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Skipping out of the Gloom to Offer Cheerful Thanks

April 22, 2021

Are the days of darkness on the way out? We won’t know for a while. Apparently pandemics rarely last more than two years, so we may be over the worst. Meanwhile many of us have already started to celebrate; maybe the sunshine has affected us all, along with the loosening of the rules… so it seems a great time to offer up our thanks, and adopt a note of optimism.

Building on the idea of celebratory thanks, it seemed so right to open with the beautiful 30th Psalm, which closes with the lovely words… “you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…” And still going with the theme of joyous appreciation, a request to “Praise the world to the angel…” by Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Ninth Elegy. This is followed by Thanks a powerful and ironic work by the Buddhist environmentalist poet W.S. Merwin. In total contrast to all the previous readings, a very recent blessing and prayer of Thanks, written for our local Health Watch Volunteers. The last reading is How the Grass and the Flowers Came to Exist, A God Tale, by the great Mary Oliver.  

This week’s Words of Connection includes a publicity poster for the Dialogue Society’s Virtual Ramadan Event, which will be held on Sunday 25th of April at 7pm. It arrived too late to make it into our news update. The link this week is a sweet and gentle version of Howard Goodall’s 23rd Psalm sung by the Australian boy soprano, Austin Haynes.
Stay well, stay harmonious and enjoy the spring sunshine!
Very best wishes,Anthea
Chair IFCG

PSALM 30
(New International Version)

I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favour lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favoured me,
you made my royal mountain  stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

 

FROM THE NINTH ELEGY
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Praise the world to the angel, not the unutterable world;
you cannot astonish him with your glorious feelings;
in the universe, where he feels more sensitively,
you’re just a beginner. Therefore, show him the simple
thing that is shaped in passing from father to son,
that lives near our hands and eyes as our very own.
Tell him about the Things. He’ll stand amazed, as you stood
beside the rope-maker in Rome, or the potter on the Nile.
Show him how happy a thing can be, how blameless and ours;
how even the lamentation of sorrow purely decides
to take form, serves as a thing, or dies
in a thing, and blissfully in the beyond
escapes the violin. And these things that live,
slipping away, understand that you praise them;
transitory themselves, they trust us for rescue,
us, the most transient of all. They wish us to transmute them
in our invisible heart–oh, infinitely into us! Whoever we are.

Earth, isn’t this what you want: invisibly
to arise in us? Is it not your dream
to be some day invisible? Earth! Invisible!
What, if not transformation, is your insistent commission?
Earth, dear one, I will! Oh, believe it needs
not one more of your springtimes to win me over.
One, just one, is already too much for my blood.
From afar I’m utterly determined to be yours.
You were always right and your sacred revelation is the intimate death.
Behold, I’m alive. On what? Neither childhood nor future
grows less…surplus of existence
is welling up in my heart.

 

THANKS
W.S. Merwin (1927-2019)

 

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is

 

 

PRAYER OF THANKS TO VOLUNTEERS
Stephanie Christopher

You are among us
We see you, hear you,
Feel your comforting touch

You are among us
Spirits that ask nothing
Giving everything
Without accolade
Reward or thanks

I call you angels
Others call you volunteers
Your generosity is beauty
Your gifts defy language

In these strange times
Your dancing souls
Move freely amongst us
Supporting the weak and the sorrowing,
Feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and dying
Picking up rubbish, stirring pots of soup
Wiping the soil of life and our tears
Rewarding us with loving kindness

But then… giving is your speciality
You give without accolade,
reward or thanks
And we look up at you,
and smile and say
“How can I thank you?”
“How indeed?”

Free-spirits and angels; it is you that fly
You come from a high place and care for us
Loving and listening to earth-bound souls

And so we bless
Givers, angels, volunteers
Your generosity is beauty
Your gifts defy language
But then… giving is your speciality
You give without accolade, reward or thanks

We thank you
We bless you
And we thank those that created you
For you are the most special
And so you are blessed
Amen

 

HOW THE GRASS AND THE FLOWERS CAME TO EXIST, A GOD-TALE
(Mary Oliver 1935-2019)

 

I suppose
the Lord said:
Let there be fur upon the earth,
and let there be hair upon the earth,

and so the seeds stuttered forward into ripeness
and the roots twirled in the dark
to accomplish His desire,

and so there is clover,
and the reeds of the marshes,
and the eelgrass of the sea shallows
upon which the dainty sea brant live,

and there is the green and sturdy grass,
and the goldenrod
and the spurge and the yarrow
and the ivies and the bramble
and the blue iris

covering the earth,
thanking the Lord with their blossoms.