Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

Poet and Contemplative

“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

Mercy, a Definition


~written at Marylake Monastery


Mercy is, or is not, Beauty.
Mercy is, or is not, maybe, the fact
That there is Beauty, the sudden
Onslaught of it at work among us.

Day starts up, and
The spirit that animates such things
Apportions, first, fire, then a gentler lyricism
Upon this fog that lingers over the lake.
Alongside it stirs the further consideration that it's
Mid-October, which can be a
Nostalgic time of year for me.

How the fog fluffs itself up like a feather pillow,
How it flits off like a wisp of cloud.
Yes, the fog has become a cloud, has become
Somebody's hand drawn back,
A hand that once rested on my shoulder.

"Finally I've found someone," it said,
"Someone in this crowd of things who knows
Beauty, although what chance is there
That he'll understand who he is?"

“Consolations come and go while mercy
Abides.  It is self-perpetuating, like time."  "Today's
Shiny brass doorknob becomes
A lifetime of sunlight."

These two sayings I carry around
Inside me.  That way I'll never have to replace them.
There's no need to grasp at Beauty.  Nor any need

To plead, saying, "Be merciful, be merciful."

*

Interpretive note:

        Is this a difficult poem?  Probably.  The poem identifies mercy with beauty because of the way both seem to partake of grace.  Thus, both can serve to soften the soul and grant it spiritual healing.
        Stanzas 2 and 3 describes the break of day and how the rising sun burns the fog off the lake.  The scene is one of quiet beauty, with a twinge of nostalgia.  It touches the poet with a sense of blessing, like a hand resting on his shoulder.
        And then in stanza 4 this moment of beauty speaks, and we realize that the moment has been one of a divine drawing near, even though the poet may not have been fully aware of this presence.
        Yet the poet has, as expressed in the final two stanzas, come to understand something.  Mercy, like beauty, he believes, is a grace freely bestowed.  There is no need to plead.  Mercy, like beauty, shines upon us like the newborn sun gently lifting the fog off the lake.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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