Something Of A Glimpse of God

Coming up in the Scripture Readings for Sunday's Mass  here, 
is this memorable extract from the Gospel of John Chapter 6.

To Whom Shall We Go
Artist Matti Servio. Image source

Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"

Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go?

You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Peter's words of trust and belief in Jesus are forthright and strong, full of conviction and assurance. With these affirmations he had clearly reached his watershed moment of no return.

The fact that Peter was flawed, makes his faith more believable when we know he later ran away during the trial of Jesus. But for now, in this one moment he was capable of stepping out from the majority crowd and saying what he believed  to be true in his own heart, when others were wavering. 

Significantly ,Jesus didn't condemn the ones that found it too hard to keep following him. and my own feelings on imagining the events in this passage are more focused on the immense sadness that all involved in it must have experienced. I  believe that the unconditional love and compassion Jesus has for all of us would have extended to those who did not follow him at that time.

Peter's words, seem to spring from a deep place of  resignation and humility more than triumphalism.

I don't think it helps to consider faith in simplistic terms of experimental reason, or linear measurements of weak versus strong. It is far more fluid and complex for most of us. 

                                                                     Hanging in There
                                                               Matti Servio. Image source

Hanging on while trying to balance on the precarious wheel of life can often seem a more appropriate image of faith, as the painting above suggests.

For myself, the conviction that Jesus Christ indeed did have the words of eternal life is a recognition that his words carry "a peace that the world can never give" in entirety.

Ron Rolheiser says in his book, Against An Infinite Horizon, The Finger of God In Our Daily Lives, that we all have the experience of being within certain committments. a marriage, a family a church where at times our heads and our hearts are not- but we are !

The head tells us this doesn't make sense; the heart no longer has the type of feelings that would keep us there; but we remain there, held by something deeper, something beyond what we can explain or feel.This is where faith lives and this is what faith means. Rolheiser says that all of us suffer the poverty of a finite imagination trying to picture the infinite. He also says wisely that this should never be confused with a loss of faith.

In expansive optimistic days it is easy to see that every place has the potential to become holy ground  and where every encounter can be apprehended as an extraordinary miracle of ordinary life but realistically these days are often rarer than ones where the daily grind and challenges show us repeatedly botching things up.
I have chosen these four poets below who provide very different but beautifully simple examples to illustrate how  tentative, incomplete glimpses of God and the eternal show up unexpectedly in the common graces of everyday life.

It is here where resiliency and conviction to keep faith and hope in the resurrection is embedded.

Patrick Kavanagh
Patrick Kavanagh (Photo credit: infomatique)

Patrick Kavanagh (1904—1967) is one of the most popular poets among the Irish people. He left school to follow his father in his profession as a cobbler, but found he had no aptitude for it. He worked the family farm, until 1931 when he moved to Dublin to seek success as a poet and journalist.

He says, “I dabbled in verse and it became my life.” Seamus Heaney said in a review of Kavanagh’s Collected Poems for The Guardian that “Kavanagh is a truly representative modern figure in that his subversiveness was turned upon himself: dissatisfaction, both spiritual and artistic, is what inspired his growth.”

In his introduction to No Earthly Estate, a collection of Kavanagh's poems of the Spirit, parish priest Tom Stack points out that more than half of all of his poetry includes references to Christian faith. 

He attributes to Patrick Kavanagh a “sacramental perspective” which “'sees' the divine in the human, the infinite in the finite, the eternal in the historical. 

Properly understood this will never be mistaken for some kind of idolatry, pantheism or magic. 

"True sacramentality affords the Christian believer something of a glimpse of God.” 


Upon a bank I sat, a child made seer
Of one small primrose flowering in my mind.
Better than wealth it is, I said, to find
One small page of Truth's manuscript made clear.
I looked at Christ transfigured without fear--
The light was very beautiful and kind,
And where the Holy Ghost in flame had signed
I read it through the lenses of a tear.
And then my sight grew dim, I could not see
The primrose that had lighted me to Heaven,
And there was but the shadow of a tree
Ghostly among the stars. The years that pass
Like tired soldiers nevermore have given
Moments to see wonders in the grass.

Canal Bank Walk

Leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal
Pouring redemption for me, that I do
The will of God, wallow in the habitual, the banal,
Grow with nature again as before I grew.
The bright stick trapped, the breeze adding a third
Party to the couple kissing on an old seat,
And a bird gathering materials for the nest for the Word
Eloquently new and abandoned to its delirious beat.
O unworn world enrapture me, encapture me in a web
Of fabulous grass and eternal voices by a beech,
Feed the gaping need of my senses, give me ad lib
To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech
For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at:

Tomas Tranströmer is a Swedish poet and recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. His poems have been translated into more than fifty languages.

