Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

Provincial Blog

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“From the abundance of his spirit [the poet] pours out secrets and mysteries rather than rational explanation” (Prologue, The Spiritual Canticle).

“In contemplation God teaches the soul very quietly and secretly, without its knowing how, without the sound of words” (Chapter 39, The Spiritual Canticle).

In the spirit of St. John of the Cross, this blog reflects on the contemplative experience and the poetic experience, sometimes separately and distinctly, sometimes in common, as mutually enlightening.

I will also post to this blog, from time to time, my own poetry, with a short interpretive note attached.

~ Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD

Conjuring Up the Eternal – Part 6 of 7

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Conjuring Up the Eternal – Part 4 of 7

IV.OtherworldlinessFor long years, or so the Anchoress confessed,The sooty black bricks of night encased her onEvery side.  And yellow smoke rose like incenseEach morning.  "One would think I livedIn a chimney," she sighed.  Yet the smell of peasAnd carrots, of beans simmering in a pot,Spiraled slowly upward on invisible wings,While the pulp she squeezed from meaty applesMerited the
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Conjuring Up the Eternal – Part 1 of 7

As those of you who read this blog may have noticed, I've discontinued the practice of attaching interpretive comments to my poems.  I felt too uncomfortable doing it, wanting the poem to speak for itself.But it has been suggested to me that, following each poem, I conclude with a simple question, something to prime the pump (to coin a phrase) of reflection for the reader.  It seemed like
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The City and Beyond ~ Four Poems – Part 4

At Home~central IllinoisI've reentered the land of cornfields.No pioneer trail preceded me here, onlyA magic carpet of golden corn husksAnd the wind-swept linen of a clear blue sky.There is just one way for me to returnTo a life lived among shattered sidewalksWhere the city's tangled paths twist and turn,And that way is forever closed to me.I lounge, rather, in the shade of an oak treeHoarding the
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Five Advent Poems – Part 4

IV.At the Deathbed of St. John of the CrossAnd when you died, we felt your hands trembling in ours; or was it our handsTrembling in yours?  The night had won through to us and stoopedAt the door like some beast come home to its cave; we heard itPurring contentedly--the fireplace ablaze, logs aflame.Maybe it was just your last, strangely tender breathing we heardSpread through the room like sleeping
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Mercy, a Definition

~written at Marylake MonasteryMercy is, or is not, Beauty.Mercy is, or is not, maybe, the factThat there is Beauty, the suddenOnslaught of it at work among us.Day starts up, andThe spirit that animates such thingsApportions, first, fire, then a gentler lyricismUpon this fog that lingers over the lake.Alongside it stirs the further consideration that it'sMid-October, which can be aNostalgic time of
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At Day's End

~after a conference on St. ThereseWe knocked at the door.  Did she answer?A sprinkle of rain brightened the streets,The trees, the lawns, the sidewalks--The city shone, and her eyes everywhereLooked out as if from behind a window.Hardly daring a smile, she turned and hid.In time a rainbow appeared, traced backTo her open hands . . . She had tossedA white dove in the air and said:  Be free,Free
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Meeting the Sacred

--written at Marylake MonasteryThe moon rises, as if the disk could fill the black cave,Its entrance, then the topography of the place, Flowing out along paths that cross the lake:“No more weepingThis evening,"It says, its beauty keeping.How simple the saint I possess like anOld boat, whose love spans the whole lake,How easily its voice treads the water:I echo off the shorelineAnd sit under
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God's Mercy, and Beauty – Part 2 of 2

  It is important to remember that beauty is not an attribute that simply adheres to or belongs to a thing—be it a natural object or scene, or a person, or a work of art.  Beauty, rather, is a moment of revelation.  We grasp it, it grasps us.  It is born of an interplay between our interior awareness and this something or someone, which interplay ends up bestowing on
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God's Mercy, and Beauty – Part 1 of 2

  Mercy and beauty have this much in common, they are both ecstatic.  By "ecstatic" I mean a movement of mind or heart that goes out from the self towards the other.  Ecstasy, while nothing like rapture, does entail, like rapture, a certain measure of self-forgetfulness.  Either I am drawn out of my usual self-absorption by an absorption or fixity upon another person
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The Attitude of Letting Go

        The following is from a poem by Jessica Powers, whom I referred to in my previous blog post.  The poem is entitled "Everything Rushes, Rushes."         . . . everything in creation rushes, rushes        toward God--all trees, small bushes,        quick birds and fish, the beetles round as naught, 
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Prayer and Sabbath Rest - Part 2

        (3)  "The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments."        Here is a truth we must continually remind ourselves of.  Information is power.  So we crave it, we seek it.  It gives our work, and therefore our persons, the edge over others. 
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The Stars in Winter

