows is one of a number of poems I have written, inspired by St. Bonaventure:

.

The three

Ways of seeing

.

Firstly the world about us

our senses perceive

.

Secondly the soul within

which only the spirit knows

.

Thirdly the mind

venturing beyond itself

.

Into new worlds

unseen and unknown.

outsidewithinbeyond JTG2

The Stepping Stones to Eternity

This sequence was inspired by St. Bonaventure’s work, ‘Journey of the Mind to God’.

.

I came upon his words

and set my mind to understanding

.

how the world could teach me

the mystery of God

.

steppingstones toeternity JTG1

.

I had heard of nature

as the book of God

.

But never had the notion

rooted deep in my mind

.

Now I was confronted

by the words of a saint

.

For whom this was a grace

to be received

.

A journey to God

through the vestiges

.

Of his glory

in the living universe

.

gloryliving universe JTG1

.

So let us begin

with the beginning

.

The source of all

from whom streams all

.

Energy

matter

.

Being

all of creation

.

allenergy JTG1

.

The Father

of lights

.

From whom is every good

and perfect gift

.

We pray to the Father

the invisible one

.

to enlighten our mind

in the ways of peace

.

which surpass

all humankind

.

enlightenmind

 

.

We pray

to the God

.

of beginnings

and the Father of all

.

That from eternity

somehow our understanding

.

even if slowly

perhaps imperceptibly

.

As our eyes adjust

gradually

.

to the dawning light

will grow

.

We do not know

who else may be praying

.

for us at this time

perhaps many people

.

perhaps no-one on earth

but heaven may be inclining

.

even now

and whispering in the ear

.

Remember Francis

who greeted in peace

.

Announced peace before all

prayed in ecstasy for peace

.

Following the man of peace

we worship

.

Whose honour was

nailed to a post

.

in spite of all the love

and the healing he gave

.

For Francis, grace came

in a revelation

.

of meaning

of vision

.

For me it is gleaned

from these words

.

in another tongue

in the soaring of contemplation

.

to be still

silent

.

attentive

pondering over and over

.

to consider and take to heart

a truth for today

.

To escape

the merely active life

.

And dwell

in imagination

.

Allowing God

to brush the spirit

.

with the Spirit

of Consolation

.

His call is to pass beyond

to peace

.

Through the most ardent love

of the crucified

.

Like Paul

who was raised

.

to the highest heaven

yet nailed to the cross

.

the heart of Christ

beating within

.

Francis bore the signs

of the passion

.

On his body

in his soul

.

For us to follow

devote ourselves

.

To the suffering saviour

so spurned today

.

In prayer

I throw my heart

.

at his feet

and wonder why

.

it must be this way

Heaven is silent

.

yet images of crucifixion

linger in the mind

.

I realise the hidden faith

of love giving himself

.

again and again

stretching out

.

offering an open heart

which is lashed by an evil world

.

No other way

has this man at the centre

.

The crossroads

the X that marks

.

the new beginning

the intersection

.

of heaven

and humanity

.

Incarnation

in a tortured death

.

How strange

yet how universal

.

There are stages of illumination

and they say

.

We must very often return

to our beginning

.

as we grow our wings

like the seraph Francis saw

.

who pierced his soul so tenderly

there are stages of progression

.

as we climb heavenwards in heart

from creation to Creator

.

from nature to nothing

we can imagine

.

And we enter by this door

to find pasture

.

and the tree of life

it is by prayer

.

that our desire is kindled

prayer and the mind

.

turning intensely to God

who is our light

.

So the first call

is to prayer

.

and that through the crucified Christ

for the spiritual life

.

does not consist merely

in study or meditation

.

there must also be fervour and devotion

wonder

.

joy

grace

.

humility

and love

.

To any who are disposed

to seek for grace in all humility

.

To those with the desire

for wisdom

.

Who wish to glorify

saviour God

.

These words are meant

remembering that the soul herself

.

Must first be cleansed

if the eyes are to see

.

Beyond the window of the world

to look to God

.

Exercise your heart

in reading these things

.

as well as your mind

take your time

.

for these words

are the stepping stones

.

To

Eternity.