Prior to his stroke in 1990, Tranströmer was also a talented pianist; since then – his friend Robert Bly tells us – Swedish composers have been sending him piano works, written to be played only using the left hand. This affinity with music manifests itself within his poetry.

Bill Coyle said in Contemporary Poetry Review, “Tranströmer is a Christian poet, though not a churchgoing one, and he answers the question whether the world is intentional or not, in the affirmative. I suspect it’s one of the reasons – aside from temperament and sheer talent – for his facility with metaphor.” 

Click here for a Nobel Prize Cheat Sheet on Transtromer, which contains this wonderful quote:

In the middle of life it happens that death comes and measures man. 
The visit is forgotten and life continues. But the suit is made, quietly.

Another important feature of his world-view is our imperfection, and the incompleteness of the created world. 
In “The Outpost” he says, “I am the place where creation is working itself out”. This idea also comes through in the following poem; this is Robert Bly's translation, from the collection The Half-Finished Heaven.

Romanesque Arches

Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous
Romanesque church.
Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.
A few candle flames flickered.
An angel whose face I couldn't see embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
"Don't be ashamed to be a human being; be proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You'll never be complete, and that's as it should be."
Tears blinded me
as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,
together with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora
within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.

Betsy Sholl was appointed Poet Laureate of Maine in 2006. She teaches at, both, the University of Southern Maine, and Vermont College of Fine Arts — and has won several awards for her poetry.

Luci Shaw said in Radix, “A kind of fierce honesty pierces much of Sholl’s writing, revealing her proclivity for examining her own heart through the lens of the events and objects she discovers.” This is well-demonstrated in the poem included below, which is the final poem from her seventh collection: Rough Cradle (Alice James Books, 2009).

The journal Image records her words about her approach to writing poetry,
“what starts a poem is usually the experience of paradox or contradiction, two equally true perceptions or emotions co-existing: beauty and pain, love and fear, life and decay. 

I love Auden’s comment that poetry is the clear expression of mixed emotions, and Czeslaw Milosz’s notion about poetry as a ‘passionate pursuit of the real.’ 

 Of course “the real” eludes us, but the pursuit enlarges us and keeps us aware of the
ultimate reality, God.”

Life and Holiness

I couldn’t finish the book because the end
no longer existed, the final words on life
and holiness, that old coin with its two sides
impossible to see at once, so each face
makes you long for the other—unless, of course,
the coin’s been rubbed down, almost out,
as my book was, not dog-eared, but dog-chewed,
a big chunk torn off its lower right,
and the whole book ending coverless
on page 118, so it’s hard to read
the thoughts without thinking of their fate,
and the message bound to what carries it:
Life and Holiness by Thomas Merton,
bound to our dog named Dreug, Russian for friend,
who also ate the edge of my purple dress
as I sat talking on the couch, plus a wooden apple,
and every chair rung in the house. It’s hard
not to think of the monk being chewed on
by silence, gnawed down, past ritual and custom,
to a desert of naked prayer, a dark night
where nothing’s left but the self’s empty shell,
the soul cracked open for something else to rush in,
which the words were just getting to
when Dreug, that zealous friend, aching and driven,
turned the matter into slobber and wag,
his new teeth editing, so the book
ends with:
-------------------------------------------...For such... (crunch)
---...lovers of God, all things, whether they appear... actuality good. All things manifest the...
---------------------...All things enable them to grow in...

Here it stops, the promise digested,
our big brown dog a better reader than I,
licking his lips, swallowing the words, taking in
the such and all things, however they appear.
And were they, in actuality good?
Was the back cover, the spine glue, the wood
or rage pulp of each missing page? “Complete
and unabridged,” it says just where the teeth marks
bite, where the paper’s rough edge, its newly exposed
microscopic threads meet air and morning light,
as if words could turn into life, into window glass
with bickering sparrows, children walking
to school, as Dreug, with his spotted face,
his feathery toes, watches all things
manifest the..... enable them to grow in.....
As to holiness, you lovers of God, must all things
come to an edge where words stop, and hunger,
that faithful friend who eats away what once
would have been so easy to read—begins?

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wi Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at:

Prayer For Peace

The sound track music is by Margaret Rizza.. 
The photos are of Ireland 2011.

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