It’s hard to believe that this time, three years ago, we were in the heart of a national lockdown. The second lockdown was harder than the first. Nature seemed so comforting throughout the first lockdown. Ireland enjoyed splendid weather and as we became more mindful and less hectic, most of us discovered mystery and beauty in the environs around us. The second lockdown was far more dramatic, because no doubt it was accompanied by the harsh reality, of winter darkness. As we move through the month of November I’m conscious, that for many, this is a time, when often winter darkness, can weigh heavily on our mood and energy. Ultimately we all respond to the light, we all need light, and its absence can affect our mood.
One of the benefits, if any regarding the pandemic times, was that people felt less pressurised, involuntarily we were all forced to take a deep breath to move and live in a different gear. Time is a sacred gift, time seemed to be more abundant and one could be present and aware of our sense of place, often fuelled with deep gratitude for things we may take for granted.
Gratitude is a great starting point when it comes to prayer. Prayer, by its very nature, is the language of the soul. Prayer engages us with a higher power, something beyond just the tangible and in that sacred space, we tap into a spiritual conversation whereby we can find strength, meaning and purpose in our lives. For many prayer is a challenging endeavour, so many other realities, can compete for our attention, yet by discipline and human desire to nourish our prayer life, we can grow and indeed become the best version of our unique selves. There are many formulas regarding traditional prayer, and all are helpful but often the most profound prayer can be in the silence and comfort of simply realising we are not alone, that God is very close to us, as Saint Paul prays, “In him we live and move and have our being”.
A Poem on Prayer, by Mary Oliver
The poem is written by Mary Oliver, who was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2007 The New York Times described her as “far and away, this country’s best-selling poet.”
I love this short simple poem and what it points to in prayer. I hope and pray it would be a blessing to you.
It doesn’t have to be the blue iris,
It could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones;
Just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate,
This isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.
The Sacrament of Waiting
Slowly she celebrated the sacrament of letting go.
First she surrendered her green, then the orange, yellow, and red, finally she let go of her brown.
Shedding her last leaf she stood empty and silent, stripped bare.
Leaning against the winter sky she began her vigil of trust.
Shedding her last leaf she watched its journey to the ground.
She stood in silence wearing the colour of emptiness, her branches wondering;
How do you give shade with so much gone?
And then, the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes they kept her hope alive.
They helped her understand that her vulnerability, her dependence and need, her emptiness,
her readiness to receive, were giving her a new kind of beauty.
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence and celebrated together the sacrament of waiting.