Discalced Carmelite Friars

Semi 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

Poetry - 4th in a series


Awash with a shallow stream of light, the chapel braces
To witness the Spirit come forth at this hour.

He rides as though over stones polished smooth
And shimmering with wakefulness,
The sound that of a swift gallop under rain.  He does not stop.

I offer him the setting sun of my sadness,
Whose shadows lean in, trying to make themselves his own.
If only he could find his way to me across this sea of fire,

Then my sadness would burn like coal and arise
Like diamond, becoming night.

There is a word for my predicament—which is Yes.  Confusion
Spreads over who should speak it, though,
While the chapel lets go its grip and falls

Down past the changeless face of its being.  The act
Restores me to myself
As the last light of day hangs in the waiting air.


Interpretive note:
    This poem is not particularly effective.  It strives to capture the experience of trying to pray during the afternoon hour of mental prayer, which is part of our regular Carmelite practice.  The scene, of course, is the chapel, the hour late afternoon as dusk descends.
    The poem describes a kind of give and take.  The Spirit draws near, and the poet tries to respond by letting go of the sadness that seems to cling to him.  He can’t, though, and the Spirit for his part steps back as well.  A “sea of fire” now separates them.
    At that moment the poet understands that what is being asked of him is a simple act of surrender, of letting go, represented by the single word “Yes.”  But he fails to say it.
    Thus, the moment slips away.  The poet finds himself back in himself again, so to speak.  And the chapel likewise returns to itself, although grown darker now as day departs.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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