I have joined their number, they who once said, “O winding staircase,That empties into the sky, you are my prayer this night.”The dark that peopled the streets and parks, the room grown still,It fills my eyes as sleep comes from afar, from across the sea.You were here with me, you always were, you never left.What did you whisper throughout the day, what secrets for survival? To see the
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The Main Course--What is Contemplation? (Part Two)

St. John of the Cross        I've somewhat lost my train of thought in these reflections on the topic of contemplation which I've been pursuing, or have meant to be pursuing, in this blog.  No matter.  I'm not going to go back and try to recover it.  Instead, I'll forge ahead.        What, then, is contemplation? 
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The Main Course—What is Contemplation? (Part One)

       There is a poem by Denise Levertov--an English poet who spent much of her life in the US, and who died in 1997 at the age of 74—which was written towards the end of her life, and which gives expression to a truth of the human spirit gained through a lifetime of poetic practice.  The poem is entitled “Sojourns in the Parallel Word," and in part it
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Poetry - 3rd in a Series

Nightfall    1.The moon is full, wedged in at the top of the hill.Its floodgates open, and the goldenLandscape of day recedesReceiving a river of innocence and awe.A silver age follows, An age of journeys into the night.Tall trees sway and wave us on, stirred by the wakeful dead.There is something miraculousIn the way we do not doubtThese moments are truthful and good.   
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A First Serving (the poem The Dark Night)--Part Two

       How does one express in poetry the experience of divine love?  One can try to do so directly, by using direct statement, and writing explicitly religious verse.  St. John of the Cross adopts this approach, and accomplishes it masterfully, in his poem The Living Flame of Love.       But usually this approach—to capture
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Poems for Holy Week - 4 of 4

What the Angels SangAnd then he will send out the angels and gather his electfrom the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.    ~Mk 13:27If we were to start to tell their names, so many,One by one, the sky would soon fill with light, the treesAwaken, and the air wrap itself in folds of woolRound the rows of houses standing out in the cold.Soon it would happen .
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Poems for Holy Week - 3 of 4

At the Burial of Jesus You went and the hilltop shuddered, loosed of its burden.The air tastes of salt, here so very far from the sea.It is strange.  The waves are churning, the tide rolls in,The sun sets; very quietly and hastily we finish.Each goes off to his own house.  We do not say Good-bye.  Shall we meet again tomorrow?When we had sealed the tomb, when everyone living at that
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Poems for Holy Week - 2 of 4

At the CrossYour hands and arms are thrown wide, For you are trying to stand very still; there’s not much earthLeft to you, and what is burns like a torch.Smoke curls upward and disappears:We watch the day end.  Night droops like a tent; we tie down the flap.Now we must let our talk expand, let our dreams roam wide,Then return, stepping forth into the light.  We seeThe thought of them
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Poems for Holy Week - 1 of 4

Good Friday    1.The sun sets slowly, an eyeball of wrath, unblinking; Dogs begin to bark.  In a far corner of the worldA watchman ceremoniously lowers a flag and folds itFor the night.  He has done this before;He will do it this last time.  Then the long farewell Will have ended.  He who once was among us will have gone.    2.The wind picks up and
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Poetry - 2nd in a Series

Previously, I submitted two poems posted on our provincial blog, the Discalced Carmelite Friars - Province of St. Therese.  As part of the re-organization of our blogs, those two poems are being moved to this blog, Poet and Contemplative, as part of a Poetry series. Here is the second poem.  A short interpretive note follows.  Into AfternoonWe knew all along about the shadows, howThey
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Poetry - First in a Series

My intention is, from time to time, to submit poems I’ve written and have them posted on this blog, Poet and Contemplative. Previously, I submitted two poems to the Discalced Carmelite Friars - Province of St. Therese Blog. In re-organizing the blogs of our province, those two poems are now being moved to this one. Here is the first. For those of you who enjoy poetry, I hope they will speak
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A First Serving (the poem The Dark Night)--Part One

        I've been speaking in the opening three posts of this blog—which I've called, "Setting the Table"—about the act of creation, both divine and human.  But I’ve been doing so in much too abstract a way.  It's time to get specific and look at a particular instance of, in this case, poetic creation—a well-known instance, the poem
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Setting the Table—Part Three

        St. John of the Cross has little to say about poetry itself or the process of its composition.  What he does have to say is almost exclusively to be found in the prologue to his commentary on The Spiritual Canticle, where he discusses, briefly, the sources of his inspiration and the manner of his poetic expression.  For example, in the first paragraph
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Setting the Table—Part Two

        The following lines are from a poem by Kathleen Raine, a British poet and scholar who died in 2003:    And must I then take pity on    The raging of the storm    That rose up from the great abyss    Before the earth was made,    That pours the stars in cataracts    And
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