Cloistered As We Are
A Poem from the Pandemic for Maundy Thursday
Cloistered as we are
like distant brothers and sisters
In this strange monastic time
We find our way through The Hours,
awkwardly, having forgotten
the ancient prayers:
“Lord have mercy….Christ have mercy”
Only the spontaneous: HELP!
and unbidden expletives
of honest supplication.
We shuffle in robes,
terrycloth not sackcloth.
We clutch our crucifix of mortality
all through the day.
Our are beads worn down
by doubts and apprehension.
Discarded dogmas amplify our unknowing
Making our fragile faith
translucent with light.
Silence companions our days
like a blind priest
guiding us toward calm.
No bells, but the peal of finch and sparrow
No stained glass but the shattered sunset
leaded by the branches of the birch.
No Eucharist, but our daily bread,
with or without being blessed.
Local news speaks of Thy Will Being Done
Headlines ask will Thy Kingdom Come?
glimpses of good Samaritans emerge
petitions of urgency and anguish erupt
murmurs of gratitude hover over our sleep.
Churches are shuttered, signs flapping on doors
But altars appear everywhere
surprising us into worship;
praises on the porch,
humming at the kitchen window,
wonder near the mailbox
There is no incense but the onion soup,
the kitchen filled with its sacred steam
bread rising like hope under the towel.
The holy rituals of making coffee,
the tea, now a ceremony.
We handle the familiar elements,
now sacred to our sanity.
Washing our hands, like physicians
or perhaps like Pilate…
The rites of dressing, preparing for bed,
laundry, cooking….all becomes liturgy
slowed in a memorized rhythm
with new weight.
Our daily walks,
now pilgrimages to holy places,
the park, the wetland, the quiet blocks
the corner store for milk.
we nod our absolution and blessing
to passersby. They return the nod
“and also with you.”
We tend the scattered flocks:
our animals, or neighbors in need,
with bread and errands or
solace called over a fence,
or waved across a deserted street.
And our family afar,
we feed with letters and calls,
preserved with the salt of tears
and reassurances of love.
Our scriptures are tangled with headlines;
prophecies of doom and
Old testament dreams and plagues
followed by a deafening quiet.
How long? How long?
Those 400 years of silence become
our own uncharted hours of seclusion.
We sense the promise of a
forgotten covenant, buried in debris,
may be rising out of shifting plates
and terrifying statistics.
And now we shelter in place
whether as gathered, or as the Diaspora,
Not to an address or particular space
But that deeper abode,
burrowed by fear or love into the Ground of All Being
~ our beloved belonging.
It is still Lent. The first day of Spring has come,
the trees are in bloom
Already we wear Good Friday as a garment
Grasping the earth in both hands,
hoping for purchase ~
we throw dirt over our heads in penance
then plant peas and lettuce
like seeds of eternity.
It is a long grief
and like the apostles
we do not know the outcome
we only dream of that
resilience called Resurrection
and of our mysterious life to come.
World without End