During the four Sundays of Advent, I have been leading a short series called Articulated Transcendence: Advent Poetry. From the time I conceived the courselet to the time I actually offered it, I shifted the tense of “articulated” from the past to the present progressive: “articulating.” I had read that this tense describes an action that began in the past, continues to the present, and may continue into the future, and I thought this small verbal shift better described what we were doing when we looked at the poems appointed for each week. For if, as we discussed in the forum, poetry is similar to liturgy and parables in its ability to use the elements of the material world as a portal to the eternal, then a verb tense that didn’t indicate finitude was much more appropriate.
This Sunday is the last class in the series, and I offer a preview of the poem we will be looking at: Making the House Ready for the Lord. Written by the incomparable poet Mary Oliver, this poem has much to say about our lives on the threshold of Christmas, our life of hospitality at Holy Apostles, and our response to God, who wants to break open our hearts so that we might receive with generosity unexpected guests of all sorts.
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice—it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances—but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the racoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow:
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.
May God find welcome in all the places we live, work, worship and pray.